BEND, OR -- In an effort to revise traffic estimates for Central Oregon highways, the Department of Transportation is conducting a region-wide count of vehicles, this month. Cords stretch across lanes of Highway 97 in and around Bend and Redmond; those counting strips are shifted around the region to measure volumes and trends.
ODOT's Peter Murphy says the cords are just one way the agency calculates stats. "Motorists are being counted all the time at our automatic counting stations – there’s one at Empire on the Parkway, for example. What we’re looking at when the counting strips go out is a significantly more enhanced view of what’s taking place. It does measure, certainly, the volume on the highway. But, you’ll notice that they’re also at the onramps and offramps; that gives us an idea of where people are coming from and where they’re going to."
Central Oregon traffic volumes over the last few years are well above the statewide average. At the Empire counting station, Murphy says, "We’re 6% above last year and last year was 6% above the year before that. So, we’re way ahead of whatever growth curve people might expect for traffic volumes on the highway. You know, a 6% growth in traffic is phenomenal. If you add six to six, that’s just way beyond anyone’s expectations."
The data gathered from this month's operation will be analyzed and compared to previous years. Murphy says getting accurate information is important to determining future projects and needs. "We have a forecast of how many years a highway may endure with all the traffic that goes over it. And, if you suddenly find yourself with a significant number, either higher or lower, it affects the lifespan of the asphalt. So, by knowing the time it takes for the highway to wear out, then you’re able to plan for when you need to repair the highway."