Getting Around: Take a long, hard look at congestion and pedestrian-based solutions

A pedestrian bridge serving the west end of the waterfront was just one idea mentioned Monday in City Council applicant interviews (story, page A9). Not a new idea, but one worth renewing, especially as the city embarks on a long-range transportation management plan for the west side of the city.

A bridge traversing the freeway corridor giving pedestrians easy access to The Hook and the rest of the increasingly busy waterfront may seem pie in the sky, but it could be part of the long-range answer to the rising congestion issues in the area.

Meanwhile, now that Hampton Inn is up and running and the waterfront trail from the Hook to Hood River Inn is complete, the city, port and private landowners need to look at enhancing the existing public trail linking Second Street, the Spit and footbridge over the Hood River. Security and user-friendliness concerns can be dealt with through a coordinated effort between all parties, and turn this resource into something appealing. The distance from downtown to the hotel and the marina and environs is not nearly as far as you might think.

It is getting harder and harder to get through downtown and over Second Street, especially in the year-round tourist season that stakeholders in this community have worked so hard to develop.

The city must work toward a means to deal with the congestion between downtown and the waterfront, with the coming of a new hotel, rapidly increasing development and the cultural and economic stakes north of I-84 — including Sheppard’s move to the waterfront, the new Key Development buildings, the success of Ryan’s Juice, and the integrated appeal and remarkable success of the Hook, Waterfront Park, Event Site, and Nichols basin trail area.

The city can look to its own recent project, one that was largely citizen-driven, the Tod LeFevre Safety Zone on busy West May Avenue. This type of infrastructure supporting bicycle and pedestrians should be repeated.

Similarly, the west side transportation assessment the city is about to begin comes at a vital time as we see more and more residential development in that area, and the questionable functionality of the non-signalized Mt. Adams Loop/Wine Country Avenue intersection completed two years ago.

Blocks from there are two other pedestrian and vehicle opportunities waiting to happen: the time is long past for a pedestrian crossing, preferably with signalization, somewhere on the mile-long crosswalk desert that is West Cascade. Rand Road seems to be the natural point. And the city’s upgrade of underground utilities at Cascade and Rand illuminates to the need for the city and ODOT to, at long last, figure out some way to get a traffic signal at that dangerous and frustrating intersection.

None of these are new ideas, but they have lain dormant, or latent, and somehow green lights should happen for something other than cars. Yes, it takes money, but Hood River community values point to a system less and less dependent on vehicles and more to walking and biking.

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