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Making Bybee Corner Safer

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Last month, ODOT returned to the intersection of Oregon 238 and West Main Street, locally known as Bybee Corner, to make additional safety improvements, following a larger safety project that was completed in 2005.

The current project lengthens the right turn lane for motorists travelling from Jacksonville, adds a concrete median to better separate the turning lane, and adjusts the location of stop bars on West Main Street.

Reports of crashes involving left turns from Oregon 238 indicate drivers had trouble discerning what oncoming traffic was going to do until it was too late. ODOT traffic safety engineers revisited the intersection to find the reasons.

“The agency brought in engineers from around the state to perform a safety audit,” said ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon. “What the engineering team discovered is that drivers turning left from Oregon 238 to West Main Street have a short period of time to analyze whether an oncoming driver is turning right onto West Main or proceeding on to Central Point.”

The short reaction time and the opportunity to misjudge intent led some drivers to turn left in front of oncoming vehicles.

“Drivers turning left from Oregon 238 only had a couple of seconds to make a judgment,” said Marmon. “Our engineering team determined we needed to increase that decision-making time and increase the safety margin.

“Separating the turn lane with a concrete median will be a great visual clue for drivers who’ve needed additional time to determine what oncoming traffic is going to do.”

According to Marmon, the $150,000 project is relatively inexpensive because all of the work occurs within state right of way. The project is scheduled to wrap up by the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

2005 safety project

The Bybee Corner intersection was once listed among the top 5 percent in Oregon for crash frequency and severity on the Safety Priority Index System (SPIS), which ODOT uses to identify potential safety problems. Locations within the top 5 percent draw additional traffic investigation and often become candidates for safety projects. A 2005 safety project addressed poor sight distance and geometry. As a result, Bybee Corner dropped off the top 5 percent SPIS list.

Hwy. 238-to-Jackson St. project

The intersection realignment at Bybee Corner was spurred not just by the crash rate but also by a jurisdictional transfer of roads between Jackson County and ODOT in 2002. That transfer was included in the Hwy. 238-to-Jackson St. project, which rerouted a section of Oregon 238 and reconfigured the intersection of Oregon 99 and 62, locally known as the Big Y intersection.

The new configuration, locally known as the Big X intersection, provided a more efficient and direct connection and removed non-destination traffic traveling on Oregon 238 out of downtown Medford.

“At the time, the Hwy. 238-to-Jackson St. project was the largest state project within the Rogue Valley in more than a decade,” said ODOT Project Information Specialist Gary Leaming. “The Big Y intersection was one of the most confusing and congested traffic bottlenecks in the area.”

The $31 million Hwy. 238-to-Jackson St. project constructed roadways, storm drainage systems, traffic signals, and permanent signing.

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