Downtown traffic safety improved?
- Kevin Gaboury
- Central Oregonian - Features
>The city is working with local businesses to help increase safety in busy intersectionsThe corner of Second Street and Main in downtown Prineville has always been a concern of the city-appointed Traffic Safety Committee, but it wasn't until recently that something was done about it.
"It's a bad corner," said Traffic Safety Committee Member Jim Van Vorhees, whose law office is located on the corner of Second Street. "The problem is people come around Main Street so quickly and don't think that somebody might be backing out of there."
Their worry was that cars backing out of the diagonal spaces, located south of Prineville Athletic Club, are basically invisible to traffic making a right turn from Main to Second until it's too late.
While an accident hasn't occurred on that corner for the past two years, according to City of Prineville Street Supervisor Scott Smith, the corner still presents a hazard due to "sight distance" requirements. These rules, mandated by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), require a clear line of sight of 115 feet from centerline to centerline while traveling at 20 miles per hour. If this line of sight is blocked, by large pickup, say, the city is in violation of state and federal rules.
Smith met with downtown business owners and options were explored, including replacing the diagonal spaces with parallel ones, but it was decided the best fix for now would be to paint over the space and erect a "no parking" sign. The cost to the city was around $150.
However, through his research, Smith realized that Second and Main isn't the only potentially dangerous intersection in town, and this knowledge has prompted officials to take a closer look at traffic safety around town, especially at intersections
"We're going to start taking a hard look at the rest of the intersections, primarily on Second and Fourth Streets," Smith said. "We feel that we may not have the appropriate sight vision requirements at some of those others, but they haven't been identified yet."
Other improvements were made recently at the Second and Court area, where a couple of curb extensions were removed, along with two diagonal parking spaces in front of the Chuckar Building on Second Street.
"We're back to a normal four-way stop there," Smith said. "People were actually crossing behind a vehicle that was stopped at the stop sign."
However, it's not a secret that parking is at a premium in downtown Prineville, especially during peak business hours or when a show is playing at the Pine Theater. Business owners say losing one spot won't make a huge difference and feel the fix creates a safer outcome in the long run.
"One spot is not a big deal and it would be safer," said Pine Theater Owner Oniko Merabi. "But I hope they look into adding more diagonal parking throughout downtown."
Sharon McPhetridge, owner of the Prineville Athletic Club, agrees.
"They (the city) were kind enough to include us in that decision, and asked all the businesses around here what would be the best," she said. "We all agreed the best step would be to start with that. I think it might be safer for the cars that have to back out of there."
Van Vorhees feels that the best solution would be to move the diagonal parking to the other side of Second Street because when traffic is backed up, people get stuck in the existing diagonal spaces.
"I figure we can try this and if it works, it's fine," he said. "I don't think the elimination of one parking space is going to make that much of a difference."
According to Smith, the city is working to solve the downtown parking shortage.
"One thing that this situation is going to bring up is lack of parking in the downtown area," he said. "The city is actively trying to develop ways to incorporate more parking and to try to acquire property to provide parking. We just haven't found a good means to do that yet. It is an issue we're actively talking about."