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New McLoughlin premieres in Milwaukie

The revamped roadway was a decade in the making
by: Special to, This new, improved stretch of McLoughlin Boulevard in Milwaukie boasts new signals, patterned crosswalks and river access.

Milwaukie celebrated the conclusion of a decade of effort this past week, with the official opening of the $4.7 million McLoughlin project.

'It was done two months ahead of schedule and on budget,' said Paul Shirey, the engineering director for the City of Milwaukie. 'We only had $80,000 in change orders on $2.8 million of actual construction - that's chump change.'

The balance of the budget was spent on planning, design, engineering and acquiring the property along the west side of McLoughlin Boulevard.

'Where we are standing right now, there were a couple of buildings, and now we have this fantastic view of the river,' said Grady Wheeler, the city's public information coordinator. 'I think this creates a sense of place for Milwaukie. Before this, people would fly through here and not understand that they were entering a downtown district.'

The work along McLouhglin incorporates some unusual features for a state highway, implemented specifically to enhance safety and beautify the downtown area.

'The state has a special designation that we were able to apply to this urban highway, to do some things that would not normally be permitted on a highway with this volume,' said Shirey. 'We have three signals in six blocks, whereas we had two before. That provides safe access to the riverfront, which was one of the primary objectives of the project.'

On the west side of the roadway, the sidewalk is separated from the busy street by a planted landscape strip, and a planted median has been added in the middle of the roadway.

Elaborately patterned crosswalks have been installed at every pedestrian crossing, evoking the brick streets of European cities.

'That's not an appliqué,' Shirey explained. 'Those are inlays - we heated up the asphalt and put in a template. That's thermoplastic, one-eighth of an inch thick.'

He estimated that the crosswalks will require maintenance every three years, as the inlays wear out from the constant traffic on McLoughlin Boulevard.

'The manufacturer of the product told us how to do it - we'll need to do some maintenance, but it's relative easy to repair,' said Shirey.

The project also provided an opportunity to re-surface the thoroughfare.

'We ground off the surface and re-applied a 4-inch overlay,' Shirey said. 'That's called preservation - we're preserving the base of the roadway by replacing the overlay.

'In two small places, we had to replace the base itself, but overall the base was in great shape. The new overlay will add considerably to its life.'

He estimated that it could be upwards of two decades before the road would again need to be resurfaced.

With the McLoughlin project completed, work is moving ahead for the development of the city's riverfront park.

'We just had council approval for the plan, so we're moving towards putting out a request for proposals to do the final design work,' said Dave Green, chair of the Riverfront Board. 'Once we have the design, we'll start looking to identify funding sources for the park itself.'

He estimated that work on the park would be completed in late 2008 or early 2009.

The changes along McLoughlin met with the approval of the citizens who turned out for the opening ceremony, held last Wednesday.

'It makes it a beautiful place to be,' said Jeanne Garst. 'I love the design of the crosswalks - it's art. I think it's all beautiful - there's nothing I don't like about it.'

Stewart Taylor added: 'It's a great project and a tremendous improvement. It makes Milwaukie stand out along the corridor. This is a vibrant community that's growing and completing good projects.'

Milwaukie Police Chief Larry Kanzler was also pleased by the improvements.

'It's great - absolutely great,' he said. 'It's going to promote safe access to the park and the urban renewal aspects of the project have already eliminated a lot of our crime problems. The tavern and the hotel that were located here generated a lot of our call volume.

'This is going to be a beautiful site, and it's going to be easy for our officers to patrol and keep an eye on.'

Katie Holman and Roomie Huh contributed to this report.