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The City Council heard a proposal to phase in more durable brick crossings for downtown.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF FOREST GROVE - Decorative crosswalks in downtown Forest Grove, like this one at Pacific Avenue and Main Street, haven't lasted as long as city officials hoped. The city could adopt a plan that would replace them over time with more durable crosswalks made from concrete and brick.Forest Grove city officials like the decorative crosswalks that were installed as part of a downtown streetscape improvement project several years ago. But they're less enamored with the condition they are in now.

The state of the downtown crosswalks was the subject of discussion at a Forest Grove City Council meeting Monday evening, Feb. 26, at which the council heard a proposal to replace the fading crosswalks and perhaps install a few more.

The decorative crosswalks that now adorn a few downtown Forest Grove intersections are made of thermoplastic pavement patterned to resemble brick. But since they were installed in 2009, the crosswalks have deteriorated, with the markings no longer even visible in places where they have been worn away by tire treads. Succinctly, the project "hasn't worked out so well," said Rob Foster, Forest Grove's public works director.

Foster said Forest Grove city staff recommend that any new decorative crosswalks be made of more durable material: true brick overlaid on a Portland cement concrete base.

Existing decorative crosswalks would be replaced using the new material sometime within the next five to 10 years, depending on funding and road conditions, according to the draft plan Foster presented.

Council members received the report favorably.

"While we call this decorative, and it is very beautiful … it also was thought to also define our downtown area and our core area, to kind of bring it together," said Councilor Elena Uhing.

She added, "Decorative is wonderful, but it also has other economic factors to the community than just being good-looking."

Mayor Pete Truax said the decorative crosswalks also stand out to motorists more readily than the standard white lines that mark most pedestrian crossings. That may encourage drivers to approach the crosswalks with more caution, he suggested.

"If we have a totally different appearance for the crosswalk, then that signals, ought to signal, to drivers that there is a difference there, and the reason for that difference is that people use it," Truax said.

Right now, the intersections of Pacific Avenue and Council Street, Pacific Avenue and Main Street, Pacific Avenue and Birch Street, 21st Avenue and Main Street, and 21st Avenue and College Way feature the decorative crosswalks.

Foster said city staff are proposing that additional decorative crosswalks be installed where Pacific and 21st avenues intersect with A Street. The intersection of Pacific Avenue and Council Street, which now only has one decorative crosswalk, would be upgraded to have a crosswalk on all sides.

The Pacific Avenue and Birch Street crosswalk is not included in the plan Foster presented.

More crosswalks could be put in along 18th Avenue, Foster added, providing a visual connection between downtown Forest Grove and the "Old Town" historic parts of the city. The intersections of 18th Avenue and Main, Ash and Birch streets would be upgraded with the decorative crossings if the scope of the project expands, according to his report.

"Part of the town center concept plan was to link the downtown with Old Town, and we think these three critical intersections would do that," said Foster.

Installing one of the decorative crosswalks using brick and Portland cement concrete will cost about $140,000 for all four sides of a normal downtown intersection, Foster said. That amount is roughly three times what it would cost to install more of the current-style thermoplastic crosswalks at an intersection, he added, but the proposed construction method would also be expected to last at least three times as long before it would need to be replaced.

"We think it'll last even longer than 15 years," Foster said.

Councilor Tim Rippe suggested that if the city uses real brick on the decorative crosswalks, just the bricks that take the brunt of vehicle traffic could be replaced when it is time to do so, leaving bricks that are in better condition in place. If that is possible, it would be "a whole lot cheaper" than replacing the entire crosswalk, he remarked.

"If you look at the thermoplastic wear, it's only in certain areas, so theoretically, depending on the volume of transportation, in the future, you would only need to replace the bricks in those areas that are worn down," Rippe said. "There's no need to replace the bricks that are off to the side."

Truax said the council should consider a resolution that would adopt the crosswalk plan. Foster said he will bring a draft resolution to the council at its next meeting.

If implemented, the crosswalk plan would not draw money from Forest Grove's general fund, under the proposal presented Monday.

Funding for the decorative crosswalks would come from the city's street fund, a pot of money earmarked specifically for road projects, Foster said. The statewide motor vehicles fuel tax, often known as the "gas tax," is a major revenue source for this fund.

The League of Oregon Cities estimates the City of Forest Grove will receive $350,000 in additional revenue over the next fiscal year due to a 10-cent state gas tax increase signed into law last year.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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