Report: Highway 217 flyover ramp built on swamp-like land

Report: Highway 217 flyover ramp built on swamp-like land »Play Video
A car approaches the bridge joint on the ramp from Interstate 5 north to Highway 217.

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. -- Another car crashed on the flyover ramp connecting Interstate 5 with Highway 217 Friday morning. It's one of several recent wrecks on the ramp, some of which have led to threats of a lawsuit.

The ground beneath the ramp is the subject of a 12-year-old report KATU’s On Your Side Investigators dug up Friday. The report says much of the ramp was built on swamp-like land, which the state filled in when it was built. Authorities are now investigating whether the ramp's problems stem from how it's settled on that filled-in ground.

At around 6:50 a.m. Friday morning, Frank McCain spun out in a Ford Mustang on the ramp in rainy conditions. McCain says he and the woman he was with had minor injuries but are OK overall. McCain said he didn’t know about the ramp’s troubled history.

Friday morning’s wreck is the latest in a series of crashes on the ramp, which started getting a lot of attention in early May when there were six accidents.

"All of a sudden I hit this little bump and just lost control of the steering,” said 18-year-old Lauren Shearer, who crashed on the ramp while driving in the rain three weeks ago.

Shearer says she was with her three younger sisters, ranging in age from 11 to 17, at the time.

“I hit the barrier on the side, first the front, then the back,” Shearer said. “I was trying to straighten out."

Shearer says she's had neck and shoulder pain ever since and she sees a chiropractor two to three times a week. She says her youngest sister is also in pain.

“The 11 year-old, Ellie,” Shearer explained, “she had problems with her neck. Her shoulders were twisted."

Documents KATU’s On Your Side Investigators uncovered last week show a bridge joint connecting two parts of the ramp has been out of place for a decade.

Still the state Department of Transportation says it's not sure what exactly is causing all of the crashes, and it won't say how long its investigation will last.

“There's obviously a problem here," Shearer said. “They do need to take some sort of action.”

Shearer says she doesn't remember how fast she was going on the ramp but she believes the advisory speed limit on it is unrealistic.

"Coming off the highway at 55 to 60 miles per hour,” Shearer said, “it's really hard to slow down to 35 from there."

At least five potential lawsuits are brewing over the ramp, with people saying the state owes them for damages from recent wrecks.