Residents demand highway redo no matter the cost

Residents demand highway redo no matter the cost »Play Video

ESTACADA, Ore. - A mistake during a beautification project near Estacada will cost nearly a half million extra tax dollars to redo, but some residents and the state agree a “do over” is worth it.

The controversy surrounds the re-striping of Highway 224 between Eagle Creek and Estacada that made the road two lanes instead of four. The idea was to improve traffic but now drivers are complaining that the resulting longer commutes and speeders are unsafe.

According to the state, it was an honest mistake from years ago. Highway 224 was designed to be two lanes but decades ago crews painted it four lanes and drivers got used to it. So when a recent project returned it to two lanes local drivers got mad.

Locals say the problem when there are only two lanes, when there’s space for four, is people pass in the turn lane or use side roads.

Theresa Loftus, who commutes every day from Beaverton, says with two lanes it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.

“You just get annoyed after a while because you’ve got to be there at work on time and when you’re not you get yelled at so people take more risks,” she says.

When the people who live and work in Estacada spoke up, the Oregon Department of Transportation listened.

“We’re putting it back the way they wanted it to meet local needs,” said Brad Wurfel, spokesman for ODOT.

But he said changing the highway back to four lanes will cost about $425,000.

When asked if it is a waste of money to go back and re-stripe the highway, Wurfel said, “Well, it’s certainly not preferable, but to us it actually is preferable to give the local residents what they want.”

“I see that as a total waste, total waste of time and manpower,” says Carl Fender, who lives in Estacada. “They could be doing better things with the money.”

But it’s a price tag some say is worth paying, not only to make the highway safer, but easier as well.

“It’s more room and it’s not bottleneck traffic coming into town and going out of town,” says Bob Thornhill, who also lives in Estacada.

The re-striping is already underway. Crews should have it completed by the end of the month.