Attendees: Tom Burnham, Eric Heesacker (Chair), Steve Ryan, Julia Sommer, David Young
Absent: Colin Swales, Brent Thompson, Corinne Vieville
Ex Officio Members: David Chapman, Chief Karns
Staff Present: Mike Faught, Jim Olson, Nancy Slocum
I. CALL TO ORDER: 6:03 PM by Chair Eric Heesacker.
II. PUBLIC FORUM: No one spoke.
Faught offered a presentation to the public that included an explanation of the TSP update that included the use of road diets to develop a transportation system that is inviting to pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. Road diets reallocate existing public right of way to better serve all users while continuing to adequately accommodate vehicle traffic. The proposal would reduce the four lane undivided North Main Street (Highway 99) to a two lane roadway with a center left hand turn lane and bike lanes from Helman street north to the railroad tracks. The advantages include the addition of bicycle lanes, increased pedestrian safety and a reduction in crash rates.
Faught used a case study in Clearwater Florida as an example of a successful road diet with a similar number of average daily trips (approximately 17,500 ADT). The public questioned the relevancy of this case study as North Main was the only main highway through Ashland, held all the truck traffic, contained both commercial and residential properties and had no parking on either side of street.
He explained the required restriping would be weather dependent. Staff and ODOT were hoping to begin mid June so the test could run through the summer and, if not successful, could be reconfigured back before the rainy season began. The cost was estimated at $100,000 for the restriping project, $20,000 for engineering and then $35,000 to return it if necessary. If the project was made permanent, another $150,000 to 200,000 could be allocated for permanent medians, adjusting curb lines, widening sidewalks and landscaping. Olson distributed a packet of testimony received by Staff via telephone and email: eleven registered opposition, three were in favor of the project and five were neutral.
Questions included what evaluation method would be used to determine if the pilot program was successful. Faught noted the lack of vehicles backing up, a reduction in crashes, and increase in bike and pedestrian traffic and a decrease in average daily trips.
Lorraine Peterson, 451 North Main, owned a traveler’s accommodation, was against the proposed project. She said in 2009 North Main Street had 18,900 ADT, research showed an ADT of more than 15,000 had less certain sucess. The Frequent Asked Questions handout said that a study of the next 25 years showed the road diet would continue to work, but she believed Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University would continue to grow. The only alternative routes for vehicles were through residential areas.
Marc Valens, 247 Third Street, favored bicycle safety, but thought narrowing North Main would cause additional problems. He favored a left hand turn lane at Van Ness. He envisioned long lines of cars waiting to turn left. He urged Commission to “get it right the first time.”
Dick Thornton, 490 Thornton Way, voiced opposition. The long time Ashland resident thought traffic would backup especially behind RVTD buses. He reminded Commission that North Main was an evacuation route in the event of a wildfire.
Glenn Lozkie, 467 Scenic, was a new resident and bicyclist who would not ride on North Main. He thought the project would slow traffic too much, but favored crosswalks. He was concerned about lack of evaluation criteria and said proposal was a “solution looking for a problem.”
Peter Cipes, 317 North Main, lived off an alley and concerned about the potential increase in vehicles on High and Manzanita. He wondered if the impact to neighborhood streets had been studied. He said bicyclists had alternative routes and suggested a traffic signal at Wimer.
Bert Anderson, 612 Chestnut, thought project reduced travel efficiency. He did his own research finding it took him 20 minutes to travel the four miles to the YMCA. He was also concerned about not being able to make the left turn at Van Ness. He thought less time on the road equaled less pollution. In three weeks of informal study he saw zero bicycles on North Main.
Gary Axon, 370 Skycrest Drive, was a 40 year resident. He thought the name “road diet” hid the truth about the project as it went from four to two lanes. He noted that of the total accidents recorded on North Main, 25% were at controlled intersections. He said the current ODOT construction exemplified future problems.
Vicki Capp, 59 Manzanita, was 29 year resident who thought removing the left hand turn at Wimer would force residents down Manzanita, increase speeds on that street and would increase problems at the former Briscoe School. She noted it took approximately three minutes to currently make a left onto North Main and was concerned it would take longer if project was approved.
John Burns, 835 Fox Street, said that they only had one egress from his neighborhood. He was in favor of the experiment, but project should end at Schofield instead of railroad tracks.
Rick Landt, 468 Helman, was not convinced of the project benefits. He was an avid bicyclist who did not currently ride North Main and thought the existing fog line was confusing to bicyclists. He appreciated the City’s multimodal attempts. He would like to see a more relevant case study.
