Make the McKenzie Connection!

Engineer donates speed feedback signs for McKenzie Highway

Sites include Vida, Leaburg, and McKenzie Bridge

An engineer for a construction contractor who is also a volunteer for McKenzie Fire and Rescue is donating six speed feedback signs for three 45 mph zones on OR 126 east of Eugene.

Joel Zeni of Suulutaaq, a contractor on several ODOT projects, hopes to reduce the chances of speed-related crashes on OR 126 in Leaburg, Vida, and McKenzie Bridge. Each speed zone will have signs for both eastbound and westbound traffic.

“When I was in elementary school, one of my classmate’s sister was killed while crossing the street in Leaburg,” Zeni said. “It was a terrible tragedy and one that I hoped would never happen again. Until September 2022 when a man coming home from his birthday dinner with his wife and 12-year-old son was rear-ended in McKenzie Bridge by semi truck that was traveling too fast. This wreck resulted in the man’s death, and his son was so close most responders thought he would not make it. Fortunately, the child has made an unbelievable recovery.

“I was doing the exact same thing on that day – I was enjoying my son’s birthday, and I live within one of the speed reduction zones in Vida. As a volunteer of the Mckenzie Fire and Rescue, had I been home, I would have been one of the first responders to that scene. For all of my colleagues that did respond to that scene, it was one that all of them will never forget.

“That night I emailed the state saying that there is something that I can do to help stop these tragedies with my experience in ODOT work across the state and my recent work up the Mckenzie Highway for the Holiday Farm fire clean up.”

The feedback signs will display an approaching vehicle’s speed and will flash when someone is exceeding the 45 mph limit by at least 10 mph. At over 20 mph over the limit, the signs will flash alternately the vehicle’s speed and the message, “Slow down.”

Suulutaaq is supplying the signs and other materials, and Zeni is doing the installation work. He began pouring concrete bases in late May and hopes to have the signs operating in June.

“I was willing to donate personally these speed signs to do something to try to prevent these accidents in our community,” Zeni said.

Lane County agreed to be the official sponsor for these signs – similarly to how the cities of Oakridge, Cottage Grove, and Junction City acted as sponsors for donated speed feedback signs in the past 3-4 years.

“To accomplish this request by permit for these unincorporated locations that are under Lane County law enforcement jurisdiction, Lane County agreed to sponsor and support the requested vehicle speed feedback signs as the permit applicant,” ODOT District 5 Manager Jim Gamble said. “District 5 has issued these permits to the cities of Oakridge, Cottage Grove, and Junction City, which received signs through grant opportunities.”


Reader Comments(0)