An open house to discuss the city’s transportation system plan update was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library.
It actually started about 10 or 15 minutes before that. That’s when people started pouring into the library’s main meeting room to view maps and poster boards on possible transportation solutions and engage with city officials and project consultants.
“We’re hoping to engage the community, and you can see by the number of people here at 5 after 5 that we have succeeded,” said Mary Steckel, director of Public Works.
“This is a great turnout,” said businessman Mark O’Brien, a member of the project’s steering committee. “It speaks to how much investment and interest Corvallis has in transportation. Any refinement that comes from the public input can only benefit the project.”
Exhibits were spaced throughout the room and members of the police could zoom in on the mode that they were interested in, with the driving and bicycle/pedestrian areas drawing the biggest crowds. Most participants either had a question they wanted answered or a concern that they wanted to share:
South Corvallis resident Linda Horne was on hand to review bicycle issues.
“I don’t even own a car anymore,” she said. “I ride a bike everywhere, and I have a scary situation at least once a day.”
Horne wants the city to try to reduce the interactions between cars and bicyclists, with Ninth Street and Southwest Third Street (Highway 99W) tops on her list. On the positive side, Horne said she liked the pedestrian crossings that have been added in town.
Bobby Roark, who lives in west Corvallis, expressed concerns about the impact of possible new development on the region.
“To load West Hills road up any further doesn’t make any sense,” Roark said.
Ward 6 Councilor Nancy Wyse said she was on hand to “offer moral support to her neighborhood,” which has concerns about possible changes to Highland Drive and Garfield Avenue that might mean less parking. Wyse was one of five current councilors — and six former councilors — who were on hand for the open house.
Stewart Wershow, a former Ward 6 councilor and president of the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association, also spoke up about the parking situation in the area.
Insurance agent Peter Ball also had questions about development on the west side of town and predicted 53rd Street ultimately will be a four-lane thoroughfare with a traffic light and turn lanes at West Hills.
Ball also said city officials “need to look at the big picture and how the transportation system functions overall. It can be really hard to get around town.”
Randy Chakerian, who lives in the Harding neighborhood, was on hand to comment on possible bike lanes that would widen Harrison Boulevard and perhaps be a death sentence for the London Plane sycamores that line the roadway.
“A lot of little old ladies will be chaining themselves to the trees,” Chakerian predicted.
“Where is the parking?” asked Bill Cohnstaedt, a downtown attorney. “I’m amazed. We’ve had so much trouble with that issue. I ride a bike, but I want to be able to park my car, too.”
Lyle Hutchens of Devco Engineering is involved in numerous development projects in town. He was curious about what sort of transportation infrastructure might be required to accompany new development.
City and project officials said they will use the information gathered at the open house and a virtual online survey to help decide on what adjustments to make.
“We’re right at the beginning of the public outreach stage,” said John Bosket, senior project manager with DKS Associates, which is providing technical and consulting services to the effort. “We’re helping people understand where we are in the process and how some of the solutions got there.”
The project schedule calls for the City Council to approve the final plan this fall.