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St. Helens councilors weigh in on streetscape design options

Concepts portray trees down center of Highway 30, elevated bicycle lanes and beyond

by: MARK MILLER - St. Helens City Planner Jacob Graichen gestures toward a streetscape concept rendering projected onto a screen at the Wednesday, April 16, St. Helens City Council work session.As part of St. Helens’ ongoing corridor master plan project, the St. Helens City Council discussed a range of design options presented by the city’s planning administrator at its Wednesday, April 16, work session.

The council offered consensus opinions on several key elements of the streetscape concepts, which depicted potential changes to the St. Helens thoroughfares of Highway 30, Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street.

Jacob Graichen, planning administrator for the city, showed the council a series of maps and renderings of the concepts — including what Highway 30 might look like with a raised median and a sidewalk along its east side through St. Helens, and Columbia Boulevard with diagonal street parking and “bump-outs” to narrow the road and shorten crosswalks at intersections.

The councilors expressed support for a raised median on Highway 30, provided the Oregon Department of Transportation will allow it. Mayor Randy Peterson suggested it could slow traffic through the city.

But Council President Doug Morten was skeptical of the idea of having a sidewalk along the highway’s east side and “encouraging pedestrian traffic in those heavily used transportation corridors.”

“I don’t get it. I don’t get what that design really merits in its outcome and its effects,” Morten said.

Others at the meeting, including St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss, said a sidewalk on the east side would be advantageous for people such as children going to school and the elderly and disabled, because it would cross fewer streets and driveways than the existing sidewalk on the west side. The Portland & Western Railroad runs along the east side of the highway, with only a handful of major streets in the city crossing it.

On the concepts dealing with Columbia Boulevard and St. Helens Street through the Houlton district and north of Old Town, the City Council was virtually unanimous in preferring designs that featured diagonal parking, although Councilor Susan Conn expressed concern over the idea of parking spaces requiring drivers to back their vehicles into them.

“I like the diagonal parking, but I’d like to see it going in the direction [of travel],” Conn said.

Other options presented for the Houlton streets include bicycle lanes separated from both the roadway and the sidewalk by landscaping, wider sidewalks, and a raised median east of North 13th Street.

The corridor master plan project is intended to update St. Helens’ planning documents to outline how the city would like its major streets to look and function. The project does not include a budget for engineering and construction of the streetscapes.

“When times are tight is a good time to plan, because when things are good and going crazy, you’re reacting to the craziness, and if the planning’s done, you’re one step ahead of the game,” Graichen explained April 9.

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