Teacher's death an example of dangerous highway, commissioner says
SALEM, Ore. - The stretch of highway where a pregnant Salem teacher died in a car crash on Friday was once so dangerous that it was classified as a safety corridor.
Polk County commissioners have been pushing to impose new safety measures on the roadway for years, but a lack of money has stymied the efforts.
New details have emerged in the Friday crash that killed Emily Campbell, an English teacher at North Salem High School. Campbell was driving on Highway 22 west of Salem when her car was hit head-on by an oncoming vehicle.
On Monday, grief counselors met with more than 100 students.
"Some just want to write. Some just want to talk," said Cynthia Richardson, principal of North Salem High School. "Some just want to cry. Some just want to be comforted."
The stretch of roadway where Campbell died was formerly classified a safety corridor, which meant added patrols and increased traffic fines. But in 2011, Oregon Department of Transportation de-commissioned the corridor because the accident rate dropped well below the state average.
Since 2011, there has been only one other fatal accident along that stretch of road.
But that hasn't stopped Polk County Commissioner Craig Pope from advocating for new safety measures. Pope said his fellow commissioners still see the need for safety improvements and want to install a barrier between the oncoming lanes of traffic.
But the competition for federal grant funding for these types of projects is fierce, he said. And there is so much that needs to be done.
Pope doesn't expect a change on Highway 22 for years. But he hopes the accident will trigger some type of action.
"If we don't work towards solving this problem locally, ODOT won't necessarily hear our voice," he said.
When reached for comment, an ODOT spokesperson said officials are still monitoring Highway 22 and see the need for added safety improvements, as well.