Citizens Concerned Over Excessive Speeding on HWY 26
By Amber Ford
Similar to traffic lights, speed limits are enforceable measures set forth by law enforcement, county officials and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Speed limits, which are enforceable by law, act as a safety barrier through heavily commuted areas, residential neighborhoods and dangerous roads and highways that hold the potential for fatalities. As with many communities across the country, the 45 mph speed limit, while enforced by state and county law enforcement agencies, is rarely adhered to and has oftentimes led to severe and fatal automotive accidents.
Commonly referred to as “Blood Alley,” Highway 26 and its speed enforcement has become a hot topic for mountain residents as traffic continues to grow and speed through the Mt. Hood Villages. Long time resident and concerned citizen, Suzie Kuerschner, has been an advocate for enforcing the speed limit and has been in contact for several consecutive years with the Oregon Department of Transportation. According to Kuerschner’s communication with ODOT, both the state and county are well aware of the excessive speeding through the Mt. Hood Villages.
Having lived on the mountain prior to the widening of Highway 26, Kuerschner has witnessed how worrisome and dangerous the 45 mph zone can be. “I first witnessed a dramatic decrease in safety because of the Highway 26 widening project between ZigZag and Rhododendron 20 years ago,” Kuerschner said. “The first fatal accident occurred during the first year as a result of a resident speeding in from the Woodlands neighborhood,” Kuerschner added.
Typically keeping their patrolling to a minimum in the Mt. Hood Villages, both Clackamas County Sheriff and Oregon State Police are typically restrained to delivering a high degree of vigilance with regard to speeding only on busy holiday weekends, popular events (such as the relay race Hood to Coast) and the summer season. According to many Mt. Hood Villages residents, this is not only a problem with taking resources away from other emergency needs, it also has zero impact because there is no consistent reinforcement of the 45 mph speed limit. Several concerned Mt. Hood Villages residents, including Kuerschner, have reached out to ODOT and other local agencies advocating for a change to this corridor. Meetings and open communication have occurred throughout the last several years, but according to many, they have yet to make an impact. Community members have suggested additional speed limit signs, cameras and a much more consistent presence of police patrolling in the area. “Children and families lost the ability to cross the highway to access the ZigZag river recreational settings,” Kuerschner said. “Numerous small accidents created difficulty and increased stress, with accompanying long wait times to enter the highway from the Faubion and Woodland residential areas,” Kuerschner added. While it’s still unclear how and when police and state officials will adequately address the speeding issue, it has become quite personal for many residents, this staff writer included.
On Friday, Dec. 8, at 5:00 p.m., I was rear-ended by a truck carrying a trailer while trying to turn right into the Rendezvous Plaza. My car spun in circles after being hit by an individual who was most likely not adhering to the speed limit. My vehicle is completely totaled, but I am lucky to have walked away, whereas so many have not. We must, as a community, continue to lobby for change.