SALEM — As more people get vaccinated and pandemic restrictions ease, more travelers are anticipated to hit Oregon roads this Memorial Day weekend and over the summer.
Travelers need to plan ahead, add travel time, and pack their patience for expected congestion and delays. Plan routes carefully, considering the many wildfire recovery areas around the state and continued wildfire risk.
The usual holiday cautions are also in place to help reduce risk: pay attention, put down the cell phone, and of course, drive sober.
Traffic rates are nearly back to typical levels on all state roads. AAA estimates 485,000 Oregonians are planning a trip to kick off summer. Nearly 93% will go by car. This is up 60% from last year when people stayed home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Know road conditions before heading out by checking Tripcheck.com or calling 5-1-1. An Oregon Department of Transportation summer construction map shows major planned projects throughout the state. To reduce risk to drivers and crews while helping traffic flow, most ODOT construction crews will pause roadwork projects between Friday, May 28 and Tuesday morning, June 1.
On Interstate 5, south of Ashland over the Siskiyous, drivers should expect single lane traffic in both directions throughout the summer. This includes all weekends and holidays until paving and bridge work is completed.
- Parking lots can fill up quickly at popular recreation areas. Plan ahead, get there early and have back up places to visit.
- Park only in designated areas.
- Local law enforcement may ticket or tow cars parked along a roadside or another undesignated area.
- Most recreation destinations may be open, but some roads to get there could be closed.
2020 Wildfire Recovery Areas
Debris cleanup from last September’s devastating wildfires complicates the holiday and summer road picture. Work continues in key corridors connecting the Willamette and Umpqua Valleys to Central Oregon and the coast.
“We know that traffic delays can be frustrating and difficult to navigate. To help ease congestion this holiday weekend, hazard tree and debris removal operations will pause work on ODOT’s highways from noon on Friday, May 28 until Wednesday, June 2,” said Mac Lynde, ODOT’s Delivery and Operations Deputy Division Administrator and Lead for the Debris Management Task Force.
Travelers should use extra caution while traveling in wildfire recovery areas, and take alternate routes if possible. Speed limits are reduced, areas look different and landmarks may be gone. Expect numerous work zones and long delays when crews are working, which may include weekends throughout the summer.
OR 224 in Clackamas County remains unsafe due to extreme wildfire damage and will be closed through the fall.
“We are all eager to get out and about to enjoy Oregon’s beauty but we also need to respect the ongoing recovery efforts in these communities. We appreciate the public’s understanding and ask folks to stay clear of closed areas for their safety and others,” said Lynde.
2021 comes with extra concern about early wildfire dangers. Much of the state is currently experiencing drought. Some regions are already in fire season and have fire restrictions in place. Know and follow fire restrictions before traveling.
Motorists can help prevent wildfires:
- Stay on paved surfaces whenever possible. Avoid roadsides where flammables such as dry grass can come in contact with a vehicle’s hot exhaust system or catalytic converter.
- Prevent throwing off sparks by ensuring that all parts of your vehicle, from mufflers to chains, are secure and tires have correct pressure.
- Never toss a lit cigarette or flammable materials from a vehicle.
- Extinguish all smoking materials completely and thoroughly, away from dry grass and fuels.
- Carry a fire extinguisher in the car and know how to use it.
- Know local wildfire danger and restrictions.