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Historic review board discussing codes while transportation board eyes Highway 43

Efforts on Highway 43 depend on ODOT cooperation

TIDINGS PHOTO: LESLIE PUGMIRE HOLE - Highway 43 is a continued concern for residents, and the TAB has been working on a new concept plan that would significantly improve conditions for drivers, bikers and walkers alike.

Editor’s note: The fifth and final installment of the Tidings’ series on City advisory boards focuses on transportation and historic review.

Code review has been a consistent theme in West Linn throughout 2016, from the City Council on down to the advisory board level.

It should come as no surprise, then, that West Linn’s Historic Review Board (HRB) is also considering potential code alterations related to building materials allowed in the city’s historic Willamette area.

“Right now what we’re going to do is some basic training for some of our new board members, and then we’re going to get into code review,” HRB Chair James Manning said. “There have been a few hearings lately when people have brought forward (project) materials and we had them go back and clarify the material types ... they had proposed materials that weren’t allowed in the area, and we’re going to look at it in the future and see if we’ll allow them.”

The HRB’s primary role is to conduct hearings on projects that occur either in the historic Willamette area or on other properties designated “historic” throughout the city. The board is tasked with determining whether the projects meet requirements for historic properties, and then makes its recommendation to the Planning Commission and City Council.

“And why we do this is it keeps the character of the neighborhoods,” Manning said.

According to Manning, some of those requirements may need to be altered — particularly to address properties located in what is termed the City’s “historic overlay” district. While the historic district generally applies to the homes west of Willamette Primary School, the overlay zone contains the business area on Willamette Falls Drive.

“There are some historic buildings on Willamette Falls Drive that have to fall under the (historic) guidelines,” Manning said. “But it doesn’t make sense to have wood sidings on a commercial building when there’s more recent materials of sidings that would look the same ... there are more recent materials that fit the part, but don’t fit requirements right now.”

Thus, potential code changes would theoretically make it easier for businesses to come into the area while still maintaining the historic feel of the neighborhood.

“We’re not saying we’re going to change it, but we’re going to look at it,” Manning said. The discussion, he said, would likely begin “at the next couple meetings” and take up the bulk of the board’s time this summer.

“That’s the main thing, and we’re always available monthly to review new projects as they come up,” Manning said. “Sometimes it seems like a lot of people don’t know they need to see us before (moving forward).”

To learn more about the HRB, contact the City planning department at 503-656-4211.

Transportation Advisory Board

Craig Bell hears it all the time: “What’s going on with Highway 43?”

Bell, the chair of the City’s Transportation Advisory Board (TAB), knows that West Linn’s primary throughway is a continued concern — some have even mentioned that “it’s like the Oregon Trail out there.”

But Bell and the rest of the board are limited in scope, to a significant degree, by the fact that both Highway 43 and Interstate 205 are managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

“One of the bigger challenges we face is the division of roads West Linn manages and the roads that are essentially managed by ODOT,” Bell said. “We would love to maintain (Highway 43), but it’s ODOT’s roadway.”

While the ultimate authority lies with ODOT, the City and TAB are still working to finalize an updated Highway 43 Conceptual Design Plan. The plan was first created in 2008, and the proposed updates include buffered cycle tracks — pathways shielded by a physical barrier to protect riders from oncoming traffic — as well as improved pedestrian facilities, a new traffic signal at Pimlico Drive and several center two-way left turn lanes.

“The Highway 43 concept plan update is a big deal this year,” Bell said. “(Public Works Director) Lance Calvert has been trying to win some grant money from ODOT that would be put forward for improvement ... we’ve actually done well, and got further than the City has ever been before in terms of getting discretionary funds.”

Indeed, ODOT announced in February that West Linn’s “Highway 43 Multimodal Transportation Project” was included on ODOT Region 1’s 150 percent list for the 2019-2021 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

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 funds, and according to Calvert, the ODOT Region 1 Area Commission on Transportation (ACT) tentatively recommended a grant of $1.1 million. A final recommendation will be made in the fall.

If granted, the requested STIP funds would support the first phase of the project as outlined by the proposed conceptual design plan. That plan still needs final approval from the west Linn City Council later this summer.

“The first part (of Highway 43) to be improved would be the northern city limits, by Arbor Drive, to Mary S. Young Park,” Bell said. “Some of the south area is going to be subject to certain aspects outside of the plan, when a master plan emerges for (the Arch Bridge) area.”

Bell began working with the TAB in 2015 — a tumultuous year for the City that saw many staff members depart, including the TAB’s appointed liaison. Still, the board spent the first half of 2015 working to update the City’s Transportation Systems Plan (TSP) — a process that was completed in early 2016 when the new TSP was adopted by the City Council.

“In the second half of 2015, we didn’t do a whole lot, I’ll be the first to tell you,” Bell said. “In 2016, coordination with the City has improved.”

The board generally meets once every two months. To learn more, contact Calvert at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Bell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

See related:

Highway 43 project included on STIP 150 percent funding list

Transportation Systems Plan approved by council

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..