Neighbors get first look at D Avenue concepts
First Addition neighbors and City officials gathered at the Adult Community Center last week to discuss plans to remake D Avenue in Lake Oswego. Their goal: to transform the roadway into a modern street with better drainage and pedestrian access, all while slowing down traffic and preserving the area's quiet neighborhood atmosphere.
About 75 neighbors visited over the course of the evening to learn about the project and offer feedback about changes that will stretch from State Street to Tenth Street. Design work is scheduled through the end of 2017, with construction expected to begin in spring 2018.
"First Addition is a beautiful neighborhood," said resident Nick Sweers, "but somewhat antiquated in terms of infrastructure." He called the project designs on display "a step in the right direction."
Preliminary designs call for an extended sidewalk and the possible addition of "meandering" curves, but officials said the top priority is to solve some of the stormwater drainage issues that have long plagued the area. First Addition's narrow streets and wide, unpaved shoulder areas are one of its most distinctive features, but most of those roads lack any kind of stormwater infrastructure to drain away runoff.
"Stormwater is by far the most important component and driver for this project," said Gabe Crop, a project manager with the Portland firm Murraysmith, which has been hired to handle design duties.
In addition, City stormwater engineer Rob Amsberry said, recent houses built in the neighborhood have become larger relative to the average lot size, further reducing the amount of permeable surface area available to absorb runoff. The result has been frequent flooding that submerges parts of roads and threatens homeowners' yards and basements.
"Anybody who lives in the neighborhood knows there are drainage problems," Amsberry said.
The rebuilt roadway will be angled to steer stormwater toward new treatment areas and drains connected to pipes running along the entire length of the street, moving water out of the neighborhood and down toward Tryon Creek. While the new infrastructure won't entirely solve the neighborhood's drainage problems, officials said, it will make a large dent.
Amsberry described the project as a "third step" in addressing stormwater drainage — following improvements to A and B avenues that were made in recent years — and a "critical link" to the rest of the neighborhood.
"It sets us up to address drainage issues up on Bayberry (Road)," he said, "and it allows us to push up north of (D Avenue) where there are other problems identified."
Citizen Information Specialist Katy Kerklaan said City officials want to incorporate as much neighborhood feedback as possible into the final plans for D Avenue. Even before any preliminary designs were unveiled, designers invited neighbors to take two walking tours of the street in January and February to offer suggestions. Those ideas were used to develop the concepts presented last week, but even those are considered highly preliminary — major design work will take place later this year and incorporate feedback gathered at the meeting.
Some of the earlier feedback actually left City planners with a challenge. There were many requests to add some form of traffic calming to D Avenue to discourage motorists from cutting quickly through the neighborhood. Neighbors were broadly opposed to installing speed bumps, but there were near-universal calls for finding some way to slow cars down.
"I wouldn't mind seeing more stop signs," said resident Carolee Dennis. "And less width of the lanes."
After the initial neighbor walk, planners explored an alternate way to slow down drivers, which was unveiled at the meeting last week: a "meandering" road that would gradually curve back and forth down the length of D Avenue. The curvature would be minor, officials said, and it would remain well within the road's current right-of-way footprint.
"It's wouldn't be like Lombard Street in San Fransisco," Kerklaan explained, but it would be enough of a visual shift to make drivers slow down.
The two designs — straight or "meandering" — would be very similar in terms of the number of amenities, such as parking spaces and stormwater catch basins, although some of the features might be in different locations depending on the curvature of the road. In either design, there's no official target number of parking spaces yet, although Amsberry said "the goal is to preserve it where we can."
Adding a sidewalk
The stormwater fixes will be the biggest new piece of infrastructure, but much of the attention at last week's meeting focused on another aspect of the project: the addition of a sidewalk along the full length of the road, stretching all the way from State Street to Tenth Street.
The eastern half of D Avenue currently features a sidewalk on the south side, but it dead-ends at Fifth Street. That leaves no pedestrian route between the Lake Oswego Public Library and Forest Hills Elementary School, which is located just north of Tenth Street on Andrews Road. Many of the neighbors at the meeting expressed strong support for completing the sidewalk, particularly because of the proximity of the school and library.
"I'm pleased to see the sidewalks," said First Addition resident Ian Lindsey. "We have small kids, so it's nice to see they're thinking about that."
In order to avoid increasing the road width, officials said the project will likely stick to a single sidewalk rather than one on each side of the street. The existing sidewalk east of Fifth Street will likely be maintained (but rebuilt as part of the project), and then a new sidewalk will likely be added on the north side of the road between Fifth and Tenth streets, with the Fifth Street intersection serving as a crossing point.
Officials said participants in the walks were in favor of extending the sidewalk, but they insisted that the new portion should be separated from the roadway by landscaping or parking spaces that would match the design of the current partial sidewalk. Neighbors also pushed for street lanes to remain narrow, with no curbs at the edges other than those that already exist near the library.
At the meeting last week, visitors offered broad support for the project overall. Reaction to the curved design was more mixed, but Kerklaan said several guests seemed more open to the idea once planners explained some of the benefits, such as slower traffic and increased flexibility that would allow project designers to potentially preserve more existing trees and other features by curving the road around them.
City staff are still sorting through the written responses from the meeting, but Kerklaan said one of the goals of the open house was to allow planners to make a decision about whether to build a straight or curved road before proceeding with further design work. Amsberry said the goal is to have the project about 30 percent designed in time for a second open house later in the summer.
"I just can't wait," said resident Michael Earp. "It'll be great to have a sidewalk. Walking to the library after it gets dark (currently) — you just probably don't think about walking down that street."