Attendees: Tom Burnham, Eric Heesacker (Chair), Steve Ryan, Julia Sommer,
Brent Thompson, Corinne Viéville, David Young
Absent: Colin Swales, Matt Warshawsky
Ex Officio Members: David Chapman, Brandon Goldman, Steve MacLennan, David Wolske
Staff Present: Mike Faught, Steve MacLennan, Jim Olson, Nancy Slocum
I. CALL TO ORDER: 6:06 PM by Chair Eric Heesacker. Commission welcomed Corinne Vieville and commented on her extensive resume.
II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes of November 18, 2010 approved as clarified.
III. PUBLIC FORUM:
No one spoke.
IV. ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA:
Jim Olson added an “Update on On-street Bicycle Parking” and Young added “City Council Comments Regarding the Balance of the Commission” to the agenda under “Non Action Items.”
Commissioner Ryan and Sommer volunteered to serve on the Commission’s Subcommittee. Commissioner Young also volunteered with Thompson as his backup.
Olson furnished the staff report. This action was the result of a petition received in November asking the City to facilitate the construction of a pedestrian crossing over the Union Pacific railroad tracks and property north of Second Street. He explained that in order to approve the request, Union Pacific would need to grant an easement across the tracks then easements must also be granted by private property owners adjacent to the railroad right of way. ODOT Rail Division, the state agency who controls rail crossings, would then have to grant a permit for the rail crossing. The preferred location would thus have to be carefully studied. Although a Second Street crossing is convenient with current land uses, Staff stated that Fourth Street as actually the central location according to long term build out projections. Olson explained the three types of crossings: at-grade, below-grade or above-grade. (Below and above-grade crossings require a maximum 5% slope.) Staff recommended addressing the request through the TSP update process to determine need. Olson said it was illegal for pedestrians to cross tracks without an easement.
Young noted there was a railroad-owned superfund site near the Fourth Street crossing.
Commission discussed the need for several railroad crossings; whether rail service would ever be restored; whether private property owners should be approached now; and whether the Commission should lobby for changes in state law.
Mark Valens, 247 Third Street, wanted to promote walking and supported this request as well as additional at-grade crossings. His wife owned a business at 300 Hersey and he favored the use of condemnation to gain access to the railroad tracks.
Ted Sundin, 149 Clear Creek Drive, Suite 102, crossed the tracks to access the Coop and hardware store. He thought Union Pacific would have less liability if access was granted. He favored making crossing the tracks as easy as possible.
Karen McClintock, 149 Clear Creek Drive, Suite 101, witnessed 20 people per day crossing the racks and had personally been offered drugs. She suggested looking at an aerial view of the area for existing “nonofficial” pedestrian paths. Crossing at Second Street avoided the contaminated site. McClintock wanted the railroad to move their rail cars.
Janet Rueger, 149 Clear Creek, Suite 105, thought Second Street was a better crossing than Fourth Street as most people desired access to the Coop, hardware store and coffee shop. She thought people on Hersey Street also favored an at-grade Second Street crossing. She spoke to property owner John Fields who favored granting an easement. Rueger also favored walking more and noted the benefits to disabled people.
Steve Miner, Darex, 210 East Hersey Street, submitted an email in favor of moving the rail cars and constructing a pedestrian crossing.
Sommer suggested the City Attorney call Union Pacific and warn them against potential liability. She thought people crossing the tracks, climbing through parked rail cars could cause accidents. She sympathized with petitioner’s frustration waiting for an official crossing and suggested they consider “taking matters in their own hands.” Officer Steve MacLennan reminded petitioners and Commissioners of the state statute against trespassing on railroad property. The fine is up to $6,200 or one year in jail.
Thompson moved to recommend that Council approve up to six at-grade crossings in the City with crossings in the railroad district receiving priority. Ryan seconded the motion.
Young agreed that there was an immediate need for one rail crossing
Faught reminded the Commission that Staff also wants rail crossings, but the process could not be hurried. The final TSP will look at the global issue of rail crossings. A different crossing location (e.g. Second Street) would require an expensive study even for a pedestrian- only crossing. He believed the motion, as stated, would not hasten an approval. The next joint Planning Commission / Transportation Commission meeting on January 20, 2011 will discuss Chapter 7 which included rail crossings.
Olson added that Union Pacific did not want people to cross the tracks. As a body, they could not be condemned. The last railroad right of way easement cost $100,000. Additionally, Chapman and the City Council have a goal to help reestablish rail service. Commission already has direction from the Council.
Thompson amended motion to include only one crossing. Motion failed for lack of a second.
Commission agreed that a dialog with Union Pacific should begin. Faught reminded Commission that in order to apply for grants, a project must first be listed in an adopted city, regional or state document such as the TSP.
Janet Rueger, 149 Clear Creek, Suite 105, spoke to City Administrator Martha Bennett who said money may be available through a non-profit organization whose mission was to encourage stakeholders to work together. Rueger thought the City should investigate what the City of Phoenix did to recently get their pedestrian rail crossing approved.
Young wanted Commission to choose a site now and fast track the issue.
