Fixes Planned for Deadly Stretch of Highway 70

OROVILLE -- The "Highway of Death" is a clever advertisement for a Halloween attraction.

Instead, those are the words on a billboard put up by a private citizen to warn drivers headed south out of Oroville to slow down on Highway 70.

How do people drive there?

"Pretty crazy normally.  Lot of, lot of one-lane roads, people passing all the time," described Brendan Warner.

The situation's not just crazy -- it's deadly.

Just this year, 13 people have been killed in crashes between Oroville Dam Boulevard and Central House Road.

One man who died in a head-on crash near Ophir Road, caused by someone who was passing a truck at 100 miles per hour, was Paul Inman.

"The last fatality we know of was a Caltrans maintenance worker who was driving to work. So we know the urgency of getting the work done quickly," said Tom Brannon.

He knew Inman, but wasn't ready to share more about him.

Two months after losing a colleague of 16 years, Brannon is now supervising the project that will eliminate some of the conditions that led to his death.

The section of Highway 70  south between Ophir and Palermo roads will be the first to transform from mostly one lane in each direction to something engineers feel will be much safer.

"You've got a two-way, left-turn lane down the middle of the road so that people can safely get into the left turn lane and make their turns from it, as well as two lanes in either direction and an eight-foot shoulder outside of that," said Brannon.

On the Marysville side of the project, 3,000 more cars per day are trying to squeeze into the current lanes than did 10 years ago.

On the Oroville side, traffic volume over the last decade is up by about 2,000 cars per day.

Construction on the half billion dollar fix won't begin until at least summer 2019.

Drivers can't wait.

"Yes! There is one lane a lot of the way," said Jane Newman.

Brendan Warner quickly smiled when he heard what's coming.

"Oh yeah, that would be great, definitely," he said.

The California Transportation Commission approved new funding for the Highway 70 improvements Thursday.