La Pine's new Highway 97 stoplight is a go

Residents welcome upcoming safety improvement

POSTED: 7:03 PM PDT September 26, 2013    UPDATED: 2:25 PM PDT September 27, 2013 
LA PINE, Ore. -

For many La Pine residents, this has been a  long time coming.

"It's a bad intersection -- it needs a light, and there are too many accidents here," a La Pine woman said Thursday.

The city and Oregon Department of Transportation officials finally have a plan for the first stoplight on Highway 97 in La Pine, at First Street and Reed Road.

It's a plan that's been decades in the making.

"It's been an issue for a long long time, maybe 15- 20 years," said Chamber of Commerce Director Anne Gawith. "It's a bad intersection, and of course as the traffic has increased, it's become more and more so."

Finding the money for the project has been the toughest roadblock.

Now the funds are there and the time is right.

"Now they have taken some of the money they had left over from the La Pine Industrial Group when they disbanded to start the infrastructure for the light," Gawith said.

The problems at the two-way stop intersection keep growing.

There's no left-hand turn lane to go to McDonald's or the gas station. Cars zoom into town way over the speed limit, and if you want to turn left or go straight across the highway -- good luck.

"The worst is lunch for the high school," said a Shell station employee. "We're the only fast-food restaurant, besides Taco Bell and you get 300 juniors and seniors that drive, and so it's constantly backed up."

As for the solution -- it's not as simple as just putting in a light.

On ODOT's to-do list: Realigning First Street and Reed Road so they are directly across from each other, constructing a left-hand turn lane onto Reed Road, adding two right-hand turn lanes for south- and westbound traffic onto 97, building sidewalks, painting crosswalks, and installing lights and poles.

Construction won't start until 2015. The price tag is $1.5 million.

A high cost, but well-worth the tragedies it will prevent.

For more information, visit http://www.oregon.gov/odot/pages/index.aspx