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Road costs, residents to hit OC's South End

Concerns about the methodology used to determine South End Concept Plan transportation impacts spurred Oregon City to prepare a detailed report for the Planning Commission in advance of its hearing next week to consider about 2,500 new housing units on about 400 acres.

Metro’s recent urban growth-boundary expansions forced citizens to take a hard look at their preferred long-term concepts for a total area of about 611 acres, nearly 505 of which are outside Oregon City’s boundaries. Oregon City Planner Pete Walter considers about a third of that land undevelopable, mostly due to steep slopes and parkland.

South End Road’s one lane in either direction is constricting development in the area. Four large workshops, 17 community conversations, and online forums told planners that citizens want to maintain the area’s rural character while keeping within Metro’s requirement for eight units per acre overall. Oregon City is justifying below-average urban density due to community preferences, natural resources in the area, and transportation limitations. In 2035, the year of the plan’s full build-out, peak-hour traffic is projected at 550 southbound. There would have to be traffic signals at the intersection by this time, Walter said.

“Development will be limited until other outlets can be built, and the cost of those transportation improvements is high,” he said.

Citizen Involvement Council Member Paul Edgar is still worried about the traffic along the two-lane country road. Contradicting city planners, he estimated that 3,750 rush-hour commuters each evening would attempt to go south through the intersection of South End and Warner Parrot roads.

“This then leads me to the thinking that this area will be at saturation gridlock for most of the day, and life will be hell for anyone and everyone living in this area,” Edgar said. “The density being advanced with this concept plan is far too high for what is available in transportation capacity that serves this area.”

Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee Chairman Blane Meier encouraged Edgar to address his concerns through established channels rather than speculate about future potential catastrophic traffic problems.

“Like most cities, Oregon City has time-tested protocols for addressing transportation issues, including third-party planners, elected representatives, city staff, neighborhood residents, local businesses, public hearings, technical advisory committees, and citizen advisory committees,” Meier wrote to Edgar. “While no system of checks and balances is completely infallible, I believe Oregon City is well-equipped to act in the best interest of its citizens.”

Edgar used the Institute of Traffic Engineers model, which can apply to large-scale development, Walter said, but you’d have to make some assumptions. For South End, Oregon City used the Regional Travel Demand model, the same methodology in the city’s recently adopted Transportation System Plan. Regional Travel Demand takes into account when people would be willing to drive or use other forms of transit such as walking, biking or riding buses.

Oregon City’s Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, in City Hall. The City Commission will hear about the plan Wednesday, Jan. 15, and there’s a likelihood of a continued hearing until Feb. 5 for final approval.