State engineer raised concerns over Hwy 217 flyover in 2002 memo

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. - KATU's On Your Side Investigators have discovered there were three car accidents on the flyover ramp connecting northbound lanes of Interstate 5 with the 217 freeway on Wednesday.

KATU also found a memo in which an engineer raised serious concerns about the ramp a year after it was built.

The ramp has seen several wrecks in recent months, and Wednesday the Oregon Department of Transportation announced plans to install a new $100,000 sign warning drivers to slow down.

ODOT is also planning to resurface the ramp earlier than originally planned, though the agency says it still can't find any structural problems with it.

KATU's On Your Side Investigators have dug up a 2002 memo that suggests otherwise.

In it, Steve Starkey, who worked on the project, told state transportation authorities in part, "I believe work and finished product quality was partially compromised for short-term profit. I recognize that proving this statement is not easy."

Starkey went on to say he saw trucks driving over a slab two days before they were supposed to.

"Mr. Starkey would not have allowed it," said Dave Thompson, a spokesman for ODOT. "But the people who had the decision-making authority at the time did allow it, so they must have thought it was the safe thing to do."

Thompson says if drivers would just go the advisory speed limit of 35 mph on the ramp they would be safe. Reminding people of that is the goal of putting up a special electronic sign this fall. It will display an image of a skidding vehicle when laser sensors detect that rain, snow or ice has reduced road surface traction.

Regarding reports of cracks being spotted on the flyover since it was built in 2001, Thompson said, "Decks get cracks in them as a matter of wear and tear on a deck and that's why we resealed the deck on a reasonable basis. We have resealed this deck a couple of times. I think the last time was 2012."

Thompson says the resurfacing project will start next month.