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Transportation planning near halfway point

City moves into 'solution development' stage

SUBMITTED PHOTO: DEDE MONTGOMERY - Residents sent in suggestions for transportation improvement as part of a photo challenge. Here, resident Dede Montgomery noted that 'crossing Highway 43 by foot has become a nightmare and unsafe at rush hour.'An ongoing effort to update West Linn’s Transportation Systems Plan (TSP) is just about halfway complete, as the city completes its evaluation of existing conditions and begins to discuss potential solutions to improve transportation infrastructure.

The city is required to update its transportation plan as part of Metro’s overhauling of its Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). At an October 2014 meeting, the City Council voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to work on updating the plan, and the project is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2015.

The new TSP will extend its reach all the way through 2040.

The city held the first of three scheduled community workshops on March 10, and also hosted a virtual open house to allow residents to submit comments electronically. Feedback largely centered on sidewalk improvements, according to Associate Planner Zach Pelz.

“A lot of people talked about improved sidewalks on Highway 43, and improved sidewalks on Skyline Drive is a big one,” Pelz said. “Rosemont Road is another one that comes up a lot for improving sidewalks.”

Feedback from the community workshop will be utilized as the city heads into the fifth of nine “tasks” outlined for the project: developing and evaluating solutions.

“The needs are developed by saying, ‘here’s where you have gaps in all your systems, or here’s where your system is lacking or performing just fine ... and based on that, we think these are the areas to focus on,’” Pelz said. “That’s kind of the next step.”

Potential transportation improvement projects will be run through an evaluation system that was developed with four categories in mind: safety; mobility, access and environment; equity; and maintenance. Projects will be given points based on how many specific improvement categories are covered, and Pelz said that will in turn help the city decide which projects to prioritize in its final plan.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: DEBBIE MEYERS - The city is working to improve its transportation system, and sidewalks have been a primary concern for residents. Here, Debbie Meyers said that 'the sidewalk just ends, so it is dangerous for pedestrians to have to walk across the street.'

“There’s a giant list of projects and programs that are potential solutions, and we’ll basically filter them through this evaluation criteria,” Pelz said. “We really value projects that are efficient and projects that can do the most.”

From there, city planners will evaluate the projects a second time to prioritize based on cost. Pelz said a “very rough” estimate marks the city’s budget at $45 million for transportation projects over the next 25 years.

“That’s going to really limit the types of projects we can do,” Pelz said. “My idea with doing it this way is understanding, based on our goals and targets, what are the most important and most efficient projects? Then we can go through a second round of filtering and say, ‘What are the costs?’ And then refine priorities based on costs.”

The same evaluation criteria will also be used in the future to determine how effective projects are once completed.

“We want to set a baseline where one does not exist,” Pelz said. “Or, where one does exist, we want to say what that baseline is, and then monitor our progress towards achieving these targets over future years.”

The next community meeting is scheduled for April, and the city is also working to develop new methods of engaging the community after holding a “transportation camera challenge” that ended in February. As part of the challenge, dozens of residents sent in photos of areas around the city that were in need of improvement.

A draft of the new TSP is scheduled to be written in July, and the final plan will appear before the City Council in the fall.

Patrick Malee can be contacted at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106, or pmalee@westlinntidings.com.


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