Highway 6, Salem, TRANSPORTATION

ODOT begins study process after passage of Highway 6 bill

With the ink barely dry on Governor Kate Brown’s signature on a bill requiring the Oregon Department of Transportation to study Highway 6 and make repair recommendations to the legislature no later than September 15, 2023, ODOT is already at work on their newly mandated task.

“ODOT has issued a request for proposals to hire a consultant to do the study. We hope to have the firm chosen and on board in May,” ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton said in an email to this newspaper. 

From there, Hamilton said, the plan is to have a draft report done by August 2023, giving the agency time for review and final edits before sending it to the legislature that September. 

“The study will include everything listed in the bill – existing conditions, assessment of the deficiencies, options for improving the deficiencies and the cost estimates for those options,” Hamilton said.

He also noted that a public involvement process targeting stakeholders of a variety of backgrounds would be started, but didn’t offer any further details on that process. 

House Bill 4053, introduced by State Rep. Suzanne Weber (R-Tillamook) as chief sponsor in the most recent short legislative session held in February and March, was sponsored by Weber following an especially deadly year on Highway 6. Newly-appointed State Sen. Rachel Armitage​​ later joined Weber as a Chief Sponsor, and the bill gained support from a number of other legislators who signed on as sponsors. 

In 2021, a string of high-profile traffic crashes on the Wilson River Highway resulted in numerous fatalities and public outcry over the safety of the highway. According to ODOT data, seven people died on the highway in 2021. Local residents on both sides of the coast range have expressed dismay at the deaths that have occurred on the highway, which, when they occur, usually result in hours-long closures of the route linking Tillamook and Washington Counties and the wider Portland Metro area to the Oregon Coast. 

Jesse Borough, founder of Tillamook Co.-based public awareness group Safety on Highway 6 said he met with Banks Fire Chief Rodney Linz on March 18, noting that Linz expressed support for additional safety improvements on Highway 6, which passes through Banks Fire District territory, the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, and the Tillamook Fire District as it winds through Banks, Gales Creek, the Tillamook Forest, and Tillamook. 

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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