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Corridor plan will map St. Helens' future

Grant will allow fresh vision for Houlton


A new corridor study focused on St. Helens will be more than just another “pie in the sky” plan, city officials hope.

At a recent St. Helens City Council Meeting, city planner Jacob Graichen announced the city had been awarded a grant for long-range planning on Highway 30, Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street.

Grant funds will come to approximately $200,000. Though the city is expected to match 11 percent of this money, Graichen said the city will meet this cost through labor.

“We shouldn’t have to take any portion of money from the general fund or elsewhere,” he said.

The grant came from the Transportation and Growth Management Program, a program organized jointly through the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Department of Land Conservation and Development, which seeks to integrate local transportation planning with broader, statewide land-use planning programs.

The result of the grant-funded project will be a master plan that will consider a host of concerns both necessary and cosmetic for those roads, including street scape options, lane widths, sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, pedestrian and bicycle amenities, and the impact of the railway and highway.

Graichen said previous studies in St. Helens, such as a vision plan from 1997 and a more recent economic development plan examining the Houlton and Olde Towne commercial districts, listed a lot of “pie in the sky” goals.

“Nothing has been done to the detail that this will give us,” he said about the corridor study. “Instead of saying, ‘Oh, maybe it’d be nice to have a yellow brick road here,’ it will say, ‘This is what we want,’ block by block.”

It’s more than just going out and seeing how traffic moves, said Naomi Zwerdling, of ODOT who will be working with the city as a project manager on the corridor study. She believes that plans like the corridor study help cities and agencies such as ODOT see what projects exist and how to best prioritize them without draining budgets.

“You can get in there and have a more strategic plan . . . and get more bang for your buck,” she said.

It’s also a question of human resources.

“Smaller cities really don’t have so many planners or in-house staff to take on these big planning projects,” she said.

Zwerdling has worked on a number of similar projects. Even though the plans often look the same at the outset, “every project turns out being different,” she said.

“Even though there are these specific steps, the hard part is trying to anticipate the hurdles, the politics,” she said. It’s important to involve the public and make sure city officials aren’t surprised by any developments, she said.

As the corridor study begins and moves forward, the city will work with ODOT, the community, relevant commissions and property and business owners.