2015 Bill Aims to Implement More Interstate Cable Barriers

A bill that would require cable barriers on interstate highways in Oregon sailed through the senate on a 28-1 vote Monday.

The Fritz-Fairchild Act, named for two people who died in a September 2014 crash on I-5 in Salem, would direct the Oregon Department of Transportation to complete installation of median barriers on interstate highways where the space between opposing lanes of traffic measures 100 feet or less.

Oregon State Hospital employees Dr. Steven Fritz and Cary Fairchild were killed when a vehicle traveling north on I-5 crossed an open median and struck their car.

"On September 24, we lost two remarkable Oregonians in a tragic crash," Senate President Peter Courtney said. "We know cable barriers work. We know they save lives. This legislation will save lives in the future."

Cable barriers have been placed on the I-5 corridor that stretches through Salem as well as Linn County as a part of an emergency declaration following two fatal crashes on the freeway in 2014.

Areas of the state most lacking barriers are mostly in rural Oregon including south on I-5 and east on Interstate 84.

"About 100 more miles of interstate need to be closed up," said Paul Mather, highway division administrator. "I think there are about 40 miles left on I-5 and 60 (miles) on 84."

Some of that area had been allocated funding and programming prior to the fatalities.

"We've long recognized that cable barriers are an effective and proactive way to prevent deaths on our interstate highways," Mather said.

In February 2000, the Oregon Department of Transportation reported that the three-cable barrier installed along I-5 between Salem and Wilsonville resulted in a decrease in both cross-over fatalities and crash-related costs. Over the following three-year period, 22 miles of cable were installed. In the year and a half after the installation, there were zero cross-over crashes.

The cable barrier project was one that was already scheduled to take place over the course of several years, according to Lou Torres with the state department of transportation.

"Following the tragic cross-over crashes we almost immediately put them in place," said Torres. "We didn't want to wait."

The bill now goes to the Oregon House of Representatives for consideration.

The installations are projected to be completed by December 21, 2021.