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A project installing traffic lights at the intersection of Highway 203 and McAlister Road near the Flying J Travel Plaza south of La Grande is on the horizon. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
by Kelly Ducote/The Observer
No objections and few questions were raised at the Oregon Department of Transportation’s public meeting Thursday night. The meeting covered three upcoming projects in Union County.
The first is a culvert replacement project on Oregon 203 to realign Ladd Creek with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s restoration efforts on the Ladd Marsh Project.
“In order to help them with their project, they’ve hired us to build a bigger culvert for them on the highway,” said project manager Ken Patterson. “So we’re building a culvert that’s now 28 feet wide and will allow more water to cross under the highway.”
The project is slated to be completed this fall. Contract bids will open in July and the job should be finished by October, Patterson said. It will shut down the highway, but a two-lane detour will run adjacent to the project.
“People driving to and from Union should be able to drive without being held up,” Patterson said.
The second project is a federally-funded rail safety project involving the McAlister Road and U.S. 30 intersection.
“The issue here is the distance between the stop sign at the intersection and the tracks is relatively short,” Patterson said. “We had a recent accident out there when we had a truck get hit by a train about a year ago.”
After the accident, cameras were set up to monitor for unsafe situations, of which ODOT found many. The ODOT Rail Division has directed money to improve the intersection’s safety.
The project will add a traffic signal to clear out traffic from McAlister Road to reduce the potential for accidents. The speed limit will also be dropped from 55 mph to 45 mph.
“We’ve talked to the businesses in the area and let them know what’s going on. We’ve had good reception on the issue out there,” Patterson said.
The project should be built this fall, though negotiations with Union Pacific could stall the operation of the traffic signal. The signal may be up but not running for a while, Patterson said. The hope is that the infrastructure will be ready as soon as possible.
Paul Kennington asked what will be done to prevent a line of cars from backing up over the railroad tracks.
ODOT representative Don Fine explained that the traffic light would clear traffic from the tracks until rail arms come down when a train is approaching.
“Then it will go through and turn yellow and red. Then all the other directions of travel that wouldn’t head toward the tracks will get their normal light sequence,” Fine said. “Traveling through traffic will get greens and everything until the train departs.”
The third project is to add rumble strips along Interstate 84 to warn people that they are drifting from their lane.
“It’s a pretty straightforward project,” Patterson said. “[Rumble strips] are real inexpensive and real effective.”
The project should only take a few days and should only close one lane of traffic this fall.