March 7, 2018 — New pedestrian safety improvements have been made to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Siuslaw River Bridge construction zone, including a reduction in the speed limit and additional signage for pedestrian routes.
Issues surrounding the safety of the construction zone arose in January after the death of Florence resident Heather Marie Sanford, who was struck and killed while walking in the highway’s southbound lane by milepost 191 near Glenada Road.
Multiple concerns about the bridge were raised by the community, including the lack of a discernable pedestrian crosswalk, a 40-mph speed limit on the bridge during construction and limited visibility for motorists and pedestrians going into the bridge.
“Safety is our priority,” ODOT Public Information Officer Angela Beers Seydel said. “On the Siuslaw Bridge Project, we appreciate the people who travel through the area sharing their experiences and concerns. We took those concerns through our internal traffic engineers and our safety review process and found that there were things that could be done to improve pedestrian safety.”
The list of improvements includes a reduced speed limit throughout the work zone, making it a 30-mph zone all hours of the day.
Enforcement of the speed limit will be increased as well, as Oregon State Police will be focusing additional enforcement on the south side of the bridge, where the pedestrian crossing location is.
ODOT has added additional signs for the pedestrian route from one side of the bridge to the other, identifying crossing locations and closed sidewalk areas so motorists and pedestrians know where crossing will occur.
Included in the additional signage are electronic signs that have been placed on Highway 101 northbound and southbound that rotates the messages “BIKES/PEDS ON SHOULDER” and “SLOW NARROW BRIDGE.”
For the construction zone itself, ODOT is requiring workers to escort pedestrians around any blocked sections of the sidewalk which are identified as open for pedestrians. This will be particularly useful when construction must be done on portions of the sidewalk, which can block the access path of pedestrians. To help with this, ODOT has brought in a third flagger to help pedestrians traverse the obstructions.
Finally, any debris or material created by the construction is required to be cleaned up on the open sidewalk. Tripping hazards are prohibited.
As to why these changes are only now being implements, Beers Seydel stated that it can be difficult to foresee problems before they occur.
“We are always looking for ways to improve, and it helps to have people let us know when they see issues and have concerns,” she said. “We try our best to be proactive in our safety measures on each project, but unfortunately needs for specific situations may not be readily apparent until we’re in the midst of construction. Safety needs can and do change as projects continue.”
Because of the fluidity of these situations, Beers Seydel recommended that the public stay involved in safety issues regarding ODOT projects.
“We look forward to hearing what people have to say about the improvements and to their sharing any further needs that may come up,” she said.
ODOT recommends that if other concerns about the long-term safety of the bridge come to light, the public can contact the Lane Area Commission on Transportation.