HWY Project Update Oct. 11

“Weather dependent” was the most used phrase at this week’s Highway Project meeting. Almost all aspects of the project are impacted by rainfall, and crews are constantly trying to predict where to dive in based on the forecast. The work on Main Street in the vaults in front of Everything Pets and Tangled Yarns was delayed slightly while waiting for an inspection, but has now received a green light and excavation and structural reinforcement will get going in the coming days, followed as soon as possible by concrete fill and then curbing and sidewalk building. Electrical work on both temporary and permanent signals on both Pacific and Main will be ongoing in the next couple of weeks, and lane closures may be necessary to accommodate that work.

One of the concerns that has been brought forward is the signage for the merging on southbound 101. Traffic back-ups are challenging and many folks have expressed significant frustration at cars who speed up in the right lane and are “cutting” in the traffic line. When discussing this at the ODOT table, I was directed to an instructional video on “Zipper Merging,” which, while a common practice elsewhere, is foreign to us polite, considerate Mooks. Here is a link to the video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX0I8OdK7Tk I recognize that this email and this link are unlikely to change driving patterns that are an inherent part of our culture, but I am hopeful we can together spread the word that “Zipper Merging” is not just jerky people rushing to the front of the line, but rather a taught driving practice. A reminder that we are often all just doing our best that we know how to do.

There is also a big picture update to share. Last week, the Chamber was able to pull together a quick meeting with representatives from ODOT, Senator Betsy Johnson, City officials, and Michelle Jenck, who represents the trucking industry as a “Citizen at Large” with the Oregon Transportation Commission, as well as several local property owners. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss specific concerns that local citizens have raised, including the “pork chop” shaped pedestrian island that was included in design plans on Front Street. The changes that the highway project has brought to the downtown area have been very concerning to the trucking industry, as quarters are tight in downtown. The designated trucking route includes Front St, and, as you can see in the original plan below, the design included a triangular curbed landing area in the middle of the juncture of Front Street and Highway 101. For large trucks, the curb in the middle of the road creates a challenging turning scenario. After careful review of the design and project development process, ODOT determined that removal of the “pork chop” curbed island was appropriate, and instead the pedestrian crossing will feature the continental style of striping (regular readers will remember that this is the description of the “Abby Road” style of crosswalk, which has most recently been painted at the juncture of Second and Pacific downtown). The final design will also clearly stripe the east and westbound lanes on Front, and include small raised bumps that will help alert drivers to lane boundaries.

The design process of this project has been in the works for many years, and the contracting and construction realities make changes in the plan extremely challenging. To have a modification like this at this stage of the game is very reflective of the the strong advocacy we have at the local level. We are very appreciative of ODOT’s willingness to work with us, and will continue our weekly meetings that allow us to share the next stages of the construction effort. If you have questions about the project, whether about the next step, or big picture, feel free to reply to this email, swing by the Chamber office at 208 Main, or give me a call.