It's irritating when City of Salem staff play bureaucratic games that affect people's lives. It's infuriating when they do this after someone has died.
But that's the sad state of affairs reported in a Statesman Journal story today about the dangerous intersection at Mildred Lane SE and Liberty Road S near the city limits.
The story says that teenager Sara Schumann died in 2020 when the car she was a passenger in failed to heed the stop sign on Mildred and hit an oncoming vehicle. Then there were other major crashes in 2021 and 2022.
Laurel, my wife, and I live about 5 1/2 miles south of the city limits. We use Liberty to get into Salem, which is pretty much daily. Several years ago Laurel complained to a city official after she saw cars failing to stop at Mildred and zipping right across Liberty into the new housing development there.
The official told Laurel that they'd received other complaints about the intersection. And the Statesman Journal story says that 67 comments have been posted on the neighborhood's NextDoor site following an August crash at the intersection.
Yet City of Salem staff still don't see a reason to make the intersection safer. Here's an excerpt from the story.
Puopolo vowed to get the city to act.
But instead, she said, she has faced indifference and inaction.
She said city officials told her the current set-up — the speed limit and stop sign — followed all the recommended guidelines and the city couldn't just install stop lights or flashing lights wherever it wanted to.
The fact that one person died, her brother was in a serious accident and more could die in the future didn't seem to matter, Puopolo said.
What's exasperating is that Public Works staff are falling back on the lame excuse that they're following the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, so everything is fine -- leaving aside the not-so-minor detail that Mildred at Liberty has had one death and three major crashes recently even though it isn't a high volume intersection.
Here's an idea for city officials: why don't you put down your beloved Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for a couple of hours and go talk to the neighbors in that area about what needs to be done to make that intersection safer?
Sometimes doing things "by the book" makes sense. But often it doesn't. In this case it sure seems like City of Salem staff are making a big mistake by betting that improvements to that intersection can wait for several more years.
If another person dies in a crash there, that's going to look like a really lousy bet.
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