CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — If you think Oregon’s roadways have been emptier since the coronavirus outbreak began, you’re absolutely correct. Recently released data from the state’s Department of Transportation shows where, when, and just how much.
Traffic began to decline around the time school closures and crowd size limits were announced. However, the biggest drops came after Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-12 on March 23, forcing more businesses to close their doors and directing everyone to stay home to the maximum extent possible.
The effect was immediate and shocking.
Between 70,000 and 80,000 vehicles traveled Interstate 5 southbound at the Interstate Bridge on any given weekday in March 2019. Since the executive order, that number has dropped to the 40,000 range.
Peak travel times cut in half
Assuming you’re still driving to work each day, your evening commute has likely been much quicker.
Travel times on I-5 and I-405 were down as much as 67% from March 16 to April 3 during the weekday evening rush (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.). I-84 has been seeing more moderate decreases, generally in the 20-50% range. I-205 travel time has decreased between 24% and 57% since the same time period last year.
Obviously, people travel times are lower because speeds are higher. At the beginning of March, evening rush hour commuters were averaging as slow as 30 miles per hour on Portland freeways. By the end of the month, the average speeds on I-5, I-205, I-405 and I-84 had all increased to about 60 miles per hour. Of course, some individuals have been going way faster.
Big decrease in crashes
Crashes on Portland-area freeways have also taken a steep decline since mid-March.
ODOT Region 1 encompasses Clackamas, Multnomah and Hood River counties as well as eastern Washington County. From March 30 through April 5, Region 1 freeway crashes were down 73% from the same week last year.
Breaking that out farther, ODOT’s data shows almost two dozen crashes on I-5 between March 30-April 5 last year. This year, there were about 5 crashes on that same stretch.
Trucking volume up, down, then back up
Freight coming to the United States from other countries declined as quarantines were put into place. Some domestic freight declined too as businesses stopped or reduced activity, according to ODOT. However, some freight increased to provide “essential” goods such as medical supplies, groceries and e-commerce.
ODOT data shows freight tonnage was high at the end of February, decreased the week Gov. Brown issued the stay at home order, then increased the following week. The weigh-in-motion scales at I-5 NB in Woodburn and Olds Ferry EB in Eastern Oregon showed the biggest increase in freight movement.