Monday, November 24, 2014

There are some potentially interesting things coming in Astoria's transportation future.  Those things could include taking the highway down to three lanes at some point along Marine Drive all the way to 8th and Commercial, providing safer intersections and easier ways to cross the highway. Astoria could see two-way streets instead of one-way streets downtown and upgraded traffic signals, more bike lanes, more roundabouts.

 The Transportation Plan looks at all those things over a twenty year period but one thing it does not consider is a bypass. In fact, this plan was designed with projects that might happen without depending on a highway bypass of Astoria.

 

That's not because of lack of local support for the idea.

The Astoria City Council supports a highway bypass and has done so for years.  Councilor Russ Warr represents the city as a voice in regional transportation planning. He brings up the bypass at every meeting, but to no avail.  ODOT's planning process is a 20 year overall plan with a three year project plan and there is no Astoria bypass in sight.

The 20 year plan for the city is important because that document opens up future transportation grant funding.   That means millions of dollars, but not nearly enough to execute all the potential of the estimated $46 million dollars it would take over 20 years to build it all.  Based on past grant funding the city may expect around $6 million.   That means the bulk of the projects will never happen unless the city finds another very big revenue stream.   So why plan for $40 million dollars more than you can probably count on?  As it happens, when it comes to ODOT planning processes its better to have more projects in the hopper because at times state transportation funding is realocated when approved projects don't happen as they should or, in rare instances, more funding becomes available, or political forces go bat for something popular and pressing.

The Transportation Plan lays out potential projects but by design doesn't go into every detail. It's meant to provide direction.  Each potential project still goes through it's own approval and planning process.

Astoria City Councilor Drew Herzig interupted the plan presentation repeatedly Monday evening asking for specific project details.  In one instance a potential project would upgrade traffic signals in town. Mr. Herzig wanted a cost estimate for the difference between signal for one-way and two-way street grids. He said it's very imporatnt to see any cost differences before making that decision. The consultant explained that those numbers were not in the scope of putting together the TSP and would come if that project was selected. No decisions had been made about any projects as yet.  Mr. Herzig  made extensive comment about the one-way streets going two-way saying he had heard several comments on both sides of the issue.  It was explained to Mr. Herzig that there would have be additional detailed studies and public input but those would only happen if funding was available.

Community development director Brett Estes attempted to explain the required scope of the plan several times to Mr. Herzig during the consultant presentation.

The presentation was for council information and no action was required.

 

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