For student pedestrians and bicyclists

by: HOLLY M. GILL - The island at the corner of McTaggart Road and Buff Street will be removed to make the intersection safer as part of a Safe Routes to School  project, which will likely begin in the spring of 2015.A project that will improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists near Madras High School and Buff Elementary is expected to finally move forward with approval from the city and school district.

Originally funded in 2011, when the city was awarded a $500,000 Safe Routes to School grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation, the project has taken a while to get off the ground.

"We’ve been working with the school board for a long time to make sure they were getting what they wanted," said Jeff Hurd, director of the Madras Public Works Department.

"We anticipated a start last summer, but ran into road block of design," he said. "We've just gotten it to the point where we can move forward."

The project is designed to improve safety for student pedestrians and bicyclists on Southeast Buff Street and McTaggart Road.

Under the plans approved by the school district and expected to be approved Tuesday by the Madras City Council, the island located on McTaggart, between Buff and the High Desert ESD office will be removed, and a stormwater detention facility will be installed on the southwest corner.

"What's going to change in the intersection is it's going to be lined up more like a T intersection," said Hurd, noting that it is currently two lanes, but will be two lanes with 5-foot bike lanes on both sides and a left turn lane at the intersection with Buff Street. There will be sidewalks on both sides of McTaggart."

As the intersection is currently configured, there is only one lane for buses traveling north, and traffic stacks up. "This will help alleviate that stacking," he said.

The city will trade a piece of right of way that it owns — located in the lawn to the southwest of the high school — for right of way from the school district to widen the intersection.

"We're widening out the radiuses on the turns," said Hurd. "This will help (buses) make a righthand turn."

Additionally, the project will narrow pedestrian crossings on 10th and Buff streets, to improve pedestrian safety.

"On the south side of Buff from 10th to McTaggart, we will be installing sidewalks, lighting, landscaping," he continued. "Bulbouts on all four corners will narrow the road, which is actually better for pedestrian safety right next to the school, because they don’t have to cross as far."

"We’re putting in a storm system from that intersection all the way down to McTaggart, so storm water will flow to the detention pond on McTaggart," he said.

The city and school district have been working on the concept, but now the project must be designed, and then go out to bid. If all goes well, he said, construction could start in the spring of 2015.

The goals of the Safe Routes to School Program are to increase the ability and opportunity for children to walk and bicycle to school; promote walking and bicycling to school and encourage a healthy and active lifestyle at an early age; and facilitate the planning, development and implementation of projects that will improve safety, reduce traffic congestion, and enhance air quality around selected schools.

The Safe Routes program provides funding for both infrastructure projects and noninfrastructure activities (education, outreach, and enforcement) within two miles of any qualified K-8 school facility.

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