One person dies in crash at Clow Corner and 99W

A Salem woman was killed Friday night on Highway 99W in a two-vehicle accident.

DALLAS — A Salem woman died in a Friday night crash at Highway 99W and Clow Corner Road, the third person to die in a crash at that intersection since 2007.

The intersection has also been the site of four serious injury crashes between 2007 and 2016, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Three other people sustained injuries in Friday night’s crash.

Oregon State Police and emergency personnel responded at about 7:30 p.m. Friday night to the report of the two-vehicle collision.

The investigation revealed that a Chrysler 200, operated by Rosa Maria Rocha-Torres, 19, was stopped at the stop sign on Clow Corner Road waiting to cross or pull onto Highway 99W.

Rocha-Torres pulled out into the path of a Jeep Renegade, operated by Kevin Ruffino, 32, of Independence, and was struck on the driver’s side of her vehicle.

Rocha-Torres sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Rocha-Torres had two teenage female passengers. They were transported to Salem Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Ruffino sustained minor injuries and was not transported by medical personnel.

OSP was assisted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Fire District No. 1, Polk County District Attorney, and ODOT.

Trying to improve safety

ODOT is in the design phase of building a roundabout at Clow and 99W to improve safety.

According to ODOT, safety improvements have been made at the intersection, including adding a right turn lane in the southbound direction and a right turn on the eastbound leg, upgrades to the overhead flashing beacon, and warning beacons and signs to alert drivers on the highway of crossing traffic.

“Despite modest crash reductions, ODOT has continued discussions with Polk County and local stakeholders to identify a more permanent solution,” read ODOT’s roundabout project description.

Last year, following a site visit with county leaders and ODOT Director Matt Garrett, ODOT stood firm on installing a roundabout.

“We’re on schedule to build it in the summer of 2021,” said Lou Torres, ODOT spokesman. “It’s in the preliminary design phase now.”

Torres said the project will require right-of-way acquisition, which is included in the total estimated cost of $7.5 million.

“We can do it in one construction season, especially if we get an early start,” Torres said.

The project is set to go to bid the winter of 2020, according to ODOT’s timeline.

“We can’t have it too soon, especially with what happened over the weekend,” Torres said.

Torres said ODOT also will make safety improvements at the Orrs Corner intersection to the north of Clow Corner as part of the same project. Improvements there won’t include a roundabout.

“It makes sense because it’s right up the road and we’ve had issues at Orrs Corner as well,” Torres said.

For more information on the project: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=K21374.

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