PORTLAND - It took a mother’s love and a bipartisan meeting of the minds to come up with millions of dollars to improve one of the state’s most dangerous roads.
The stretch of Cornelius Pass Road between U.S. 30 and Hillsboro carries more than 10,000 cars and trucks a day.
Tammy Bellwood’s daughter, Taijia was killed four years ago when her car went off the road and landed upside down in a creek.
“So you could just see the tire marks in the gravel, there were no brake marks,” she said as she visited the spot Wednesday morning.
Tammy says there may have been ice and she wishes there would have been a guardrail.
“In the days after her death the road was the last thing on my mind. It was a friend who said 'I want to get petitions for guardrails' and that’s how it all started,” she remembered.
The Taijia Bellwood Foundation formed, uniting the Scappoose High School community where Taijia had been a student.
“Had this been someone else, she would have been the one saying 'we need to do something,'” Tammy explained. Do something they did, and the state capitol was their target.
“We had probably 10,000 letters signed and at one point state senator Betsy Johnson said 'I got it. You don’t have to send any more letters,'” said Tammy.
Senator Johnson recalls the extensive research the family conducted,
“They compiled more information than ODOT or either of the counties had on the road.”
A Multnomah County study showed 90 accidents on the road in a five-year period. The road runs through two counties and districts. So Johnson, who's a Democrat, joined forces with state senator Bruce Starr, a Republican.
Together they lobbied fellow lawmakers to allocate $9.5 million dollars in federal money.
“The road will have significant improvements in striping, turn lanes, and guard rails. The road will be more drivable and more safe,” said Starr.
Tammy Bellwood drives the road every work day, passing a memorial roadside cross along the way.
“When it comes to government officials, you don’t think you have a chance," said the mother as she reflected on what was accomplished in her daughter’s memory. "But if enough people come together, you can make a difference. This is what I hope can be taken away from this."