Life could get a lot easier for pedestrians attempting to cross the intersection at Second and Oak streets in Hood River in the future.
The intersection is currently a four-way stop with a flashing red, and among the busiest in town, both in terms of traffic and pedestrians.
The city recently applied to have the intersection be part of ODOT Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and had the project ranked near the top of the list of projects submitted by Hood River County.
In a few weeks, representatives from the city and county will meet with state officials to work out the priority level for the project against other projects in ODOT region 1, which consists of Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Hood River counties.
“This was our biggest priority,” City Manager Bob Francis said of getting a proper traffic light installed in the intersection. “We have three representatives that will go down and fight for priority.”
Along with the Second and Oak project, other high-priority projects submitted by county entities include WaNaPa Street improvements and improved waterfront access in Cascade Locks, better connectivity of Barrett, Country Club and Tucker roads for commercial trucks to avoid trips through downtown Hood River, Portway Avenue and Lot 1 improvements for the Port of Hood River and completion of a park and ride near the CAT office.
“At the end of the day you’re going to take $200-$300 million in requests and whittle it down to $60 million,” said County Administrator David Meriwether.
The grant has $60 million in available funds and the funding would begin in the 2015 fiscal year.
Hood River County has four members on the 21-member committee set up to rank all of the projects. The county’s representatives are Hood River City Council member Kate McBride, County Commission chair Ron Rivers, Cardinal Glass CEO Dave Windsor and Hood River Port and agriculture representative Fred Duckwall.
“I really appreciate the four members representing Hood River County,” Meriwether said, adding that they had done significant work without much support from the county, as the other counties in Region 1 “probably have more transportation planners than we have staff combined.”
Meriwether said the committee of 21 should be sending its list of ranking recommendations for the funding to the state transportation commission over the next few months.
Currently pedestrians have to hurry across the intersection and hope that cars notice them before the vehicles come through.
“If we have controlled crossings it would help a lot,” Francis said.
The Second and Oak project is not the only transportation project the city has going at the moment. Several others are in span a wide range in status.
Country Club re-alignment:
Work is well under way on a project to realign Country Club Road. When finished the project will cut off access from the intersection of Country Club and Cascade and instead re-route through what is now Mt. Adams Loop.
The section which is being cutoff will be turned in bike and pedestrian access only and will also allow ingress and egress from the Timber Crest apartments.
The new section of road will also have to be renamed due to the improvements and connectivity.
Because it is on the city grid, by city statute, it cannot be a “Road” but must be an “Avenue.”
Francis said he has floated several ideas past Mayor Arthur Babitz, but is currently leaning toward naming the stretch of road “Coe Avenue” after Hood River’s first white settlers, or “Hood River Avenue.”
However, the final decision will not be voted on by the city council for several months.
The rest of Country Club Road, which is on the county road grid, will remain Country Club Road.
Francis said the road is required to be finished and functional by Dec. 31 of this year and that Key Development, which is doing most of the construction on the road, is hoping to be finished by September.
State Street work:
In a project originally scheduled for last summer, a large portion of State Street is scheduled to be resurfaced, have utility work done and get parking spaces realigned.
The work is now expected to start this spring and Francis said that engineers are about 80 percent of the way through the plans.
Once the plans are finished the city will hold meeting with property and business owners near the project, which will run on State from just west of the county administration building at 601 State to the intersection of State and Oak, and then cover a small segment of Oak from the Astro Gas station at the corner down to Celilo restaurant.
Francis said the city learned numerous lessons from its last major street project on Oak Street several years ago, and will tackle the State Street project in a similar way.
“We’re going to try to follow that example,” he said of appointing designated contact people both within the affected property and business owners and from the construction side.
Francis said that approach greatly streamlined the process for getting complaints dealt with the last time around.
The project is expected to take between a year and 18 months to complete once it gets under way.
A segment of the project from Ninth to 13th streets has been put on hold because the city is exploring other avenues for funding that portion of the project.
Cascade and Rand intersection:
Francis declared any hope of getting a traffic signal installed at the intersection be dead in the water for the time being.
ODOT has insisted that the city realign the intersection at the Rand Street crossing to be a straight on intersection before a signal could be installed.
Francis said the city has estimated the costs to realign the intersection and install a signal to be around $900,000 and said the city does not have the money to pay for it.
Any sort of funding solution will likely have to wait until legal battles over Walmart’s attempts to expand its store on the north side of the intersection are resolved and the city is able to work out something with ODOT.
Francis said the city had also offered to install the signal and collect traffic data for five years to see if the unaligned intersection was safe with the signal but said that ODOT declined.