Oregon Department of Transportation’s 10 year plan to improve traffic flow in the Gateway area.
By Justin Crowe
The Gateway area of Springfield has had a long history of traffic issues, but in the last seven years the Oregon Department of Transportation, ODOT, has made great strides in fixing this problem.
In 2005 the Springfield Development Services Department entered a partnership with the ODOT in order to begin a series of four phases that will reconstruct how traffic moves through the area. The first two phases were completed in August 2011 with the addition of the flyover ramp, which connects Gateway Street with both Beltline Road and the I-5 freeway.
Additionally, new traffic signals were installed at the corner of Gateway and Beltline. “We’ve got a more modernized intersection with upgraded signal equipment,” said Ken Vogeney, Springfield City Engineer. This intersection is where a large amount of the traffic originates, as I-5 and Beltline travelers exit to the Gateway area. Vogeney said Springfield traffic engineers have not yet studied the results of the new system because it takes a while for the real effects to be seen.
Longtime Springfield resident Kendra Walker believes these renovations have begun to have a major impact on the traffic problem. “The road is looking way more clear since they fixed the traffic light,” Walker said. “There used to only be two to three cars able to make it through the light, but now an entire line of cars can clear through at once.”
Although these improvements have made a difference, traffic continues to be a pressing issue for the area.
Springfield Police Administrative Sergeant John Umenhofer said the traffic is most significant along Gateway Street, which runs parallel to the Gateway Mall. “It’s probably the most congested area in Springfield…,” Umenhofer said. “We’ve had to do traffic control on those intersections before.” Gateway traffic reaches its peak during rush hour, which hits from approximately 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., leaving drivers stuck in bumper to bumper chaos.
According to Umenhofer, although congestion is a problem, it rarely interferes with police emergencies. “If we need to get somewhere in a hurry, we’ll run lights and sirens and get past on the side,” Umenhofer said. The Springfield Police Department also deploys motor officers to assist with traffic control on big events like the grand opening of Cabelas.
In the past traffic was a big concern for ambulances heading for Springfield’s Riverbend Hospital. PeaceHealth’s Director of Land Use Planning and Development Philip Farrington said ambulance drivers no longer take alternate routes to avoid the traffic along Gateway Street.
The ODOT’s plans to resume construction this December. The next two phases of the project will continue to improve traffic flow in the area by adding a lane to Beltline, widening current lanes, and creating a better bicycle and pedestrian network. The project is set to be completed in 2015.