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New online complaint form offers help with speeding problem posted on 02/01/2019

Through the windows of the Still Creek Inn, restaurateur Brigette Romeo sees the traffic speeding on Hwy. 26 as they zip through Rhododendron. Romeo, a Brightwood resident, noted the problem usually starts at around 6:30 a.m. on the weekends with the arrival of skiers and snowboarders, and then is repeated in the afternoon when they come down from the resorts.

“For people to cross the highway or turn, you’re taking your life in your hands,” she said.

The issue of speeding and aggressive drivers is well known, including to Sergeant Brian Jensen of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

“This used to be called Blood alley, that was a legitimate nickname,” said Jensen, who has been in the CCSO since 1998.

Now, area residents will have another outlet through which they can try to help solve the problem, with a new online complaint form to flag traffic issues at https://web3.clackamas.us/up/forms/trafficcomplaint.jsp or searching online for “Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office traffic complaint.”

Jensen noted that with the new system, the CCSO will be able to track the entries, which will lead to a stronger police presence in the areas that get more complaints.

“There’s going to be a response,” he said. “It’s going to be documented and addressed. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Jensen added that the CCSO has a dedicated traffic team featuring four deputies and a sergeant to cover the county (approximately 400,000 people). The team has done specific missions in the past and targeted a certain area for a day, and Jensen noted that is a possibility for the Mountain.

He added that the CCSO may get some grant money that would add a focus in the Hwy. 26 corridor, but it is unknown when that might start.

Otherwise, increasing the police presence on the Mountain beyond that may need funding from an enhanced service district, as suggested at a recent community meeting.

But Romeo didn’t think that would be likely, considering the response at that meeting.

“Everybody just about had a heart attack in the room,” she said.

Romeo also noted that the traffic problems extend beyond speeders, citing large trucks that park on the side of the road as another issue she experiences while working in Rhododendron.

Senior Trooper Michael Reel of the Oregon State Police (OSP) noted they have one officer assigned to Government Camp and that traffic safety is the number one concern. OSP officers spend most of the time on state highways in the area, but that area stretches from the east side of Gresham

to the west side of the Warm Springs reservation.

“It’s a lot of highway for one trooper to cover,” said Reel, a 15-year veteran of the OSP.

Reel added that from his point of view, speeders have been fairly consistent in how much they go over the speed limit, with only a couple times per year exceeding 100 MPH. He did note that he has recently noted an uptick of speeders who are local to the mountain.

“I don’t’ know what that’s attributed to,” he said.

Jensen stressed that all drivers are responsible for their own speed, and despite how many times people have offered the excuse that they are going the same speed as others or driving with “the flow of traffic,” it is not a valid one.

“You’re responsible to obey the law,” he said.

Jensen added that the new online complaint form is the best way for Mountain residents to try and help solve the problem and that it will be easier to justify an increased police presence if they have a large number of complaints.

“I want people to not give up on us, to know that we are aware that there is a problem that we are doing what we can; it’s important to our office,” Jensen said. “The safety of the people up here is important to us. They are our neighbors and they are our citizens, we want to do everything we can to ensure their safety.”

By Garth Guibord/MT

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