A Tourism Traffic Jam in Oregon

Many of the nation's worst tourist traffic hot spots are in Oregon, according to three major travel industry groups. Alex Chadwick talks with Rebecah Morris, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, about what's behind the logjam of sightseers.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Summer is dwindling, dear friends, which means DAY TO DAY is rushing to get through some of the half-baked summer seasonal story ideas we haven't otherwise used up yet. Here is one: A guide to summer vacation destinations with the worst traffic hassles--this is from a number of driver travel groups--says the number-one worst driving destination just for traffic in the entire country is the coast of Oregon, which we never would have picked. Rebecah Morris is executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.

Rebecah, what is the problem with traffic on the coast of Oregon?

Ms. REBECAH MORRIS (Oregon Coast Visitors Association): Well, it has to do with, there's only two lanes of traffic, and people are traveling at an average of 50 miles an hour.

CHADWICK: Well, that's not so bad.

Ms. MORRIS: It really isn't, you know. We are the place to come and slow down and take it easy and get away from all your worries and hassles where you live in the big city.

CHADWICK: I would have thought that a very crowded driving destination would have been one of the more famous beach destinations, you know, North Carolina beaches or someplace in California or Cape Cod or something like that, but it's Oregon.

Ms. MORRIS: And we were very surprised to see that and to see the articles that have been coming out over this. We disagree that it's bad. We know that during the summertime, our traffic increases. But we just sit back, take it easy and go on the road and go with the flow.

CHADWICK: What are the beaches like in Oregon? Do people go swimming, or what?

Ms. MORRIS: Well, some people do, but they typically wear wet suits.

CHADWICK: Ah.

Ms. MORRIS: It's a little cooler. Rarely does it get above 60 degrees.

CHADWICK: Ah.

Ms. MORRIS: But all of our beaches are public beaches. They're all owned by the state, and we have free access to them.

CHADWICK: All right. Back to the traffic now.

Ms. MORRIS: OK.

CHADWICK: The roads that go over the coastal mountains and lead down to the beaches, these roads are a hundred years old in some cases, so there's not a lot of new highway construction there.

Ms. MORRIS: There has not been, but they continue to improve over the last couple of years...

CHADWICK: Yeah.

Ms. MORRIS: ...actually, about the last five years. They've done quite a bit of work on Highway 20. It is a little more difficult. I mean, again, you're not driving a freeway. I think people need to remember that they are on vacation, and part of that is relaxation.

CHADWICK: You're saying there should not be a lot of road rage along the coast of Oregon. Despite, you know, minor traffic hassles, you're getting to a wonderful place.

Ms. MORRIS: You have to remember to see--you have to look out the window and enjoy the scenery that you're--that's brought you here. I agree that there are times that traffic is worse than other times, but I don't agree that we should be the first one on the list. But any press is good press. (Laughs) So, I mean, here we are. I'm on NPR, talking to you, and people are thinking about the Oregon coast.

CHADWICK: Rebecah Morris, executive director of the Oregon Coast Visitors Association.

Rebecah, enjoy the rest of the summer.

Ms. MORRIS: Thank you. You, too.

(Credits)

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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