City hosts meeting to get feedback on improvements to streetscapes, intersections leading to waterfront

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Consultant Matt Bell, center, speaks with Peter Luciano, a St. Helens resident, and Scot Stockwell, the St. Helens School District superintendent, while glancing over a map of St. Helens that highlights streets being studied. Bell, who works for Kittelson and Associates, will be assisting with the traffic engineering aspect of the planning study. Nearly 40 people packed into the St. Helens City Council chambers Tuesday night, Jan. 16, to discuss improvements to key intersections that connect to the city's waterfront.

Tuesday's meeting was the first of several opportunities for the public to provide input on identified intersections in St. Helens that should be improved to provide better traffic flow to the city's waterfront property, a former industrial site pegged for redevelop-


The city was awarded $208,550 from the Oregon Department of Transportation in 2016 to study its intersections and develop a corridor plan that accounts for development and growth along the waterfront.

A committee tasked with overseeing the project held its first meeting in October.

Matt Hastie, a consultant with Portland-based Angelo Planning Group, spoke about areas that will be the focus of a two-year planning study of roadways that could connect motorists to the city's waterfront. Consultants from Kittelson and Associates, a transportation engineering and planning firm and Green Works, a landscape architecture firm, are also involved in the project.

During the presentation, some people cited concerns about the lack of sidewalks and crosswalks on sections of Gable Road, while others cited concerns about heavy traffic congestion that can be aggravated by train traffic along Highway 30 and Gable Road.

Peter Luciano, who lives near the city's waterfront, was among those interested in seeing how improvements along 1st Street and The Strand would play out and what a new roadway across the city's currently vacant waterfront property would look like. Luciano said he was also appreciative of the public forum as a way to get more information.

"There's a lot of creative and experienced minds working on this, and that's encouraging," Luciano said. "I love to be part of the process and I like that they involve the community. They've opened up a conversation on something that I didn't know existed."

St. Helens resident Brian Vaerewyck was more concerned with the city's focus on improving existing roadways rather than developing new ones. He felt the city should explore establishing new routes through areas where no business currently exists to spur development.

"By increasing access to areas where we don't have access now promotes viability," Vaerewyck said. "If you open up an area, it becomes kind of a playground for people to make their dreams come true, but you can't develop it if you don't have access."

A 2015 study paid for by the city and the Port of St. Helens found it economically challenging to build a roadway that would cut across the southern portion of the Boise Cascade property along Railroad Avenue, city planners explained.

The scope of the current planning study will look at main intersections like Old Portland Road and Plymouth Street, Gable Road and McNulty Way, and connections at Highway 30 at Gable and Millard roads.

The intersections were identified by city staff last year when the City Council approved a scope of work study in September.

While the major areas of focus are on interior roadways in the city, the planning study will also look at connections on Highway 30, including a proposed improvement by ODOT at Millard Road. Construction on those improvements was scheduled to begin in spring 2019, St. Helens City Planner Jacob Graichen said.

Graichen said these discussions are just the first step in the process, and those interested in providing input on what street improvements should look like should stay involved. The first steps are mostly about collecting feedback about problem areas.

"This is the beginning of the process and arguably, unless you're more of an academic or a planning geek, this will be a little bit boring," Graichen quipped during the meeting.

The opportunity to provide input on design and streetscape ideas will come later in the process.

The city has set up a website to provide information about the planning process. More information is available online at

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