The ceremonial shovels have been painted gold for use by state and local officials at Monday’s groundbreaking for a traffic signal in the Heights.
Even as the 11 a.m. event takes place at the Eliot/Brookside intersection, the Oregon Department of Transportation is preparing plans for a second light just down the block. The work on the 12th Street — also known as Highway 281 — and Pacific Avenue signal begins next June and is expected to be completed by early fall.
Mid-valley resident Dollie Rasmussen has arranged for “stoplight” cookies to be served at Monday’s project kickoff. She spearheaded the grassroots fundraising drive for the $227,000 signal and has asked her friends and family members to wear the appropriate colors for the long-awaited ceremony — red, yellow or green.
Charlie Sciscione, district manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation, will act as master of ceremonies and will be joined by ODOT Deputy Director John Rosenberger. Rasmussen will speak that morning and will be followed with short comments by Hood River County Commissioner Carol York, Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, and Hood River Mayor Paul Cummings. Because the House is in session, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., will not be able to attend but has submitted a written statement that will be read to those in attendance.
“This is one of those homegrown projects, Hood River did such a magnificent job of making this project possible,” said Dave Thompson, ODOT spokesman.
Rasmussen launched the movement to bring a stoplight to the Heights in May of 2000 when her father-in-law, Lynn, died after being struck by a car while using a marked crosswalk near the Hood River Shopping Center. His death occurred the same week that another pedestrian, Viola Briggs, was hit and killed by a motorist in the same crossing.
Although ODOT lowered the speed limit in the area from 35 to 25 miles per hour and hung the largest allowable pedestrian warning signs above the crosswalk, Rasmussen believed that the four-lane roadway would remain hazardous to walkers without a stop light.
So, she became the driving force behind the Highway 281 Safety Committee that raised more than $50,000 for the signal. Then Rasmussen appealed to the County Commission, which contributed another $50,000 and ODOT, which came up with the final $127,000 from special funding created by bonds financed by increased vehicle title fees. Although there will be two traffic signals within a short distance to accommodate pedestrians, Thompson said the existing crosswalk will be left in place — at least for the time being.
Roger Kauble, county public works director, said work on the first signal will also begin on Monday and is expected to be completed by mid-December. He said although it may appear that construction activity is minimal, there are necessary delays to allow concrete to cure and the electrical lines will be laid without disturbing the earth by boring under the pavement.
“I’m looking forward to getting this thing started and making it safer for people to cross the road out there,” said Kauble.