It all started with a student project to look at the issue of Americans with Disabilities Act parking issues outside the Majestic Theatre.
But it grew from there, as an ambitious corps of Oregon State University engineering students fanned out in downtown Corvallis and decided to all but remake Second Street.
A total of 13 students in the OSU Transportation Facilities Design class of Professor Katharine Hunter-Zaworski spent a term on the challenge and presented their findings March 14 before an appreciative crowd of city staff and members of city boards and commissions at the downtown fire station.
The students came up with three levels of solutions as they worked at making Second Street safer, more ADA-compliant and more inviting to cyclists and pedestrians.
“Everybody was energized,” said masters student Kayla Fleskes of Hillsboro of the project team during a Second Street tour with the Gazette-Times. “No one had to be poked and prodded and there were enough different pieces that no one had to take on too much individually.”
Also on the tour were masters student Blaine Wruck of Bend and graduate student Ellen Simpson of Anchorage, Alaska.
Here is a look at key recommendations of the group:
• Short term: Reconstruct sidewalks, lower the parking limit from three hours to two, add 30-minute spots near intersections to improve sightlines, relocate ADA parking stalls near the post office, add ADA spots in front of the Majestic and New Morning Bakery and put four-way stop signs at all intersections from Van Buren to Adams.
• Medium term: Make Second Street one way southbound, institute angled back-in parking, add a buffered bike lane.
• Long term: Add bioswales to parking lots to aid stormwater runoff, add curb extensions/bulb outs to all intersections to shorten pedestrian crossings, put mid-block pedestrian crossings across from the Majestic and New Morning and increase covered and illuminated bike parking.
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The ADA parking stalls at the post office prompted an “a-ha” moment for the group. It made no sense to them that ADA parking was on the Jefferson side of the building, which featured steep stairs, while the ADA ramp is on the Second Street side.
Wruck, a Bend native, said one of the goals of the project was to do something that would last.
“How do you project out to the future?” he said. “You don’t want to have to do a redesign every 10 years or so.”
City officials who witnessed the presentation were impressed with the polish of the presenters and the depth of their ideas.
“I think it was fantastic,” said Lisa Scherf, transportation services supervisor. “Some of the ideas we have been talking about for years. Others are brand-new.”
Scherf said that the 30-minute spots at intersections already are being planned and that the post office changes would be relatively inexpensive. The buffered bike lane, the bioswales, the four-way stops and a one-lane Second Street all were new concepts for the city — and all present challenges, both political and financial.
Even the relatively simple post office suggestion might face a few hoops, said Mary Steckel, Public Works director.
“There are hidden costs in everything,” Steckel said, noting that if grades and slopes have to be altered to move the spots, the project would get more complicated.
The city’s Downtown Parking Committee will discuss the concepts at its April 4 meeting. Steckel added that “we’ll review the possibilities among city staff and we’ll make sure these suggestions for improvements are shared with the transportation system plan update process.”
“I am thrilled with this cohort of students,” said Professor Hunter-Zaworski. “They are outstanding individually and collectively and worked very well together. The project demonstrates the possibilities of partnerships between the city of Corvallis and OSU.”
Wruck was asked what he hopes to see on Second Street if he comes back in five to 10 years.
His response: “It would be really cool if some of these changes were made."