Trucks to pay for parking at waterfront

One  trucker’s plans to connect two trailers, thwarted when a private vehicle took up the space behind, dramatizes potential parking conflicts in the area.

Photo by Duane Warren
One  trucker’s plans to connect two trailers, thwarted when a private vehicle took up the space behind, dramatizes potential parking conflicts in the area.

As part of the Waterfront Paid Parking Plan enacted June 11, commercial trucks are now required to pay to park on a segment of West Portway Avenue down on the waterfront that is frequently used as a hub for distribution throughout the Gorge.

Paid parking at port begins

The Port of Hood River will implement paid parking on port-owned streets and parking lots this month beginning as early as Friday, June 15.

Payment kiosks are being installed in various locations on North First Street, and on Portway Avenue from Second Street east and from Eighth Street west to the Hook. Payment will be required in these areas between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. all days. Parking in these areas will be prohibited between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Once paving is complete in the parking lot located west of the Jensen Building, the western half of that parking lot will also be metered public parking. The eastern half of the lot is tenant and employee parking only for businesses in the Jensen Building. Season pass holders may use their pass to park all day in the Event Site Lot, the Jensen Beach Lot, and in the overflow parking area at Lot 1 whenever it is opened.

City-owned streets North Second Street, North Eighth Street, and the center blocks of Portway Avenue between those streets will remain free to park.

Metered parking in these high-demand areas of the waterfront is meant to improve turnover at specific locations, encourage off-street parking for longer visits, and generate new revenue for ongoing maintenance and operations.

After approving the parking plan at their June 5 meeting, the port commission approved entering into a nine-month agreement, with month-to-month renewal agreements to follow, with the three companies who frequently use the street allowing their trucks to park there at a reduced rate.

Port Director Michael McElwee reached out to the six or so trucking companies known to regularly use Portway Avenue as a hub about a month ago to inform them of the upcoming parking plan. Only the three — YRC Freight, Oak Harbor and Peninsula Trucking — responded.

“I knew it was coming, of course you don’t ever want to pay to deliver to companies,” said Duane Warren, a driver with YRC, “(but) seeing as there’s no place else to set up shop, it is what it is.”

The approved agreement was a compromise among a divided port commission, who had initially intended to offer the three companies a year-long agreement.

Port Commission President Hoby Streich proposed cutting the initial length of the agreement in half — six-months, with the option of month-to-month renewals after that.

The concern raised by Streich and several other commissioners was that, due to the high likelihood that the nearby Maritime site will be developed within the next few years, allowing the commercial trucks to continue as usual would discourage them from moving on.

“I want to send a message that I don’t want the trucks there,” Streich said at the June 5 meeting. “I don’t think Maritime construction is the time to encourage them to move on, I think now is the time (to do that).”

West Portway Avenue is part of the recently approved Waterfront Parking Plan’s Zone 6, which charges trucks a rate of $20 per drop. Passenger vehicles can park in Zone 6 on weekends only, at a rate of $1 per hour.

The three commercial trucking companies that entered into the agreement with the port — YRC, Oak Harbor and Peninsula — will be charged $150 a month.

First Avenue, which is frequently used as a place for drivers to park overnight and sleep, is also included in the paid parking plan as part of Zone 1.

Trucks are charged $2 an hour during the day or $20 a night from Oct. 1 through March 31. Trucks will still be able to park overnight during the busy summer season, but hourly parking between April 1 and Sept. 30 is prohibited.

Truckers can still park on Eighth Street for free, as that street is owned by the City of Hood River. The city decided several years ago that the delivery services the trucks provide are important enough to the city to justify allowing them to use the space.

However, most trucks have a hard time working off of Eighth Street since the east side of the street prohibits truck and trailer parking and, especially during the busy summer months, passenger vehicles will park on both sides of the street, even between parked trailers.

“For eight and a half years it’s been a nightmare, May through September,” Warren said of trying to work on Eighth Street as the waterfront’s popularity as a summer recreation site has increased.

Truck parking spreads around the corner onto Portway Avenue because Eighth Street can’t accommodate all the trucks that need to use the space at a given time, he said.

Warren lives and operates out of Troutdale and, as one of the few local trucking services, utilizes Portway every day as a home-base for deliveries on both sides of the river from Bonneville Dam east through the Gorge.

“If it’s a working business, they’re my client,” he said. YRC delivers anything and everything from construction materials for local construction sites to recreational golf balls for Hood River Golf Course.

YRC Freight has been using that space free of charge for at least 13 years, he said.

Though just the three companies chose to be part of the agreement, McElwee estimates that at least twice that many use the area regularly, but said it is difficult to tell.

“That’s where we (truck drivers) work out of every day” said Warren, referring to the plethora of other trucking companies known to regularly use the space, including FedEx and UPS.

Whether it’s through his company or one of the others that rely on Portway Avenue for distribution, “anything and everything that anybody can order online” goes through Portway, he said, since there are no other usable distribution sites in Hood River.

Portway Avenue works as a distribution site because it’s just off the highway and large enough to accommodate the six to seven trucks that need to park there at any given time. The amount of space needed is the biggest problem with finding a new place to operate “because we’re all out there every day,” he said.”

Warren said that his main issue with the Waterfront Paid Parking Plan is that it charges the trucking companies to provide a vital service to the local economy. “None of those businesses can operate without us,” he said.

There was some discussion among the commissioners at the June 5 meeting on whether or not the port is responsible for accommodating the trucking companies’ distribution needs.

“It (trucking distribution) is vital to a lot of our businesses here,” said Anne Medenbach, development and property manager for the Port of Hood River.

McElwee said that though the port does not have to solve the problem for them, there needs to be a plan on how accommodate this service after Portway Avenue is taken off the table.

Streich said that even though the trucks are important to the local economy, it is not the port’s responsibility to come up with that plan.

McElwee, who supported the original one-year agreement, told the commission that he recommended talking to the trucking companies directly and proposed Warren as a point of contact. Several commissioners said they would be willing to converse with Warren and other trucking representatives, but not until after they “send a message” with the shortened agreement and truckers have enough time to discern what they would need from a new space and to explore other possibilities.

When asked by a reporter if he would be open to that potential meeting, Warren said he would have to think about it as he wouldn’t want to agree to it if he didn’t think he could behave professionally. “I can’t see where there would be any opposed to having trucks out here and using the port,” he said. “This one just blows my mind.”

The issue with finding a new place, Warren said, is that there likely isn’t one in Hood River. He has seen some lots big enough to accommodate the volume of trucks that would need it, but those typically prohibit truck parking. Relocating outside of Hood River would likely increase pickup and delivery rates, he said, as being further away from the highway adds valuable minutes to their route time.

“I’m trying to figure out where else me and other companies could go and there is none,” he said.

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