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Vehicles continue turning left onto Highway 34 from Columbus Street on Tuesday afternoon despite a sign posted prohibiting left turns. A concrete barrier is to be finished by the end of the week.

Mid-valley drivers: No more turning left from Columbus Street onto Highway 34. It's no longer allowed, and in a couple of days, it will no longer be physically possible.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Oregon Department of Transportation had signs in place to warn people away from making the left turn. The change is coming courtesy of an agreement between the Oregon Department of Transportation and Linn County to make the area safer for drivers.

Some drivers were turning left on Tuesday anyway, in spite of the signs. The physical barrier will be in place by the end of the week, and drivers who make the left before that do so at their peril, said Angela Beers Seydel, ODOT public information officer. 

Between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2016, ODOT records show 23 crashes were recorded at that intersection involving injuries or fatalities. Of those, 14 involved left-hand turns, and nine of the 14 were caused by people turning left from Columbus.

That prompted the safety change, Seydel said. "We looked at it and said, 'yeah.'"

Starting Tuesday night, crews were scheduled to be tearing up the existing rumble strip in the center of the turn lane and then repaving it, Seydel said. Starting Thursday, work will start on a concrete barrier that will start just east of the Columbus intersection and extend three miles west to Hinck Road.

"So by end of the week there will be a physical barrier," Seydel said. "We’ve been trying to let everybody know this was coming, and hope that people will start their new drive now."

Linn County had asked for safety restrictions at both the Columbus intersection and at the intersection at Highway 34 and Seven Mile Lane. ODOT agreed to put a light at Seven Mile, which was activated in December 2016, but is establishing the no-left-turn zone at Columbus rather than a second light. 

"That is considered a rural highway, and based on the speeds that people travel and how they use the road, we wanted as few lights as possible," she said. "So we did an assessment and determined it just wasn't a good place to put one."

The project is being funded through $3 million from state and federal funds and $710,000 from Linn County.

For more information, see the ODOT link online at http://bit.ly/2FUZLAD.

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