MADRAS, OR -- After a woman and her three boys were killed in a crash south of Madras, earlier this week, many who drive that stretch of Highway 97 have spoken out about the dangerous nature of the intersection. There is no turn lane at Bear Drive, which some claim would have saved Anita Bemrose from getting rear-ended, then pushed into oncoming traffic, while she waited to turn off the highway.
Joel McCarroll, with the Oregon Department of Transportation, says, "About 70% of our crashes are roadway departure crashes, where people leave their lane. So, we’ve focused on rumble strips, because that’s the most cost-effective way to reduce road departure crashes. But, we’re also looking at intersection crashes, and that’s why we’re putting signing upgrades at different locations." He adds, "We did a study of all of the intersections statewide, and basically created a threshold at which we would put up improved warning signs on the highway. So, it would be ‘intersection ahead: Bear Drive.’ And then, signing on the side street to reduce the risk of people running the stop sign."
McCarroll tells KBND News, "There’s a project planned to install those signs [at Bear Drive]. We’re going to repave the section, basically from Madras to Juniper Butte, in a couple years. At that time, we’re going to upgrade the intersection signing there, and a couple of other locations in the corridor, and also install rumble strips and upgrade the striping."
According to ODOT crash statistics obtained by KBND news, the intersection does not see more crashes, on average, than other similar intersections in Central Oregon. But, McCarroll says the agency is still trying to improve safety. "What we try to do, as the state transportation agency, is try to intercede on the things we can do to make the roadway safer, even if those things don’t necessarily solve all of the crashes." And, he says a turn lane is not the right fix, even there was funding available for such a project. "A left turn lane, at an intersection like Bear Drive, reduces the risk of one type of crash, which would be a left turn off the highway, but then increases the risk of another type of crash, which is the left turn onto the highway because that left turn then becomes much longer."
He says it’s difficult to know, yet, if increasing speeds to 65-miles per hour, earlier this year, played a part in Tuesday’s deadly accident. A GoFundMe page
, created to help the surviving family pay medical and funeral expenses, raised more than $28,000 in its first day.