County approves 199 Corridor Plan

Ordinance 2023-092, to amend the Josephine County Transportation System Plan by incorporating ODOT’s U.S. 199 Corridor Plan, received a second reading and adoption May 31 at the Board of County Commissioners’ weekly business session, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass. A first reading was held May 17.
JoCo Public Works Director Rob Brandes recounted that the corridor plan will “really focus on those five unincorporated areas on 199 and then both sides of Cave Junction.
“As we all know it’s a dangerous road by metrics. There’s a lot of fatalities, a lot of serious crashes out there due to a wide range of features – whether it’s impaired driving, the topography of the road, folks waiting to turn – and so then the plan gets into not only those transition zones of folks going in and out of the unincorporated areas but what are some localized fixes, whether that means a turn lane at Waters Creek or rumble strips here or additional signage there.”
Brandes clarified, “This does not dedicate any money to fixing those on the front end. It’s an acknowledgment by ODOT, though, to say, ‘Here’s our priorities of the things we need to get to and fix,’ and as we’ve talked about before, once it is officially notarized in a plan this does give us and ODOT more juice to say, ‘Hey, we’ve already researched this. Here it is in black and white, Salem, or whoever it is we need to address that.’”
The Public Works director insisted that there is no “magic bullet” to fixing the hazardous conditions of Redwood Hwy: “It’s an expensive, difficult challenge but this is at least a good step to start giving us a road map picking things off as the future comes.”
During the public hearing on this ordinance, Cave Junction City Councilor Jean Ann Miles, who worked on a citizens’ group with ODOT as the corridor plan was developed, spoke in support of the plan’s adoption into the JoCo TSP.
“There’s a lot of good things to it, especially the area around Kerby Mart,” Miles said. “And in Kerby there’s a lot of issues because we now have a Boys and Girls Club there and we also have the bus dropping off there so it really is a serious issue.”
Miles added that some locals, including her, were concerned by the prospect of roundabouts being implemented; one of a number of recommendations posed by the corridor plan, and would prefer more passing lanes instead.
“One of the most frustrating things when you’re on 199,” Miles remarked, “is to get behind an RV that decides that they’re going to go 45 in a 55 zone or 60 zone and then when you get to a passing lane they decide they’re going to go 60. So you can’t really pass safely… Those are a couple frustrating things and ODOT told us there were no passing lanes – they didn’t do that, and yet I’ve seen them other places in the state so I find that frustrating because that’s a much safer way for a vehicle to exit and then be able to come right back in.”
Before the time came to vote on the ordinance, Commissioner Dan DeYoung advised, “199 has been a real dangerous highway and has been for a long time. ODOT and the people of Oregon can stuff money after money after money but just as I witnessed this last weekend there’s some real idiots that travel that road and you’re not going to be able to fix stupid on that but we gotta try to do everything we can to give them as much room to make a mistake as possible I guess.”
All three commissioners – DeYoung, Board Vice Chair John West and Board Chair Herman Baertschiger – voted in favor of the ordinance.