By editorial board • 

Time to get going on McDougall Junction

Patience and persistence seem to be the watchwords for getting deficiencies in the local highway grid addressed.

Local improvement advocates run up against two powerful forces, one working to limit the inflow of transportation money and the other to redirect the outflow to causes in other areas, where greater population often spells greater political clout. That poses a challenge.

However, proven needs almost always rise into the upper echelons of the Department of Transportation project list eventually. The trick is to have a plan in place that’s reasonably affordable and broadly supportable.

The most obvious example is the Newberg-Dundee Bypass. It took 50 years of pushing, prodding and pleading, but Phase I has gone a long way toward eliminating one of the state’s most notorious bottlenecks, making Phases II and III easier sells.

McMinnville has just been blessed, as well, with the completion of a new sleeker and wider Three Mile Lane Bridge, replacing a rickety wooden span that had clearly run its course.

The junction of Highways 18 and 99W at McDougall Road, about three miles east of Lafayette, seems a worthy candidate for state attention as well. The success of McMinnville’s Highway 18 Bypass to the southwest and the Newberg-Dundee Bypass to the northeast have served to shine a glaring and unflattering light on McDougall junction, highlighting its deficiencies.

The road, spelled McDougal by some sources but McDougall on current maps, got its start as a pioneer wagon road in the mid-1800s, according to a history compiled by Dan Linscheid, based on knowledge gained during his long tenure as county assessor. It was, apparently, named after the proprietor of a roadside fruit stand.

“It was rebuilt using Portland Concrete cement in the early 1900s by the Oregon Highway Department as part of Highway 99W,” Linscheid said. Though the highway served as the main link between Yamhill County and the Portland Metro Area, the original local pour was only 16 feet wide.

Though a stretch of McDougall still carries local traffic, the issue lies not with McDougall itself, but with the Y intersection where the two major highways join.

Most problematic are the point where Newberg-bound Highway 18 traffic has to slow to merge into 99W’s northeasterly flow and the point where Mac-bound Highway 99W traffic has to wait for the chance to make a left across two lanes to ease into 18’s southwesterly flow.

Granted, it used to be much worse.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the junction was notorious for its deadly crashes. In 1995, ODOT responded by reducing the speed limit on both sides, reconfiguring the intersection itself and increasing the extent and visibility of the signage.

But with bad bottlenecks on both sides virtually eliminated, the intersection has once again become a potentially dangerous chokepoint. It is in dire need of new attention.

After a series of factfinding meetings with locals, ODOT concluded in November 2018, almost six years ago now, that its preferred alternative would be replacement of the problem intersection with a roundabout. It suggested that would serve to more swiftly, safely and efficiently keep traffic flowing.

Roundabouts are relatively new in the United States, but have proven themselves for decades in other parts of the world and begun winning American converts at a rapid clip. A set installed along Hill Road have given locals broader exposure to their virtues and seem to have earned general acceptance in the process.

Astoria is now relying on a roundabout to handle the intersection of Highways 101 and 202 at the east end of the New Youngs Bay Bridge, where traffic is heavy year-round and particularly so during the tourist season. If a roundabout can work there, it can work just about anywhere.

The best time to address a budding bottleneck is early on. With the passage of time, costs tend to rise and complications tend to multiply, so it never gets easier.


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