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Construction of the Willamette Falls Drive streetscape project will begin next year

COURTESY RENDERING  - The streetscape project will will increase the number of parking spaces along the street, create new pathways for cyclists and increase sidewalk space in front of businesses.A City of West Linn General Obligation (GO) Bond project to redesign Willamette Falls Drive in the historic business district has some locals feeling uneasy.

The project, which will increase the number of parking spaces along the street, create new pathways for cyclists and increase sidewalk space in front of businesses, is currently scheduled to start at the beginning of next year. The West Linn City Council will consider approving a construction contract at its meeting Dec. 9.

Much of the worry around the project is over how the reconstruction of the street will affect businesses in the area.

According to West Linn City Engineer Lance Calvert, the City is well aware of potential impact to businesses and plans to ensure access to each business is as easy as possible throughout the construction process.

City staff has said no businesses will have to close during construction.

The biggest concern heard from business owners in the area was insufficient communication. A project timeline from the City mentions at least three times that staff met with business owners to talk about the project.

Jaclyn Pool, the owner of Tousled Salon, said that many of the salon's clients who live in the area are unsure of what exactly is happening, "but change has to happen."

Just down the block, Sierra Lobina, the owner of Renew Juice Co., has similar feelings about the project.

Lobina said she appreciated the neighbors who talked to her early on in the project planning process to explain what they knew and ask how she felt. She added that the City came later to explain as well.

Overall, Lobina doesn't think the project will have the catastrophic impact some have feared. Lobina also said she's glad the City will complete the project in block-by-block phases.

One of the goals for the project is to allow for more outdoor seating and dining at restaurants along Willamette Falls Drive.

Widened sidewalks will allow for this, in addition to improving safety for pedestrians, City engineering staff said.

The plans propose widening sidewalks from their current width of 6-10 feet to a width of at least 12 feet. The City also hopes to include larger plaza areas at block corners that would allow for more seating and dining room.

The City already has accommodated community concerns on another aspect from the original plans: back-in angle parking.

Back-in angle parking was one of the hottest streetscape topics of the summer.

It was discussed at several City Council meetings, Transportation Advisory Board meetings, community open houses and meetings with the Historic Willamette Main Street Group and area business owners.

The parking design was proposed as a safer alternative to traditional angle parking, which requires drivers to back out into traffic when leaving a parking spot.

Calvert has cited a number of other cities that have implemented back-in angle parking in downtown areas with great success.

For now the City plans to construct the Main Street area allowing for angle parking, but hold off on striping the spots at back-in or head-in angles until the project is closer to completion.

Calvert has said that this will make it easy for the City to change between head-in to back-in.

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