PORTLAND, Ore. - A woman crashes on the flyover from I-5 to Highway 217 with her two daughters in the car. That makes three crashes in that spot in the past three days. Now, the mother plans to file a claim against the state, joining a growing list of similar claims.
"I realized we were going to hit the wall on the opposite side of the freeway and braced for impact,” Kristen Titko said.
Titko was driving on the flyover on Thursdday afternoon. Her daughter Bayley, 12 was in the passenger seat. Her daughter Morrigan, 13, was sitting behind her in the back seat. It’s a road Titko has taken too many times to count; she’s never had a problem.
"I slid, tried to correct, and then I went completely out of control, and we spun in a blind spin,” Titko explained.
The road was wet at the time of the crash, like they’ve been when other drivers have experienced similar crashes there. And, Titko was driving in the left lane, another theme among driver’s who’ve crashed.
“I felt like I hit an oil slick,” Titko said.
Her SUV is totaled; it struck the concrete barrier on both sides of the highway. Titko said she wasn’t speeding. The suggested speed limit is 35 miles per hour on the ramp.
“We were exactly going the same speed as everybody around us and it was a very crowded traffic situation,” she said.
Titko didn’t find out there’s been a series of previous accidents on the ramp until she was rescued.
"Later on, when one of the police officers was questioning me, she said, ‘No you hit the broken joint’,” Titko explained.
Her shoulder was bruised in the wreck. She’s also suffering from a spinal injury that’s left painful to move. Her daughters both have severe whiplash, and are also in pain. Titko believes the crash that caused the injuries will stick with this family for a long time.
"Absolute terror because there was nothing I could do,” Titko said.
“I hit the seatbelt really hard, so it hurts to breathe a little bit,” Morrigan Titko explained.
So far, the state has received seven claims from drivers asking for damages done to their car after similar wrecks.
KATU’s “On Your Side Investigators” obtained documents for all of those claims. One is asking for more than $10,000 in damages. Three of those claims date back to April, 2014.
That’s one month before ODOT started its investigation into the problem. In early May, a series of six crashes in two days prompted ODOT to notify media about a possible issue with the bridge joint on the ramp.
After ODOT started investigating, KATU’s “On Your Side Investigators” dug up documents that show ODOT has known about a problem with the bridge joint for a decade. It’s out of place by one inch.
KATU’s “On Your Side Investigators” also obtained documents that show ODOT built the ramp on swamp-like land that the state filled in prior to construction.
"As much pain as I'm in physically, I think the pain of knowing that everybody knows about this issue and people are continuing to get hurt, hurts me even more. This could have been prevented,” said Titko.
The suggested 35 mile-per-hour speed on the ramp is well-posted. ODOT recently replaced smaller orange signs with huge orange signs to alert drivers. An electronic speed limit sign has been in place about a quarter mile before the ramp since early May.
ODOT wants to remind drivers to follow that suggested speed. It believes if drivers do that, everyone will stay safe until cause and a fix are identified.