County puts final touches on road plan

Hood River County is putting the final touches on a 20-year transportation plan that will pave the way for future growth.

The graphics for the draft plan will be displayed for public review from 6:30-9 p.m. on Dec. 10 in the second floor conference room of the county courthouse. Consultants on the project will give a short presentation at 7:15 p.m.

The plan incorporates the 200 miles of paved roadways within county jurisdiction and area state highways to allow for coordination of long-range improvements.

According to the Oregon State Department of Transportation, 21,400 vehicles travel past Hood River on Interstate 84 each day. Based on 2001 daily counts, between 3,200-6,700 vehicles access the freeway from Highway 35, as high as 16,000 just south of Belmont Avenue on Highway 281 (12th Street), 3,300-4,300 on Highway 282 (Odell Highway) and a range of 116-2,821 each day on other major county roads.

During a three-year period, from Jan. 1, 1998 to Dec. 31, 2000, ODOT recorded 139 crashes along I-84, five with fatalities. In addition, there were 163 reported accidents along Highway 35, two involving fatalities, about 60 wrecks on Highway 281, three involving deaths, and 20 on Highway 282.

With tourism on the rise, county officials are seeking to prevent an increased risk for accidents by using the draft transportation plan to prioritize infrastructure improvements, increase signage and shoulder widths where slow-moving farm equipment meets other traffic, and upgrade highway sections with above average accident rates.

The proposed plan will also bring the county into compliance with Goal 12 of statewide transportation planning rules intended to protect Oregon from the air pollution, traffic and livability problems facing other areas of the country. However, since the rural county does not qualify for the mass transit standards encouraged in heavily populated areas, a greater emphasis in the plan was placed on promoting bicycle and pedestrians networks, according to Josette Griffiths, the county planner overseeing plan development.

The draft plan also calls for the Ken Jernstedt Airfield, owned by the Port of Hood River, to develop an instrument approach and a longer runway, add medium intensity lights and improve its weather reporting capabilities.

This summer the county received a $60,000 grant from ODOT and hired two Portland consulting firms to gather transportation system data and develop technical standards for 11 separate street types.

The compiled information from Cogan, Owens, Cogan and David Evans and Associates was reviewed and fine tuned by a technical advisory committee made up of citizens and local officials from city, county, state and federal agencies.

Griffiths said the updated version of the plan is the completion of work that began several years ago. From 1995-97 the public was included in the process with open houses that were held in Cascade Locks and Hood River, surveys and newsletter distribution.

Griffith said throughout the design of the plan comment has been welcomed from community members about both rural and urban transportation issues.

Special consideration has also been given to protection of scenic landscapes along the Historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway and travel corridors within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

By adopting a transportation systems plan the county will qualify for more state and federal maintenance and improvement funding.

Griffiths said the set standards will also bring uniformity to future improvements since the cities of Cascade Locks and Hood River have already adopted consistent models.

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