The Greatest Threat to Public Safety in Lane County
Putting the McKenzie Highway on the Map
By Scott Michael Rohter
August 27th 2018, Updated September 9th, 2018
The greatest threat to public safety in Lane County is not an earthquake. It isn’t the aerial spraying of commercial herbicides used in the logging industry. It isn’t the possibility of a terrorist attack. The greatest threat to public safety in Lane County is something that we have never even been told about. It is the danger we face from trucks hauling toxic chemicals, hazardous waste, and radioactive materials up and down the McKenzie Highway every day. It is the very real danger of one of those trucks crashing and winding up in the McKenzie River which is the water supply for 200,000 people.
Closing your eyes, crossing your fingers, and holding your breath is not a good way to make public policy. In June of 2016 a tanker truck crashed and leaked 2,000 gallons of gasoline near the river. Before that a tanker hauling a mixed load of diesel and gasoline crashed along Highway 58 and burst into flames killing the driver. That accident occurred near Lookout Reservoir. Several years ago a propane truck crashed along the upper McKenzie River. There have been numerous wake up calls, but so far our elected officials remain sound asleep. We must begin to reduce the risk to the river and to Eugene’s municipal water supply before it is too late. The lives of 200,000 people depend on it.
EWEB claims that it can clean up an oil spill downstream from where a leak occurs, but what happens when the chemical that leaks into the river is not petroleum? What happens if it has a specific gravity greater than 1 and it doesn’t float on the water like oil does? What is EWEB going to do when that happens? It is only a matter of time if we don’t immediately begin to reduce the risk to the river by taking steps to make the McKenzie Highway safer.
The reputation of the McKenzie River depends on good public policy. The real estate market and the tourist industry depend on State and local leaders to establish proper priorities and implement responsible decisions. Nobody wants to ride a drift boat down a polluted river except for scientists monitoring the effects of the pollution. A chemical leak would not only put river guides out of work. It would put one of Oregon’s finest fisheries out of business, and impact the lives of 200,000 people who live in Eugene.
The McKenzie Highway not only represents a threat to Eugene’s municipal water supply, but it also poses a danger to anyone who has to drive it because of the lack of fog line reflectors, rumble strips and guard rails where they are desperately needed… like the place where Kenneth Wayne Brawn drove his truck into the river and died. He is a victim of the McKenzie Highway, and since his death on June 6th there have been at least two more people who have been killed on the highway.. one in a fatal three car collision at the intersection of 126 and Deerhorn Road on September 9th, and another man on a motorcycle on September 23rd near milepost 11 in Cedar Flat. How many more people have to die before the McKenzie Highway receives the attention that it deserves and the safety upgrades that it desperately needs?
Kenneth Brawn was driving home on the morning of June 6th when his truck crossed the double yellow line. There were no rumble strips to wake him up. Then he crossed over the fog line. There were no reflectors to illuminate the edge of the asphalt. Then he plunged headlong down a steep bank into the river where his body was recovered two days later. There were no guard rails there to protect him. They would have saved his life regardless of whether he was asleep at the wheel, driving under the influence, or if he had just experienced a stroke as some people think. Guard rails would have saved his life!
Mr. Brawn is not the only victim of this highway. There have been 162 deaths, 6,235 people injured, and over 8,762 accidents on Highway 126 between Florence and Redmond since 1995. That is the same time that Floyd Prozanski has been a member of the Oregon Legislature. He has been the Senator from this District. District for the last 14 of those years and he has done absolutely nothing about it. As a member of the Task Force on Public Safety Floyd Prozanski has done nothing in over 20 years to reduce the number of casualties along this highway. Twenty years is long time. It is long enough to fix what is wrong with this highway. If you elect me I will.
As the Vice Chair of the Marijuana Committee Senator Prozanski spends more time thinking about whether people get fired from their jobs for smoking dope than whether they get killed driving back and forth to work! Voters should not re-elect a man who cares more about how the State of Oregon can make money from marijuana than whether people live or die. That sounds pretty dopey to me.
Candidate for Oregon Senate