Rehabilitation of Highway 62 West, Crater Lake National Park, Klamath County, Oregon
VISITOR USE, TRAFFIC, AND HIGHWAY SAFETY
This section describes visitor use, traffic, and road safety conditions on the section of Highway 62 West that is within the proposed project area.
The park has approximately 79 miles of roads, of which 74 miles are paved. The Rim Road is 33-miles long. In the Visitor Study (NPS 2002a), visitors reported that the most used visitor services and facilities were the roads (used by 93% of survey respondents). Seventy-seven percent of visitors surveyed indicated that the roads were very important.
Traffic data collection was conducted in October 2001, to support preparation of the General Management Plan (Robert Peccia and Associates 2001). The data indicate that the summer seasonal average daily traffic on Highway 62 West was approximately 1,130 vehicles, while during the winter months, the average daily traffic is 300 vehicles. Also, according to the preliminary data, approximately 88% of the vehicles were cars and trucks, and 2% of the vehicles were pulling trailers.
Accidents occur generally along two segments of the Highway 62 West project corridor (Toso pers. comm. 2002). One segment is referred to as Whitehorse Crossing (milepost 69.5 to milepost 69.7), and the other is a section of road that contains two relatively severe switchbacks (milepost 71.1 to milepost 71.7). As stated earlier, the road in the Whitehorse Crossing segment gains elevation over a small hill on the west side of a curve, creating a visual barrier to the upcoming (blind) curve. Visitors occasionally fail to reduce to an appropriate vehicle speed. This occasionally results in single vehicle accidents, some of which involve vehicle roll-over.
The two switchbacks along the second segment of road (milepost 71.1 to milepost 71.7) contain the narrowest turning radii of the portion of Highway 62 West that is within the proposed project area. Caution signs are posted at the switchbacks for tight curves. The majority of accidents on this segment are single vehicle accidents that result from loss of control while attempting to negotiate the switchbacks during snowy conditions, usually resulting in vehicle contact with the guardrail and/or snowbank. These types of accidents are seldom reported; however, dents in the guardrails, imprints in the snowbanks, and remnants of automobile bumpers, grills, and lights observed in the area suggests that these types of accidents occur fairly frequently (Toso pers. comm. 2002). Other accidents associated with these switchbacks include two-vehicle head-on collisions and side-swipes resulting from loss of vehicle control. Although major accidents of this type are relatively infrequent, some of these accidents have resulted in personal injuries and serious damage to the vehicles involved (park accident reports 1996–1999).
The quality of the visitor driving experience is affected by the condition of the roadway. The road surface is cracked and potholed due to deterioration and age resulting in a bumpy, rough driving experience.
The quality of the visitor driving experience is also affected by traffic flow. Currently, inconsistent turnout parking designs (some are parallel parking, others are pull-in parking) can lead to circulation confusion when entering and exiting turnouts. The angle of the entrance into the Pacific Crest Trail parking lot makes entrance and egress difficult for drivers, particularly those towing trailers, and limits sight distances for on-coming traffic. The tight radii of the switchback forces long vehicles (buses, recreational vehicles, and towing vehicles) to slow speeds to navigate the turns.
The park has approximately 90 miles of maintained trails, including 33 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The other visitor uses within the project corridor include hiking and horseback riding along the Pacific Crest Trail (which crosses the roadway near the east terminus of the project), and scenic and wildlife viewing at roadside turnouts. In the Visitor Study conducted in 2001, 4% of visitors hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, although it is not documented on which trail segments. Within the park, the trail is accessible approximately 105 days a season (mid-June to early October). It is estimated that there are approximately 920 overnight users a season with the majority of use occurring in July and August. On any given day, approximately three parties of hikers (primarily day use) enter the backcountry via the trailhead parking on Highway 62 West (Brennan pers. comm. September 2002).