As of Tuesday, March 5, 2013
The path from point A to point B is often circuitous, be it politically or literally.
The saga of the new road on the west side of Hood River is an example of an evolving situation that deserves attention: A major Hood River intersection is destined to change dramatically.
As explained by Ben McCarty on page A1, the Country Club/Cascade junction will either be closed completely, and all traffic traveling between West Cascade and Country Club via the new Mt. Adams Avenue, 150 yards east of the current exit 62, or traffic coming from Interstate 84 will be able to take a right onto Country Club Road via the “slip lane” now being proposed.
Aside from the actual road design and flow of traffic, the pending name of the new road is also subject to a future City Council hearing, as explained in the above-mentioned article.
Citizens spoke out against the previously suggested “Coe Road” idea; not that that was such a bad name, but a better one will be found.
One concern, however, underlying the name change is how it fits with the new road’s essential role as a connector road of less than half a mile between two established thoroughfares (Country Club and West Cascade).
But the point A-point B issue is mainly one about where the rubber hits the road, and how well will public conveyance be served by whatever happens at Country Club/Cascade at exit 62.
ODOT will want to do more engineering study on the “slip lane” idea, but it is clearly one worth considering. To allow traffic emanating from the freeway to divert onto Country Club in the same way they do now seems an efficient way of helping visitors find the wineries and orchards that populate the west side of the valley and are an important part of the local economy. It seems somewhat forced to route this traffic east 150 yards to Mt. Adams and then double back on the new section of road in order to find their way west out Country Club.
Our state legislators, Sen. Chuck Thomsen and Rep. Mark Johnson, deserve credit for keeping the discussion with ODOT open. They heard the concerns of citizens and municipal officials, and got involved.
According to McCarty’s story, City Manager Bob Francis said he had been told by ODOT that “the city could lose $3 million in funding for the project by adding the slip lane concept to the project.”
Funneling vehicles onto Country Club in a right-turn-only fashion seems both safe and efficient. The right-only design would constitute at least a partial closure of the intersection, as per ODOT’s requirements. ODOT should be open-minded to the slip-lane idea. The intersection is already a strange one, with a couple of kinks for drivers no matter which direction they are traveling from; the slip lane idea actually retains part of the junction’s character.
Above all, the funding for the project should not be jeopardized by any change in the road design if it is shown that it best serves the local community.