Sue Kurth, 415 Walnut Street, was a five year resident and against the proposal. She would like to see a better case study and statistics. Thought the Wimer intersection would be a “nightmare.”
Candace Cave, 348 N Main Street at Hersey Street, was in favor of reducing traffic speeds in front of her traveler’s accommodation. She was in favor of bike lanes and was anxious to see a redesign of the North Main Street / Wimer / Hersey Street intersection.
Craig Anderson, 575 Elizabeth, was a former transportation planner and bicycle coordinator in San Luis Obispo California. He heard similar concerns about a similar project on the former Highway 101 where a higher street capacity was also a concern. He noted that surprisingly most benefits turned out to be for the vehicular traffic.
Kelly Madding, 545 Fordyce Street, was excited to see Ashland try an experiment. She commuted by bicycle and favored bike lanes. She thought three months was not enough time to address any minor concerns that may come up or see a decrease in accident rate.
Marjorie Carson, 455 B Street, favored project and appreciated current testimony. She would like to see a longer pilot program. She noted that necessary change was expensive. She had to give up driving and now walked and used transit. She favored multimodal improvements.
Bill Heimann. 647 Siskiyou Boulevard, was an international cycling instructor and coach formally from Phoenix Arizona where they also did several road diets. They heard same concerns, but found increased benefits, decreased congestion, increased traffic counts. He thought this was an opportunity to lead the state in multimodal enhancements.
Kathryn Smith, 770 Faith Street, was a bicycle instructor since 2004. She thought current fog lines confusing and that sharing the road or using sidewalks were dangerous. She favored pilot project.
Larry Newberry, 886 Blackberry Lane, commuted via North Main. He disliked the name road diet and thought it an expensive change that would benefit 17 bicyclists versus 17,000 vehicles. He rode his bicycle on the bike path.
Harry Singmaster, Hank’s Foreign Auto 154 North Main Street, was born in Ashland. He thought increased police enforcement would slow traffic that was currently too fast. He thought the project would increase emissions and increase problems.
Dermot O’Brien, 438 North Main Street, lived near the Wimer intersection. He observed only four to five bicyclists Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. He was against the project.
Jenna Stanke, 599 Wilson Road, favored the project noting that one could not “build their way out of congestion.” She noted no merit in a currently low bicycle count as conditions were dangerous. She said the proposal would give space to everyone. A Portland road diet resulted in a 12% increase in bicycle traffic. She encouraged Ashland to move ahead with the pilot program.
Alan DeBoer, 2260 Morada, emphasized the expense of the project. He thought accidents and vehicle counts would increase as the left turns decreased. He encouraged bicyclists to legally “take the lane.” If project was approved it should begin in the fall so local residents could become accustomed to it before the increase in summer traffic. He wondered about the effect on the asphalt’s integrity of grinding the striping. Faught noted that water pressure would be used to remove striping.
Heesacker and Faught thanked the public for testifying and promised to send out a notice of future meetings on the topic to all who testified.
Money for the project would in part come from Oregon Department of Transportation and not be divered from a city project.
Sommer was in favor of the project; however, thought the project should perhaps end before Ashland Mine Road; that the pilot continue longer than three months and that Staff investigate other road diets for comparison. She noted the reason there were so few bicyclists was because the current configuration was dangerous.
Ryan was non committal.
Young agreed with all testimony and, although he thought road rage may increase and having some wide roads were beneficial, he read and agreed with research. He noted danger in crossing North Main by foot and the difficult in turning off North Main onto Wimer or Hersey. He thought local traffic would learn to use alternative routes. He favors project for a longer experimental time.
Heesacker reminded the Commission that the decision would be only a recommendation to the City Council.
Ryan recommended that the road diet project be forwarded to the City Council for approval without dely. Burnham and Young thought some issues should be addressed before it moved forward. Some Commissioner’s did not want to lose the window of opportunity.
Motion and Vote
Ryan moved to table to issue until the next meeting to allow Staff time to address concerns and to make recommendation to the Commission. Young seconded the motion and it passed four votes to zero with one abstention. Consensus of the Commission was to refine the design before moving ahead with the proposal even if it delayed the beginning of the pilot program.
VII. COMMISSIONER COMMENTS
VIII. ADJOURN: 8:10 PM
Nancy Slocum, Accounting Clerk I