By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: McKay Road deaths require speed limits

Decades ago, McMinnville citizens demanded action after 10 deaths in 10 years on the Three Mile Lane Bypass. Who will match that level of outrage after 12 deaths in 12 months on McKay Road?


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Back then, Three Mile Lane was a full-speed, two-lane roadway to the airport. Appeals for reduced speed limits met with resistance from the state, but that tide turned when local funeral directors testified in detail about their ventures to collect bodies from that decade-long series of crashes.

New speed limits were approved. As a result, there were no more deaths along Three Mile Lane in the following decade, leading toward major redevelopment of the roadway.

The situation with McKay Road is more complex. But the immediate response must include speed reduction.

Starting three miles south of Newberg off Highway 219, a combination of McKay, Yergen and Ehlen roads runs about seven miles to Interstate 5 at a point near Donald. That little-known drive used to serve as a pastoral alternative route to the freeway, but two years ago, the first phase of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass flooded the farming area with a crush of new traffic.

Today, a five-mile stretch of that roadway is considered Marion County’s Blood Alley.

Last week, I decided to write about McKay Road, after learning there had been 10 fatalities since last summer. Sunday, a head-on collision killed two more, including a 65-year-old Willamina man.

Partial completion of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass drew driver attention to the rural alternative route, and it will take a multifaceted approach to stem the surge of destruction, injuries and fatalities.

Speed remains a common factor in the fatal accidents, and law enforcement is responding.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office reportedly ticketed 93 speeders in eight hours last month, 20 going between 75 and 90 mph. And it is planning a similar patrol effort next week.

Speed control, accompanied by law enforcement, is essential.

Officials will resist speed limits, saying it will create more problems from impatient drivers making even more dangerous roadway choices. Tell that to the families of the next dozen McKay Road casualties.

Highway death tolls often are caused by alcohol, distracted driving and pure stupidity. But speed can make the difference between close calls and deadly collisions.

Center-lane rumble strips may help. State legislators passed a bill allowing rural “safety corridors” with increased fines, but studies question the effectiveness of doubled fines.

Perhaps drivers would respond to this sign: “Speed Limit 50 / $1,000 Fine.”

Time and again, lowered speed has reduced deaths. That time has come for McKay Road.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.



No one is being forced to drive McKay Road. If it's too fast for your liking then stay off.

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