ODOT changing Main Street intersection where three kids were killed, more is needed

By Rob Zako
April 12, 2024

The Oregon Department of Transportation will be changing the intersection of 54th Street and Main Street in Springfield. In 2015, a driver ran a red light there, injuring a mother and killing all three of her kids crossing legally in a crosswalk. BEST sees a need to redesign all of Main Street to encourage slower travel speeds.

Source: ODOT

A tragedy in 2015

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 22, 2015, after getting ice cream at a nearby convenience store, Cortney Hudson-Crawford and her three kids were walking to their home in Springfield. They were crossing Main Street at 54th Street, legally in a crosswalk with a green light. Larry LaThorpe, 68, ran a red light, seriously injuring the mother and killing John Alysander Day, 8; McKenzie Mae Hudson, 5; and Tyler James Hudson, 4. LaThorpe, who authorities said had not been drinking or speeding before the crash, had told police that he thought the traffic light was green when he entered the intersection while driving his pickup truck east on Main Street.

John Alysander Day, 8; McKenzie Mae Hudson, 5; and Tyler James Hudson, 4. Source: KMTR

A response in 2024

Now the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is planning to make changes where the tragedy occurred.

  • Add left turn lanes on 54th Street.
  • Upgrade signals to add a dedicated turn light for the new turn lanes, this will allow cars to turn safely.
  • Update signal timing to allow pedestrians to cross during a dedicated walk phase.   
  • Update lighting at intersection for better visibility.
  • Update signal and install American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps to improve accessibility.

To be completed this year, the project costs $212,500 for design and $1,369,700 for construction.

More is needed

The tragedy at 54th and Main led BEST to call for safer streets, in particular, to push for the Vision Zero goal of no deaths or life-changing injuries.

Rob Zako stands at a Springfield intersection where three young children were killed in 2015. Photo by Leah Nash

According to the City of Springfield, “Main Street is consistently ranked as one of the most unsafe city streets in Oregon based on the severity and frequency of traffic crashes. The Oregon Department of Transportation and the City must address this problem to save lives, reduce injuries, and lessen property damage due to crashes. The purpose of the Main Street Safety Project is to select infrastructure solutions that will make Main Street safer for people walking, biking, driving, and taking transit.”

But when business owners opposed plans to redesign Main Street, the Springfield City Council voted in June 2022 to discontinue the effort.

Since then, BEST has been surveying public opinions on Main Street and looking at possible changes.

A major factor is speed. BEST does not see that the changes ODOT is making would have prevented the tragedy. Redesigning the street to have slower travel speeds might have. Not only do slower speeds give drivers more time to react, they also reduce the severity of an impact.

Source: Smart Growth America

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