Corvallis residents will have their best opportunities to weigh in on transportation planning in the next two weeks.
City officials are hosting an open house at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. Residents can talk with project team members and consultants and fill out surveys on transportation priorities.
“And you don’t have to finish your comments at the open house,” said Mary Steckel, public works director. “Take your time and do it online. You have two weeks to plow through it.”
The online survey goes live Wednesday at www.corvallistsp.org and will be open through Feb. 7.
Plowing might be necessary because there is a lot of material available for residents to review. The two key documents, Tech Memo 16 and Tech Memo 17, will be featured on poster boards with maps at the open house (the full texts also are available with this story online). Projects are rated low, medium and high and projected costs and the primary funding source also are included.
The project’s steering committee, which consists of a wide range of city, Benton County, Oregon State University and community representatives, began meeting in January 2015, although some early planning work took place in late 2014.
The project team hopes to have a draft plan for the City Council to start reviewing this spring, with a fall goal for final council approval. The plan, mandated and funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation, is designed to guide city transportation planning for the 2020-2040 period.
Here is a look at the the key documents that residents are encouraged to review before and during the open house:
Tech Memo 16
This document deals with street classifications. All city streets carry tags such as local or neighborhood or arterial which define their mission. Transportation plan officials in Tech Memo 16 have established updated classifications for city streets.
“We’re not necessarily reconstructing these streets,” said Adam Steele, project manager in Public Works. “Suggested changes are based on how the road is functioning more or less right now.”
“But if you see your street on the list,” said Public Works Director Mary Steckel, “it doesn’t mean we are coming out tomorrow with a backhoe and digging up your frontyard.”
Upgrading a street might mean bike lanes need to be added. The memo also notes areas of the city where new streets might be built, such as a possible extension of Kings Boulevard into the Timberhill area.
“Projects are seen as meeting some identified need,” Steckel said. “So it gets put in the plan. But if development doesn’t happen in, say north Corvallis, then we’re not going to build it.”
Tech Memo 16 also includes suggested new standards for street cross-sections, which include the sidewalks, planter strips, bike lanes and overall width requirements. One suggestion is to widen sidewalks from 5 feet to 6 feet and reduce the planter strip code from 12 feet to 11 feet to give pedestrians more room.
Tech Memo 17
This document deals with solutions. Bicycle and pedestrian solutions. Motor vehicle solutions. Even freight solutions. More than 200 solutions.
• Adding pedestrian crossings on Ninth Street between Buchanan and Grant and between Grant and Garfield.
• Adding bike lanes on Harrison between 29th and 36th, which would require expansion of the roadway and the removal of trees.
• Extending Circle Boulevard to Harrison as part of the Witham Oaks student housing development.
Also on the list is a north bypass over the Willamette River, a project that would cost approximately $150 million.
“Just because a project makes it into the plan doesn’t mean it will be funded,” Steele said. “We’re talking about a 20-year planning horizon here.”
Also, Steele noted, just because a project is on the draft list doesn’t mean it will stay there.
“We only will have funding for 10 percent of the projects,” he said. “We need the community to come in and say which projects are important to them.”
A third tech memo, No. 18, also will be available at the open house and online. The document includes information on the existing Corvallis Transit System, service design guidelines, recommended transit improvements and transit-supportive programs and investments.
“Transit is the easiest way to lower congestion,” Steele said. “A bus takes up much less space than 25 cars.”
Planners also are considering a couple of out-of-the-box ideas. One would prioritize bicycle and pedestrian traffic over vehicles in some parts of town. The “low-stress bike network” proposal might mean reduced speed limits on some streets or reducing parking to allow for bike lanes.
Another concept would alter the city’s level of service standards for intersections to encourage other modes of transportation. For example on the crowded streets surrounding OSU planners might tolerate more congestion while encouraging bike and pedestrian access.
“We might accept vehicles sitting longer rather than add a turn lane,” said Steele.
The same concept could come into play on the three state highways in town, Highway 20, Highway 34 and Highway 99.
“Otherwise you might wind up with a level of service that is unobtainable,” Steele said.
Steele and Steckel received a bit of pushback on the idea from city councilors when they were briefed on the plan at their Jan. 18 work session.
Ward 3 Councilor Hyatt Lytle, whose district is bisected by Highway 99, suggested that the TSP planners “de-emphasize” the concept. Hal Brauner noted the different traffic levels in Highway 99 downtown as opposed to his Ward 9 in northeast Corvallis.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” Brauner said.
Others might have different thoughts Wednesday, and in the online survey.