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Will apply for grant to hire consultants to help with west 'Y' and Third Street corridor as well as O'Neil/126 intersection

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The City of Prineville is looking into a grant to help resolve issues with certain portions of its transportation system.

The Prineville transportation system has a few trouble spots that have been difficult to figure out in years past.

Traffic has increased at certain intersections and through the downtown area as the community has gained more recreational opportunities and data center construction has caused more vehicle traffic up and down the grade and through the town.

City Associate Planner Casey Kaiser raised these issues during a recent City Council meeting, highlighting problems with the State Highway 126 intersection with O'Neil Highway, the west Y and U.S. Highway 26 corridor through Prineville.

"We have a growing network of recreation happening out there (by the O'Neil Highway intersection), with the trail they are building," he said. "One of the challenges we are seeing there is difficulty with pedestrians and cyclists navigating across the bridge across Crooked River and through that O'Neil Highway intersection."

Kaiser added that the level of service rating at that intersection for left turn movements is very slow, especially during peak traffic times.

"Obviously, the construction and the traffic up on the hill passing back and forth between there and the service sector on the valley floor is creating some challenges there," he said.

He went on to say the west Y faces similar issues when it comes to left turns, particularly for eastbound traffic turning onto Madras Highway.

"It's problematic for access in and out of businesses right along both the southern and northern leg of the Y," he added.

Regarding Highway 26 passage through downtown Prineville, Kaiser said that the efforts of local businesses and the city's Downtown Strategic Plan Committee have "a lot to do with how we flow traffic through that area and how pedestrians and cyclists are able to circulate through downtown."

City councilors added that this past Friday, leading into Memorial Day weekend, provided a great example of how bad traffic through town on Highway 26 can become. They noted that drivers sat through as many as three traffic light cycles.

Kaiser said that all three areas have been identified in the city's transportation system plan (TSP) as needing improvement. However, the TSP did not take the next step of actually defining what those improvements should be.

City Engineer Eric Klann explained that the complexity of the issues made it difficult for city staff to reach one agreeable solution for any of the traffic problems.

"Typically, what happens is you are doing a TSP, you want to get the TSP done and you just don't come to a solution," he said, "so you say, 'Maybe one of these three solutions.'"

To help remedy the problem, the city will apply for a Transportation Growth Management grant, provided by Oregon Department of Transportation. Kaiser explained that the grant will provide funding to work with a team of consultants to look at the three problem areas in the local transportation network.

"What the grant will do is provide the resources for us to go through the process and decide what those long-term solutions are," he said. "This process would guide us through doing the analysis, the research and whatever public process that we see fit to embark on, to actually make those determinations and develop and implementation plan that will allow us to start identifying the funding and timelines for completing some of these."

Klann said that identifying single solutions for each of the traffic problems puts the city in better position to receive state funding, when it is available, to complete the projects.

"We have just got to take our time and have all of the public hearings and just fight through that process," he said, "and really come to solutions that the community can agree on."

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