Efforts to end roundabout fail

POLK COUNTY — The Polk County Board of Commissioners and Public Works Director Todd Whitaker made a final bid to change the minds of Oregon Department of Transportation engineers about installing a roundabout at Clow Corner and Highway 99W.

It didn’t work.

Commissioner Craig Pope said ODOT Director Matt Garrett recently visited the site and listened to the county’s arguments in favor of installing a traffic signal instead of a roundabout.

“It was our third visit with the director over the roundabout at Clow Corner and 99W,” Pope said. “Our first two meetings over the last couple months have been in Salem as we talked about our belief that the warrant analysis wasn’t completed appropriately for a signal versus roundabout. The director has been very accommodating to us as we explained our position and showed him the data.”

Pope said the visit allowed Garrett to see the intersection during a weekday rush hour. A description of the roundabout project on ODOT’s website states: “The installation of a roundabout will significantly improve safety at the intersection by eliminating the most serious crashes such as high-speed T-bone and angle crashes.”

The cost of the roundabout is listed at $6.7 million. Pope estimated a traffic light would cost $1.5 million.

ODOT spokesman Lou Torres confirmed the decision on the roundabout.

“ODOT is committed to building the roundabout at the intersection,” Torres said. “That was what was communicated to the commissioners, that it’s the safest option.”

Pope said that Garrett’s visit ended the discussion between ODOT and the county on the intersection fix.

“We’ve made every effort we could directly with the director to plead our case, to show all the elements,” Pope said.

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