Community voices feedback on Lake Oswego walking pathway projects
Lake Oswego may not be the most walkable Portland suburb, but the local government is hoping to change that — one concrete slab at a time.
The city of Lake Oswego is drawing closer to finalizing plans for new pathways in the Forest Highlands, Hallinan, Waluga and Lake Grove neighborhoods with help from community feedback through recent neighborhood meetings.
The program derived from Lake Oswego City Council's goal of providing safe pedestrian connections in town. The list of four projects was determined through the recommendations of the city's Transportation Advisory Board, which used criteria like proximity to schools and affordability to establish the chosen projects. The City Council allocated about $2 million to work with and, in turn, staff determined that the money could reasonably fund four projects.
The Hallinan neighborhood seems the least plussed about adding a pathway, which would run along Hallinan Street from Hemlock Street to Cherry Lane. Some neighbors say that the area is replete with cars and other fast-moving vehicles racing through local streets, and they fear that a serious accident could loom. Neighbors along Hallinan put up yard signs asking the city to say no to the new pathway project, requesting other traffic calming devices like speed bumps and stop signs rather than a designated space for pedestrians to walk.
"We've been begging for this for years," one neighbor said at a neighborhood listening session last week.
"Everyone is absolutely against sidewalks because the problem that they see as neighbors is speeding traffic — and sidewalks will not slow down people exceeding the speed limit," another neighbor said in an interview.
They also were concerned that the pathway could remove parking on one side of the street along Hallinan. One neighbor said that cars often park on Hallinan and Hemlock to pick their kids up from the nearby Hallinan Elementary School.
"Any sort of narrowing is going to exacerbate that," they said.
The city hadn't determined whether that would be the case, but Stefan Broadus, the assistant city engineer, said lessened parking was a possibility. Overall, according to staff, the city prioritized minimizing impact to private property — leading to reductions in the size of the roadway and potential reduced parking.
"Some of the locations would like no parking along the street. Others, that's more of a negative impact for them," said Katy Kerklaan, a citizen information specialist for the city's engineering department.
However, Broadus said that the decision to shorten the width of the road was a form of traffic calming and the city's research backs up that assertion. He added that the city may evaluate stop signs and other options at the site in the future.
"We try to convey to people that those aren't mutually exclusive to this project. We can evaluate those. Speed bumps or stop signs could happen with or without the pathway," Broadus said.
Kerklaan said that, while important, the concerns of homeowners who live along a construction project site are not the only consideration.
"These pathways aren't just for the immediate neighbors. It's for the greater community. It's making connections that are needed and identified," she said.
She added that there is a form people can fill out on the city's website to request traffic-calming devices. It is available at: https://www.ci.oswego.or.us/engineering/safety-concern-form.
"We take that information and assess it. He (the city's traffic engineer) needs to calculate whether or not it's needed based on average daily trips and pedestrian activity," Kerklaan said.
Despite the pushback in Hallinan, neighbors near the other pathway projects seemed relatively content with receiving enhanced pedestrian infrastructure.
Gary Willihnganz, a member of the Forest Highlands Neighborhood Association, said that due to the hilliness and initial design of the neighborhood, Forest Highlands isn't especially walkable. Like other neighborhood leaders, Willihnganz is further concerned about increased density from more liberal housing policies.
"The issue is we've had considerable amounts of density without any kind of built-in infrastructure to provide for safe walking areas," he said, adding: "I think it's (the pathway) a natural connectivity for students to get to the grade school, Forest Hills. There's also a lot of (other) pedestrians and people will take advantage of that as well," he said.
The potential new pathway along Boca Raton Drive from Bonniebrae Drive to Atwater Road would be part of a broader imperative in the community to add enhanced pedestrian infrastructure. He said the neighborhood has worked with the city on a few other projects recently and that development has also led to improved infrastructure.
Regarding the Lanewood Street/Douglas Circle Pathway — from Boones Ferry Road to Twin Fir Road — Waluga Neighborhood Association President Cheryl Uchida said that she didn't have much issue walking on the street in the neighborhood, but that parents of school children may feel differently. And unlike Hallinan, she said her neighborhood is frustrated with cars parking along the street where the pathway could go, adding that property owners who live along the proposed path are worried about the impacts to storm drainage. She said a key concern is additional density leading to parking and traffic issues.
"We're always asking (the city) about traffic studies and parking," she said.
Dan Anderson, the head of the Lake Grove Neighborhood Association, said his area was supportive of new paths along Douglas Way from Quarry Road to Boones Ferry Road due in large part to the added safety for kids walking to and from school.
"There are school children and (we) would rather them walk on the path than on the street. A lot of parents drive them to school because there is no path," he said.
The city emphasized during the meeting with Hallinan that one option the council could consider is to scrap the project, or any of the four projects, entirely. However, they couldn't at this point add a new project to the docket, Broadus said.
While the listening sessions have concluded, the city is planning to release a survey to garner more feedback, and the transportation board and council will soon consider whether or not to enter the design phase for the projects. Specifics like whether or not a pathway will have asphalt or concrete have not yet been finalized. The survey will be available at: https://www.ci.oswego.or.us/engineering/2022-pathways-program.
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