City proposes changes for Willamette Falls Drive
Community members gathered in the council chambers of West Linn City Hall Aug. 8 to learn about proposed changes to Willamette Falls Drive and to share their input with City staff.
Primarily, the project — which focuses on Willamette Falls Drive from Fields Bridge Park to 16th street and 10th street to Highway 43 (the City also is working on a main street project for the historic business neighborhood the street runs through) — is meant to improve safety for bikers and pedestrians along this corridor.
The biggest proposals in the project are bike lanes and pedestrian paths stretching from Fields Bridge Park to Highway 43.
Assistant City Engineer Erich Lais said some citizens were concerned that this project didn't put enough emphasis on vehicle traffic and questioned why these changes were necessary when not many people walk or bike along this road in these areas.
"They're saying, 'There's no bike riders there now,' but we are saying 'There could be if they had the facilities to use it and feel comfortable,'" Lais said.
One open house attendee wrote about their concerns of traffic in the area in their feedback to the City: "The biggest, most distressing element not addressed is not focusing on the traffic issue. We are already at a critical point. We are held captive in our homes on a daily basis from at least 3- 6pm. Bumper to bumper traffic with excessive noise and emission."
Lais said staff hopes an ODOT I-205 project will get funding for additional lanes and alleviate some of the traffic that's been coming through Willamette Falls Drive to bypass the freeway congestion, because realistically the City has no control over the vehicles avoiding the freeway.
In the design plans, two bike lanes and two pedestrian paths, one on each side of the street, are proposed for the portion of Willamette Falls Drive from Fields Bridge to 16th street. Bike lanes, where bikers would flow in the same direction as car traffic, would be separated from the street by 5 feet of a grass median. A small curb would separate the bike paths from pedestrian paths in this corridor. The plans place the walking paths furthest from car traffic on the street.
Lias said community members at the open house brought up one issue that staff had not foreseen for this portion of the project, parking for baseball games at Fields Bridge Park.
"Having parked there at Fields Bridge for a baseball game this last baseball season, for my own son's game, I got the experience that parking is a premium down there," Lais said. "People use that shoulder and we would be taking away some parking and we're going to need to pull the parks department in to figure out 'How do we work in the parking lot there at the park?"
In their feedback to the City, one open house attendee questioned why it was necessary to have bike and pedestrian lanes on both sides of the street for this portion of the project.
According Lais, having bike and pedestrian lanes on both sides of the street is preferred because it makes travel easier for both cyclists and pedestrians. He said that the City would prefer to have bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the street for the other sections of the project as well, but there simply isn't room.
Between 6th and 10th streets, a multi-use bike and pedestrian path will sit a few feet below road level on the south side of the road. Lais said there will likely be a crosswalk and stop signs at 6th Street.
Between 6th Street and Sunset Avenue, a multi-use path will run along Willamette Falls Drive on the north side of the street. For parts of this stretch, a guard rail will separate pedestrians and bikers from the steep hillside beyond the path and 5 feet of grass will provide a buffer between them and cars on the street.
From Sunset Avenue to Highway 43, raised sidewalks will run along both sides of the street, but on the north side, bike paths and 5 feet of grass will separate pedestrians on the sidewalk from traffic in the street. Next to the north sidewalk, two bike paths will run in each direction.
Despite some criticisms, Lais said that overall, people at the open house seemed to favor the idea of bike and pedestrian paths improving safety along Willamette Falls Drive.
Because this project is currently unfunded, Lais said there is no date yet for when it might be completed.
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