Ryan wanted to know long term viability of the railroad and asked if doing another study on a potential crossing site would end up “double paying” consultants if a study was already done in the current TSP. Faught said we were not double paying and estimated roughly an addition $50,000 for a new study at a new site.
Chapman thought that since the current TSP named a crossing at Fourth Street, Staff should move ahead with a pedestrian-only crossing at that site.
Sommer thought Commission should ask staff to research what was done in Phoenix and to approach Union Pacific about the possibility of a pedestrian-only crossing at Second Street. Ryan added a request that Staff send letters of inquiry to property owners on both sides of Second Street (to keep the option for a Second Street crossing open) regarding possibility of granting a future easement.
Thompson withdrew his motion.
Russ Silbiger requested improvement of the crosswalk by installing a median. Olson reported this section of boulevard had four lanes including a center maneuvering lane. The center lane was used for storage of traffic turning left onto Frances Lane or into the Market of Choice. To construct a refuge island would eliminate the left turn onto Frances. If the crosswalk were to be relocated to the west side of Frances Lane, the left turn into the Market of Choice would be eliminated. Because of the elimination of left turn movements, Staff recommended against a refuge island. In addition, no vision problems have been reported at this site.
Brandon Goldman, City Planner, reminded the Commission that this crosswalk was part of one of the Pedestrian Places that could be reviewed by the TSP Update consultants.
Olson called attention to Warshawsky’s submitted comments (email dated 12/10/10) regarding absent sidewalk connections in this area. Olson reported that those connections will be completed as part of the current Miscellaneous Concrete Project.
Heesacker suggested something inexpensive such as rumble strips or additional signage to improve safety at this crosswalk.
Thompson moved to accept Staff’s recommendation and take no action. Burnham seconded the motion.
Sommer thought drivers had difficulty seeing the crosswalk. Burnham and Young agreed. Young thought this site acted as a midblock crosswalk and also recommended rumble strips.
Motion passed four votes to three.
Burnham moved to use the Commission’s budget to apply for APBP membership. Sommer seconded the motion and it passed six votes to one.
E. Review of City Council Goals
Young moved to forward the suggestion that City Council add the following goal: “Advocate for the long term viability of an at-grade pedestrian railroad crossing at Fourth Street as consistent with the current TSP.” Thompson seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Ryan noted that Transportation in general affects nearly all of Council Goals including the “Economy” goal of expanding tourism. He takes these goals as directions for the Commission.
VI. NON ACTION ITEMS
Heesacker left the meeting at 8:00.
1. Media Contact – Faught explained the protocol for media requests. The Chair is customarily invited as the representative of the Commission. The time between the request and the actual interview is very short. He noted that every media spot is reported to the City Administrator who in turn reports it to the City Council.
Young said he was frustrated with what happened with the Jefferson Exchange interview. He thought Staff should have sent an email message that informed them ahead of the interview.
2. White Papers – Faught reported that Staff had just edited the consultants’ White Papers on various concepts presented in Chapter 7 of the TSP. They will be available for Commission review ahead of the January 20th meeting.
Faught was encouraged to see the recent email (dated 12/15/10) from Melissa Schweiguth. He would like all the Commissioners and Staff to engage her and other citizens to participate in the TSP update process. Ryan encouraged everyone to subscribe to online TSP comments via www.ashlandtsp.com.
Goldman reported that the last Pedestrian Places workshop will be held on February 22, 2011 at Ashland Middle School at 7:00 pm.
Burnham was concerned the Transportation Commission was never involved in the location selection process. Goldman reminded the Commission that in September 2007, the Planning Department hosted a workshop on arterial streets. In that workshop three “nodes” were identified. The then Traffic Safety and Bike and Pedestrian Commissions were involved in the selection process that was then ratified by the City Council.
Olson referred the Commission to the memo in their packet. He said many of the City’s transportation projects were funded through grants and provided a summary of current and upcoming grant projects.
Young had read comments in the Daily Tidings contributed to Councilor Kate Jackson regarding the anti-auto bias on the Commission, specifically in reference to Commissioner Vieville. He noted that Councilor Jackson had never been to a Commission meeting. He thought there was a “theme” developing. He would like the Commission to approach the Council or write a letter. Vieville thought it offensive for one to assume that because someone does not drive, they are anti-auto.
Burnham thought it appropriate to speak to the Mayor as he appoints all Commissioners. Thompson thought this a minor issue and no action was warranted. Sommer wondered if the recently elected Councilors would support the multimodal mandate of the Commission.
Thompson left the meeting at 8:10 pm.
Young was also concerned about the tone of an email in the packet from Councilor Silbiger to Heesacker.
Acting Chair Ryan suggested putting the issue on a future agenda. He also suggested putting the most recent ordinance governing the Commission in that meeting’s packet.
Faught was pleased to report that the owner of the Outdoor Store on Third Street agreed to trade one 15 minute parking space for an on-street bicycle parking corral.
VII. INFORMATIONAL ITEMS & COMMISSIONER COMMENTS
Young wanted an update on the restriping of the Plaza area. Olson reported that the concrete portion of the project was part of the current Miscellaneous Concrete Project.
VIII. ADJOURN: 8:16 PM
Nancy Slocum, Accounting Clerk I