Business & economy

New Cairo Junction roundabout project slated for 2023

ONTARIO – The state Transportation Department will kick off a roundabout project at Cairo Junction next year in an effort to cut down on the number of serious crashes at the T-intersection.
The high-speed intersection was the scene of 31 crashes between 2009 and 2018, including 15 serious wrecks and one death, according to the Transportation Department.
“It’s been in the works for a number of years. We think it is the safest choice,” said Tom Strandberg, a spokesman for the state Transportation Department.
Roundabouts are a circular intersection with curved entrances that reduce vehicle speeds.
The Cairo Junction roundabout will be part of $16 million in work on state highways in the region. That includes paving extra pullouts on U.S. 20 between Riley Junction and Ontario and widening of a section of Oregon Highway 201 between Verde Derive and Northwest Washington Avenue. The expansion of Oregon Highway 201 will create more space for trucks during highway closures.
The work, including the construction of the roundabout, will begin next year, said Strandberg. The project is scheduled to go out for bid in October, said Strandberg.
“I don’t know specifically when the roundabout work will be started or complete,” said Strandberg.
Improving safety is the key reason for the roundabout, said Strandberg.
“Some people suggested putting a light there or other modifications but we found research that shows roundabouts like that are the safest option,” said Strandberg.
According to the Transportation Department, while a traffic light may help traffic in all directions, they can also boost the number of rear-end crashes. In rural areas, according to the Transportation Department, new traffic signals showed a 77% reduction in angle crashes but also a 58% climb in rear-end crashes.
The roundabout will improve safety five ways. A roundabout will slow traffic, move traffic in the same direction, reduce the number of crashes, improve traffic flow and enhance safety for residents and businesses near Cairo Junction.
The Transportation Department expects an 80% reduction in serious crashes in the roundabout area.
“They are proven across the country and across the globe that they are safer all around,” said Strandberg.
The plan, though, hasn’t been without criticism. More than a year ago, during a local public meeting on the roundabout blueprint, Strandberg said several area residents voiced apprehension about the project.
“There were some people who were concerned, property owners right around the roundabout. They were concerned about how it would impact their ability to get to their farm property and to get on and off their fields,” said Strandberg.
Strandberg said the Transportation Department “project folks met with them to try to work things out.”
“As far as I know they talked to them and calmed some of their concerns,” said Strandberg.
Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge, said he is adopting a wait-and-see attitude about the project.
“I have been through a lot of them here and in foreign countries. If they are built right, they are a good thing. If they are built wrong, they are a disaster. It just depends on how they do it,” said Joyce.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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