As an emergency services provider I'd like to offer a response to H. Bruce Miller's opinion piece in the January 15 issue about installing a Jersey Barrier on Hwy 97.
I believe in Jersey Barriers; they save lives. But there are many concerns that communities must weigh before committing to those barriers. I am no traffic expert, but with 28 years of emergency service experience I must weigh in on the negatives that I see. The first is response time for those called to help (in a timely manner) to the scene of an accident or other emergency. The barriers on I-5 are one example. Between Brooks and Woodburn the barrier has contributed to increased response times. If an accident is, for example, just a half-mile south of Woodburn in the northbound lanes, emergency services must come from Brooks and travel up to twelve miles to provide assistance.
Secondly, there are also public safety issues presented by the public being forced to make u-turns in the breaks between the barriers on a busy highway. That move is very dangerous for all drivers, including the emergency providers (especially with highway speeds and the turning radius of our apparatus); this alone could increase accident rates.
Finally, ODOT would have the accurate stats, but highways such as Hwy. 20 W and Hwy. 58 have far more fatalities per vehicle mile, and one cannot simply Jersey Barrier from here to California, or Washington. These facts may not outweigh the loss of life in head-on collisions for most, but please consider the many variables that contribute to safe roadways and driving habits.
Concerned First Responder