A traffic analysis urges ODOT to remodel Springfield’s Gateway roads.
By Thuy-Anh Le
After research on the I-5 interchange revealed significant traffic congestion, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) acted upon the findings by initiating a four-step project on Beltline Road to alleviate the problem.
Springfield City Engineer Ken Vogeney worked on the city project in a partnership with ODOT to increase road safety at the intersection. Renovations of traffic signals and extra lanes including left-turn lanes along Beltline Road to Gateway Street took place, representing the first phase in the development plan, Vogeney said.
“The part on the city streets was finished in August of 2011,” he said. “ODOT is continuing their work on the freeway and the Beltline overcrossing so there are several more contracts for that that are underway.”
Ann Sanders, one of the ODOT project leaders, said two phases out of the total four have been completed so far. If the project progresses accordingly with the plan, the entire project will be finished in 2015.
Administrative Sergeant John Umenhofer said Gateway Street contains the busiest traffic activity within the Gateway neighborhood whereas circulation around the Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend appears to be fine.
“Where the clog in Gateway tends to be is when you head south down Gateway,” Umenhofer said. “I think during rush hour, people are heading back into the Gateway area. It can be in both directions but Gateway Street itself is the one that has more issues.”
The slow traffic flow during rush hour affects police officers working in the area, causing them to take alternative routes on certain occasions to travel to places.
“If I were to respond somewhere northbound, I would most likely go I-5,” Umenhofer, said. “I would get off I-5 and go back around Beltline and down to it as opposed to going Harlow Road to Gateway, where there could be more backup traffic.”
Despite experiencing congested road circulations, the police in general use streets with highly active traffic when necessary. In urgent cases, officers turn on their siren and drive to the side to go through traffic.
The ambulance continues to pass through busy streets also as it has authority of the road during times of emergency. PeaceHealth’s Director of Land Use, Planning and Development Philip Farrington explained that drivers can, however, slow down the ambulance if they don’t pay attention on the road or if they don’t understand the rules of the road.
“On the southern approach toward the hospital, from the Pioneer Parkway is the two-lane roundabout at Harlow and Hayden Bridge in the Parkway,” Farrington said. “And I think there are some people who are not that familiar with how to drive a roundabout and how to get out of the way when an emergency vehicle approaches you from behind as you’re in or approaching that roundabout.”
“I think it’s just a matter of understanding the rule of the roads, the rules of the roundabout, making sure to get out of the way,” he added.