EUGENE, Ore. -- Safety improvements could be coming to a small stretch of Highway 20 east of Corvallis after two drivers died when their vehicles crashed into the Willamette River two weeks apart, Oregon Department of Transportation officials said.
ODOT spokesperson Angela Beers-Seydel said after a Brownsville woman lost control and died on Jan. 7, they looked at that section of the highway and decided it might need a guard rail.
And then on Jan. 21, an Albany man died after crashing into the river less than a mile from the first crash.
Beers-Seydel said they're moving ahead with a safety study, the first step to making improvements.
"Whether or not that that will speed up after this second crash that has occurred, that still needs to be determined," Beers-Seydel said. "But people are looking at it today to take those first steps."
Just like that stretch of Highway 20 near Corvallis, parts of Highway 126 east of Springfield are right next to a river, too, and wrecks there have ended with cars in the McKenzie River.
Scot Johnson, who travels up and down the McKenzie Highway every day, said he appreciates the work ODOT has done to keep the highway safe but says more guard rails could help save lives.
"There are certain places along the river where if you popped off, you better hope a tree stops you 'cause you're going in the water," Johnson said. "There's quite a few (guard rails) but maybe not enough."
Beers-Seydel said ODOT looks into a lot of different factors before installing a guard rail and said safety improvements could be tacked onto other road projects or done separately in case of emergencies.
"We look at the number of crashes in the area, the slope, surrounding area, the speed of vehicles, the potential benefit," Beers-Seydel said.
According to state crash reports, between 2008 and 2017, that section of Highway 20 saw four crashes, and none of them were fatal.
For now, ODOT doesn't have any plans to add any more guard rails to Highway 126 but Beers-Seydel they're always looking at highways in the state to improve safety.
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