City Announces Plans to Convert High Street to a Bike Highway
In connection with today’s SRTS grant announcement the City of Eugene has announced plans to convert High Street, from East 19th Avenue to 2nd Avenue into an active transportation ‘highway’ called the “Burley Active Corridor”. As part of the cities repaving and pothole program the City of Eugene Public Works Department has announced plans to turn the two lane northbound road into a non-motorized corridor connecting the Amazon Creek Path to the Ruth Bascom River Path.
Aaron Stones, the City of Eugene Public Affairs Manager, stated in a press release today that “converting this public space into a multi-use, non-motorized throughway meets many of the goals of the City including sustainability, livability, and economic vitality.” Final design elements are still being worked out within the City of Eugene Public Works department but Ron Thompson the Cities Traffic Engineer states that every effort will be made to create a facility that the whole community will feel comfortable using, including families with kids. Thompson said that the city “realizes that people make decisions on how they travel based on how easy and comfortable we make certain transportation modes. In the past the city has made driving very easy but we haven’t done a very good job of building infrastructure that makes walking or biking as easy of a choice. This new corridor will help change that. The City is changing how we prioritize transportation modes and we’re working to create more comfortable spaces and giving more choices for people wanting to walk or bike.”
When asked about concerns with limiting northbound access for drivers of motorized vehicles Bert Storey, Public Works Director stated that based on average daily traffic for northbound motorists the parallel roads of Hilyard, Oak, and Willamette would be able to meet current demand. “Our studies show that not only do we already have the capacity for motorists but that we lack the capacity for other modes” Storey stated.
Work is under way with the Oregon Department of Transportation to mediate any impact the corridor may have on the crossings at 6th and 7th Ave. (Hwy 126/99) but Rita Tigard, ODOT’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Program Manager said that the project was in line with new DOT policies. The US Department of Transportation released a policy last week in which Ray LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation states that DOT’s will “consider walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes” and Tigard says that ODOT is “excited to see the City of Eugene again take the lead as an innovative and progressive city for cyclists and pedestrians in our state” and that ODOT “will work closely with the City to make sure all users needs are met, including the thousands of Eugene citizens who can’t or don’t want to drive a motor vehicle.”
Lu Shu Moku, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at the City of Eugene states that “this project will help reverse our trend of low activity, high obesity, and unhealthy choices by providing families with safer and more comfortable routes to get around our community.” Local businesses, health care providers, environmental organizations, community groups, local bike advocacy clubs and neighborhood associations have rallied around the plans calling them a hallmark of the sustainable, healthy, and livable city that we all want to see in the Southern Willamette Valley. “We have a health epidemic with childhood obesity, a reliance on foreign oil, and an environment highly impacted by our transportation system, we need to make major changes like this” stated Moku, who also serves on the board of the Lane Coalition for Healthy and Active Youth (LCHAY).
The planned ‘Bikeway’ will pass by City Hall and Mayor Poni Keesey says it’s a great symbol of Eugene’s commitment to sustainability. “We all want to live in a place where we can get out into our community and interact with our neighbors, it’s why many of us choose to live here. Creating more space for a transportation mode that helps us in that connection will increase Eugene’s reputation as a place to be active, healthy, sustainable, and just plain groovy” states Keesey.
The corridor will not only link the two multi-use paths but it will also connect South Eugene High School and the Campbell Community Center, bridging the generations. The Eugene School District 4J is also in talks with the City of Eugene and the Center for Appropriate Transport (CAT) to open a new neighborhood school aimed to address the projected increase in families in the area because of new compact, walkable and bikable development happening in the downtown core.
But not all Eugenians are happy. A group has expressed concerns over the $2,500 cost of changing the street signs on High Street to the new “Burley Active Corridor” in honor of the Eugene business that helped kick off Eugene’s bike based business focus in the 1980’s. Also, one neighbor from the Uptown Neighborhood Association has expressed concerns about the project and is appealing the decision. The City Council is considering stopping the project and allowing UNA to design the roadway it would like to see. Paul Lesser, a local advocate and business owner says he will fight the appeal.
Plans are moving forward quickly for the project. Jacob Moth, Associate Transportation Planner for the City of Eugene says the project is a pretty straight foward repaving and striping project. “We’ll need to change some signal timing to match cyclists speeds so they can get the “green wave” if they keep a steady pace but beyond that it’s a pretty simple repainting of the lines, closing off turns for motorized vehicles, and creating a smooth surface for skaters, bikers, and walkers. We’re also excited about the reclaiming of paved surfaces we’re doing with this project. We’ll be able to actually save some money as we aren’t paving the whole area and will create a soft running path so runners will be able to run from the Amazon area to the river, which is fitting for Track Town USA.”