For years, state officials in Oregon dragged their heels when it came to putting up barriers they knew were needed along the interstate. They knew the deadly consequences for failing to do so, and yet set other priorities, vote after vote, year after year.
Then in 2014, a psychiatrist and mental health counselor were carpooling to work at a local hospital one morning when a pickup truck, thrown off course by a torrential downpour and a speeding oil truck, came careening from the other side of the highway, across the raised dirt median and directly into their lane. The health care workers were struck head-on and both were killed.
The widow of the deceased driver happened to be a commissioner for the City of Portland. She vowed enough was enough. She pushed state legislators and the governor into passage of the “Fritz-Fairchild Act,” so named after the victims, that gave the state a six-year timeline to install $20 million worth of cable medians along 100 miles of protected highway. She also settled for $1.45 million a pending lawsuit against the state, alleging negligent highway design. Evidence had been presented indicating state officials knew not only were the dirt berms in the median ineffective at preventing cross-over crashes, they may have actually made them worse by serving as a “launching pad.” Another negligence lawsuit for $9.5 million brought by the commissioner against the pickup truck driver and the oil truck company is still pending. Continue reading →