City transportation plan gets updates

Lebanon City Council members on Dec. 12 approved updates to the the city’s transportation system plan and a list of transportation projects necessary to handle growth in the population and business sector.

The city began updating its plan in 2016. 

“The last one was updated back in 2007,” said Reah Fisakowski, project manager with the consulting firm DKS Associates, which led the creation of the plan. 

“That doesn’t really sound like a long time ago, but it was 12 years ago. A lot’s changed since then. You’ve had quite a bit of growth. You know, campuses are really growing. There’s a lot of new neighborhoods that have been added in the last 11 years, and your downtown’s really becoming more revitalized since then as well. 

“I’ve seen a lot of changes the last three years while I’ve been working on this plan.”

“The TSP looks at a multi-modal system, which is a fancy way of saying not everyone just drives a car, but people walk, bicycle and now we have transit,” said Community Development Director Walt Wendolowski. “There’s different ways of getting around the city. We’re looking at how this will impact this community for the next 20 years.”

Among the highlights, Wendolowski said, Lebanon is expected to grow to a population of 28,000 by 2040, up from about 17,000. 

“That’s a lot of folks, but also we are expecting to have one job per household, roughly, so that means instead of people maybe working elsewhere, they’re going to be working around town,” Wendolowski said. “We see that as an advantage. As expected, there’s going to be issues with transportation. If we don’t do anything, there’s going to be crowded intersections, a lot of people will not be able to walk to various destinations. Bicycle safety will certainly decline. Generally things will get worse.”

According to the plan, traffic congestion will exceed capacity at nine intersections, which are located on state highways.

The plan identifies 175 different projects to address traffic, infrastructure and safety concerns, Wendolowski said. “The downside of this is that to do all the projects in current dollars would require about $232 million.”

Through 2040, he said, the city will have approximately $44 million in revenue – some $27 million in city revenue, $9 million from Linn County and $8.5 million from the Oregon Department of Transportation. 

The projects remain in the TSP, recognizing that “you never know where money could come from,” Wendolowski said. “If you don’t have it in your plan, you can’t apply for it (grants).”

A proposal for a four-lane west-side bypass was eliminated from the plan, Wendolowski said. Estimates are $60 million to $70 million, and that doesn’t include wetlands mitigation costs. 

“We didn’t see that as being very wise use of public funds, so instead we looked at a series of connecting collectors on the west side that will get people around the west side of the city if they wish to. We also have a very nice downtown that’s grown, and it’d be really nice to make sure people look at that on the way to the mountains. Just think of Sisters, for example.”

Design constraints and traffic flows prevent changes to truck routes, he said. 

The plan describes numerous current issues. Among them, gaps in the sidewalk system are more common in the southwest and southeast and on roadway segments outside the city limits. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic is most common in the northeast and southwest. 

Public comments indicated sidewalk improvements are needed along streets with heavy pedestrian traffic, including Highway 34 and Airport Road; safety features are needed at rail crossings; crossings need to be improved at offset intersections, such as Main and Grant streets; areas near schools need better sidewalk connectivity; bike connections to schools are needed; narrower and slower roads are desired to increase safety and encourage more trips by bicycle; and a desire for bus service to be extended west of Highway 20. 

For drivers, more than 60 percent of workers in Lebanon live in another city more than 10 miles away, creating long commutes and encouraging travel by motor vehicle. Traffic volumes peak between 4:35 and 5:35 p.m. 

Lebanon experiences an average of 159 crashes per year. Most are minor, with some 84 percent involving only property damage or minor injuries.

Public comments indicated congestion issues at the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 20 backs up traffic to Main Road from the Highway 20 intersection with Walker Road. 

Twelfth Street is used as a bypass route for Denny School Road and Highway 34, while Walnut and Ash streets are used to avoid traffic signals along Grant Street. Improvements are needed at the Crowfoot, Central Avenue and Cascade Drive intersection. 

Five bridges are flagged as structurally deficient, with poor or serious substructure conditions. They are: on Wheeler Street at the Lebanon-Santiam Canal; Stoltz Hill Road at Oak Creek, 5th Street at Oak Creek, Rock Hill Drive at Oak Creek; and River Drive at Lebanon-Santiam Canal.

The plan identifies numerous projects that can be completed with the funding the city expects to be available. Others are highly supported, but there isn’t enough money. A third group of projects are unlikely to have city or state funding by 2040. 

Among projects in the first group are traffic calming projects; a bike parking program; pedestrian improvements on Vaughan Lane and Cascade Drive, numerous bicycle and walking paths and improvements; transit stops; the realignment of Dewey Street to Walker Road at Highway 20; improvements to reduce congestion at intersections, including Highway 20 and Reeves Parkway, Highway 20 and Highway 34 and Highway 34 and 5th Street, Oak Street and 12th Street, Airport Road and 12th Street.

Present at the meeting and voting unanimously to approve the TSP were councilors Wayne Rieskamp, Rebecca Grizzle, Jason Bolen, Bob Elliott, Robert Furlow and Floyd Fisher. 

Mayor Paul Aziz was absent. 

In other business, the council:

  •  Selected a winning name, LINX – Lebanon Inter-Neighborhood eXpress, for Lebanon’s transit system. 

The city held a contest that produced 152 name proposals, said City Manager Gary Marks, Elliott, Transportation Program Director Kindra Oliver and Marks met on Dec. 11 to reduce the list of ideas to three final options for the council to consider. 

The city has had a long-standing dial-a-bus service, Marks said. The addition of a new fixed route suggested a new more expansive name was in order.

The contest to name the system was created as a fun way to involve citizens, Marks said. Winner Larry Weymouth will receive an iPad and a one-year bus pass. 

The other two options for the name were COLTS (City of Lebanon Transit System), and LIFTS, Lebanon Inter-community Fast Transit System. 

“It’s got to be LINX,” Bolen said. The system is “linking neighborhoods.”

LIFTS reminded Grizzle of Lyft, and Marks said the mayor thought COLTS sounded like a football team, which it is. 

The council agreed unanimously to LINX. 

  • Presented plaques to outgoing councilors Elliott, who has served for 16 years, and Fisher, who has served for 24 years. 

Elliott, who represents Ward 3, did not seek re-election to his council seat. He ran for mayor in November but did not win. He is succeeded by Michelle Steinhebel. 

Fisher represents Ward 2 and did not run for office in November. He is succeeded by Karin Stauder.

  • Approved a contract with Tyler Technologies for $102,350 to update the Police Department’s computer system. 
  • Approved a request by Marks to seek proposals to develop a public facilities master plan for City Hall and the existing Water Treatment Plant, located at the intersection of 2nd and A streets. 

The treatment plant property is included in the request because the city will need to find an appropriate use for the property once the new treatment plant on River Road becomes operational. 

Marks said that three studies have shown structural deficiencies relating to wind and seismic activity in the City Hall building. The last study recommended evacuating the building when wind speeds reach 45 mph. 

City Hall was built in 1928 with additions made over the years. 

Marks said that current operations and staff have filled all usable space in City Hall, noting the steady growth in Lebanon during the past 10 years.