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Perilous Clow Corner Still On County's Radar

POLK COUNTY -- A roundabout may not be in the future of Clow Corner's intersection with Highway 99W.

POLK COUNTY -- A roundabout may not be in the future of Clow Corner's intersection with Highway 99W.

Nonetheless, Polk County officials still have concerns about what looks to be Oregon Department of Transportation's next best option in its 20-year plan for improvements at six major intersections along 99W between Rickreall and Monmouth.

While the plan is not final -- in fact, it hasn't reached draft stage yet -- objections from residents and officials have all but eliminated using a roundabout at that intersection.

"There were concerns from a lot of people that it wouldn't serve farm equipment," said Steve Jacobson, ODOT's planner on the project.

Jacobson said the "most viable" option at this point is an offset-T intersection.

That type of intersection will move the eastern portion of Clow Corner's junction with 99W away from its current location, creating two "Ts" instead of one four-armed intersection. Doing so prevents vehicles from crossing all lanes of traffic to continue on Clow Corner and some types of crashes.

Polk County Public Works Director Todd Whitaker said an offset-T would improve safety at that intersection, but the county would prefer to see changes that would be compatible with building up to an interchange at Clow Corner.

He said that would lower the risk of crashes and be more cost effective in the long run. Whitaker said one possible strategy is installing a traffic light now and working in stages to convert Clow Corner from a signalized intersection to an interchange over the next two decades.

"We would like to encourage them (ODOT) to do that," he said.

About 12,000 vehicles a day travel the portion of the highway in the study.

With three deaths between 1999 and 2007, the Clow Corner intersection is in the top 5 percent of road segments in ODOT's Safety Priority Index System. Of the intersections being examined for the plan, Clow Corner's has been the cause of most concern and comment, Jacobson said.

The final plan will be released in February 2011, he said, after the Oregon Traffic Commission has approved it.

No matter what the final outcome is, Jacobson said it's likely no immediate work would be done. ODOT would need to find the money first.

Jacobson added the study will produce a 20-year planning document analyzing options. Unless one option is highly preferred over another, the final plan probably won't make a definitive recommendation on what should be done. Instead, it would leave viable options to be further analyzed when the agency has the funds to make changes.

"This is a fairly big project," Jacobson said. "We're not expecting work in the near future."

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