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OC: Molalla Avenue crashes compete with Happy Valley for funding

During the past five years, vehicles have injured 15 people walking or biking along Molalla Avenue in Oregon City. During that time, there was also one pedestrian fatality.

Although no recent fatalities have involved pedestrians along the 129th Avenue project competing for Metro grant funding, Happy Valley officials point to a fatality and a long list of injuries involving two or more cars. Oregon City responds that Molalla Avenue had 188 vehicle-on-vehicle crashes, and at least 36 of them involved injuries.

David Frasher, Oregon City’s city manager, criticized the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee for deciding it was not bound by “high priority” criteria such as recent pedestrian/vehicle collisions. OC Mayor Doug Neeley voted against the other committee members’ decision last month, and then abstained in their final vote last week after expressing his frustration with their changing process.

Happy Valley City Manager Jason Tuck expected that the series of regional transportation committee meetings starting on Sept. 12 would affirm the local decision. He chose to focus on positive aspects of grant funding improving accessibility. HV’s project will build 1,100 feet of sidewalk on the east side of 129th Avenue and bike lanes on both sides.

“The city of Happy Valley is thrilled our project, along with the Jennings Avenue and Gladstone Trolley Trail feasibility study, received a unanimous vote,” Tuck said.

Once a non-standard sidewalk is constructed in Happy Valley, Frasher argued that it will serve as an “attractive hazard,” bringing people into a direct conflict with motor vehicles that does not exist today.

“The second concern about the HV project is that, because it is not designed to AASHTO standards, it includes sidewalks on only one side of the street, which will cause great risk to pedestrians who will be required to cross back and forth in the area,” Frasher said.

Tuck realized that sidewalks are preferable on both sides of the street, but topographic constraints make that unattainable.

“The city has received another grant project in years past that included sidewalks on one side of the street, and it was not a problem,” he said.

OC’s project does not have this shortcoming because it already has sidewalks on both sides of the street. Frasher added that Metro, as public stewards of these funds, has a responsibility to utilize them in a manner that will provide actual quantifiable benefit to the greatest number of at-risk people.

“I have difficulty understanding how a project that does not meet the principle safety criteria for this grant can be moved ahead of one that so irrefutably and overwhelmingly does meet those criteria,” he said. “It is going to mean certain harm to Clackamas County residents and visitors in the OC project area that we know has occurred and will continue to occur without this funding.”