City plans major W. May project

This summer, west May Street, Hood River’s main east west collector, will undergo significant changes to pedestrian and vehicle access.

The big changes will be an additional crosswalk at 17th and an end of parking on the south side of May, as a way to make room for designated bicycle lanes, city engineer Stoner Bell told City Council Monday.

The project will stretch from 17th to 30th streets and involve new bicycle lanes and revised travel lanes. Affected residents were notified by mail on March 6.

Major changes will come at May and 17th: addition of an east-west crosswalk and removal of the west-bound “slip lane.“ That will reduce the width of 17th where it meets May.

The purpose is to improve safety for school children and other bicyclists and pedestrians traveling to and from Hood River Middle School as well as to enhance vehicle safety. Another popular destination, Hood River Aquatic Center, is located on the south side of May at the 17-18th staggered intersection.

The project will be paid for by $500,000 from Oregon Department of Transportation and a $57,000 match from the city.

According Bell, the project has been in planning since 2011 and part of the city’s Transportation Safety Plan. (The city began looking at bicycle enhancements on west May more than 10 years ago, said Dave Bick, who is retired by served as city engineer in the early 2000s.) The city and ODOT reached an agreement on this project in 2013. Bell said formal ODOT approval is expected on March 30 and a bid approval is planned by May 15.

Bell and city manager Steve Wheeler told City Council that the city- and state-funded project will go to bid in May and completed by Aug. 10.

Bike lanes will be designated on both sides of the street, and one parking strip on the north side only. Also planned:

  • wider sidewalks in some areas, to approximately five feet (though some might need to remain narrower);
  • infilling missing sidewalks;
  • upgrade crosswalk ramps, curb cuts and driveway entrance that are non-compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements;
  • repairing “heaved” or “lifted” sidewalk sections.

“It affects pretty much every driveway and most of the ramps,” in the project area, Bell said.

Council member Mark Zanmiller, who said he walks the area “700 times a year,” said he is concerned that “we might have made this slightly less safe” due to high traffic volumes and eastbound speeds on May Street.

“A lot of them just sail through there on their way down 17th,” Zanmiller said.

Zanmiller asked Wheeler and staff to look into installing a stoplight at 18th, and Wheeler said that though the project is designed and ready to go, that they would look for ways to slow traffic down.

Council member Kate McBride said that the design changes on May Street could have the cumulative effect of slowing traffic once it is built.

Kathy Mussey, who lives on May near 22nd, told council she is concerned about added traffic volume on a street where many mornings she needs to wait five to eight minutes to back out of her driveway. She asked the city to look for ways to divert traffic from May Street, but Bell said no suitable street is currently available, and that May is designed to be the major collector going east and west.

“You say it’s a safety issue, so I wonder if you should divert some of the traffic. It seems like you’re trying to have it both ways,” Mussey said.

In other business:

n Wheeler announced that on April 4 volunteers with the Columbia Children’s Advocacy Center will be placing blue ribbons on Oak Street city trees and in Jackson, Overlook and Waterfront parks, to honor April Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Shelley Campbell, a center volunteer, told the council that one third of all American girls under 18 and one sixth of all boys experience some form of abuse at least once.

n Councilor Peter Cornelison was appointed to serve as city representative on a 31-member regional Area Commission on Transportation (ACT), which includes jurisdictions from Clackamas, Multnomah and Hood River counties. Hood River County will have a total of four permanent members in ACT: one from Hood River County government, one business representative, and alternating representatives from the cities of Hood River and Cascade Locks, and the port commissions for Hood River and Cascade Locks. Wheeler said he and Cascade Locks administrator Gordon Zimmerman recently flipped a coin to see who would go first between the cities, and Hood River won.

n City planning director Cindy Walbridge said the buildable lands inventory and housing analysis projects are making progress, and the advisory group will be meeting again with consultants on March 31 to look at a preliminary buildable lands report giving locations and number of acres. Walbridge said the city is steadily gathering information on vacation rentals, and “dark” houses (those unoccupied for long periods) in association with county GIS coordinator Mike Schrankel.

Walbridge said the preliminary study puts the number of vacation properties at six percent, compared with about three percent in Bend and Ashland, two other tourist-heavy communities that are considering revised regulations on vacation homes.

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