The city waterline replacement project’s long creep toward town reaches a critical point starting as early as Monday: Look for excavation and closure of Belmont at 12th and 13th, the only junction directly connecting downtown and the north area of the Heights with the commercial and residential areas of the south Heights.
Motorists as well as cyclists and pedestrians are advised to remember the significant traffic changes that, albeit temporary and daylight only, are about to happen at 12th and 13 and Belmont in what we’re calling phase one of the Belmont junction project. Neighboring streets will also be affected; more on that in a moment.
Hood River News will provide regular updates, on paper and in electronic media, as there are two unknown dates with the project: the exact starting date (likely March 10 but perhaps a day or two later) of phase one and, secondly, the date when the traffic detour pattern switches to 12th Street – phase two. That could be a few days after “phase one” starts or somewhat longer. The city, and contractor MEI Construction, won’t know the timeline for sure until they actually start doing the work.
The city wisely put up an illuminated readerboard sign for four days last week advising drivers of “Road Work Ahead: 3/10/14 to 4/10/14” but on Tuesday the sign was gone, apparently to save on the cost of renting it.
What is certain is that cones — dozens of them — will line the revised routes, and signs and flaggers will be strategically located. Motorists need to respect the people holding signs and giving instructions. We have published a map on page A2 showing the detours, locations of flaggers and signs, and other details.
The area is a busy one for people getting to work and to school. Providence Hood River complex, Horizon, May Street and Hood River Middle School are in the commute shed of this crossing, so it is important to remember to be on the lookout for increased pedestrians.
The fact is, this will be confusing for people. Even City Council members laughed in a form of disbelief when Public Works Director Mark Lago briefed them on the two-way changes in their most recent meeting.
Adding to the confusion will be the fact that the detours will be daylight only. How effectively will people remember to make the change from one-way to two-way and back again, from one day or evening to the next?
We recommend formal patrols of the area by police, and getting the reader board back into service; if cost is an issue, the city should work with ODOT, as 13th Street flows into a state highway. The two agencies already know the value of teamwork for public safety.
Further, the city should anticipate traffic flow, egress, and parking issues on the side streets. This is because these side streets will have to take in most of the daily vehicle count that flows from Belmont onto 12th Street, and — more significantly — northbound from destinations such Rosauers, HRVHS and Windmaster, and the valley south and west. The official detours are onto A Street, and 18th, but it is likely that 14th, B and C streets, Wilson, and Hull are all bound to experience more use. There are areas of the neighborhood that the city should consider placing under temporary parking restriction during the life of the project — and that includes addressing congestion caused by commercial delivery.
There’s going to be plenty more cars going in differing directions on streets that already are congested, have substandard surfaces, poor visibility, and heavy vehicle and pedestrian use. Though temporary, and necessary, the project at Belmont and 12th and 13th will bring its share of headaches.