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Planning Commission evaluates updated Highway 43 plan

Public hearings will take place later this summer

TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The City is working to update its plans for Highway 43, but it won't be able to take action without state funding.When the West Linn City Council adopted a new Transportation Systems Plan (TSP) in late March, it was with the understanding that the City would soon return to the document to address a separate but concurrent project: the Highway 43 Conceptual Design Plan.

That effort began May 18, as the Planning Commission heard an introductory briefing on the Highway 43 project from City staff and a project consultant from Kittleson & Associates, Inc. The meeting was the first of at least two at the Planning Commission level; the second will be held June 1 and, if the commission is comfortable, legislative hearings would begin shortly thereafter.

“There are four components of going through the legislative process with this plan,” associate planner Darren Wyss said. “One is to adopt the (Highway 43) conceptual design plan as Attachment A of the West Linn Transportation Systems Plan that was just recently adopted by the City Council. A second component will be some changes to the TSP, primarily cost tables associated with Highway 43 improvements.

“A third component will be some Comprehensive Plan changes recommended as part of the TSP update, and a fourth will be community development code changes recommended as part of the TSP update.”

Wyss said further details on those code changes would be brought forward at the planning commission’s June 1 meeting.

“We wanted to concentrate this meeting on getting you comfortable with the Highway 43 plan,” Wyss said. The Highway 43 Conceptual Design Plan was first created in 2008, and according to a City webpage for the project, the update is intended to “build on the work done to develop the existing plan with refinements to take into account innovative designs and create a plan that we can implement.”

Among the proposed improvements to the busy road are buffered cycle tracks — pathways shielded by a physical barrier to protect riders from traffic — as well as improved pedestrian facilities, a new traffic signal at Pimlico Drive and the addition of a center lane for left turns.

“When I say three lanes, it’s one lane in each direction and a center turn lane,” Kittleson & Associates consultant Karla Kingsley said. “And what that does is allow for the corridor to also be used as a utility corridor. You can have a vehicle parked doing utility work and still have traffic going in both directions.”

Kingsley went on to explain that, unlike the more varied 2008 plan, the 2016 Highway 43 concept calls for three types of cross sections: “typical,” “transit stop,” and “constrained.”

Typical cross sections would include six-foot sidewalks, cycle tracks with a landscape buffer and one-way traffic in each direction with a center left turn lane. The transit stop cross sections, meanwhile, are considered to be “very similar” to the typical design, but the landscape buffers for bike lanes would be replaced by a wider transit stop platform. Finally, the constrained cross section would remove the landscape buffers in favor of lower grade separation — a solution in areas where topography, drainage or other factors limit the width of the roadway.

“The 2008 plan was broken into about a dozen different cross sections along the highway,” Kingsley said. “The idea is to have this project be something that can provide that consistency along the way, provide access and provide mobility for people driving, riding transit, biking and walking along the length of it.

“It’s hard to implement a plan if you can’t quite understand what applies where, and there were some problems with that with the 2008 plan.”

The 2016 concept plan places a heavy emphasis on bike safety — a response to polling that revealed that 60 percent of respondents were “interested but concerned” about riding on Highway 43.

“Those are the people we’re hoping to encourage or enable on Highway 43,” Kingsley said.

The plan, as currently constructed, would require additional right of way acquisition along Highway 43. Planning Commissioner Joel Metlen asked if the City has had any conversations with property owners about such acquisitions. The Emmanuel Presbyterian Church near Hidden Springs Road, in particular, would see its parking lot shrink as a result of the proposed right of way acquisitions.

“The virtual open house did show some of the right of way impacts, and we have had discussions with those who are most impacted, particularly the church,” Public Works Director Lance Calvert said. He added that formal notices will be sent to all right of way property owners in advance of formal public hearings later this summer.

Planning Commissioner Jim Farrell, for his part, referenced concerns about how future development will both affect Highway 43 and feeder streets like Arbor Drive and Pimlico Drive. Transportation infrastructure concerns weighed heavily in the commission’s recent denial of a 34-lot development application on Upper Midhill Drive.

“We relied on the Transportation Systems Plan,” Kingsley said. We relied on forecasting of traffic volumes from that work ... the TSP does take into account future development out to 2040.”

As planning and evaluation continue at the city commission level, West Linn also awaits word on its application for 2019-2021 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funding. On Feb. 1, the Highway 43 project was announced as one of six applications included on ODOT Region 1’s “150 percent list” for funding.

The list marks the first cutoff point for funding requests and — true to its name — accounts for 50 percent more funding than ODOT has available for 2019-2021. Projects included on the final “100 percent” list are guaranteed funding.

The City requested $3 million in STIP funds for Phase One of the project, which would cover the area of Highway 43 between Lake Oswego and Hidden Springs Road. In total, ODOT will allocate about $11 million in funds for the 2019-2021 STIP cycle.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..