February 23, 2017
CALL TO ORDER
Graf called the meeting to order at 6:02 pm
Commissioners Present: Joe Graf, Danielle Amarotico, Dominic Barth, Sue Newberry Corinne Viéville, and David Young
Council Liaison Absent: Stef Seffinger
SOU Liaison Absent: Janelle Wilson
Staff Present: Scott Fleury, Mike Faught, and Kyndra Irigoyen
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Approval of January 26, 2017 minutes
The minutes were approved as amended.
ADJUSTMENTS TO THE AGENDA
Nevada St Bridge
Anne Sylvester read from the attached Technical Memorandum.
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director, gave an overview of the history of transportation in Ashland and referred to the attached PowerPoint slides. The first comprehensive plan was adopted in 1982. Our transportation chapter identified the need to have a diverse transportation system. Even back then, there was an initial map in 1983 with respect to arterials and collectors, which identified the connection of Mountain to Oak. In the 1990’s land use planning and transportation was done together, focusing on reducing reliance on automobiles and reducing vehicle miles traveled; there was renewed system on grid systems. The new transportation system plan identifies modal equity.
John Karns, City Administrator, formerly the Ashland Fire Chief, spoke from a fire operation standpoint. Medical response time is critical. For this area, we are a little restricted. If we are responding from fire stations it does not make a difference with the bridge, however most of the time fire calls come in while responders are in other areas from a previous call. In 2016 there were over 300 calls to the Mountain Meadows area, 15% were critical calls (cardiovascular, strokes) time of delivery of patient to hospital is critical. Ashland Fire responds to ACH, Rogue Regional, and Providence. In the case of a cardiac event where CPR is in progress, we would go to ACH, which would make a difference in response time if the bridge were there. In case of a major emergency event, people are trying to get out while emergency responders are trying to get in, the more routes the better. Graf asked Karns how many ambulances would use the bridge yearly. Karns said about 100.
Faught presented from the attached PowerPoint. Faught said the grant money needs to be used to build the bridge by 2018. He asked RVCOG if the grant money could be used to build a pedestrian bridge instead of a vehicle bridge, which is what was applied for, and that is uncertain. The project would have to go back RVCOG to be considered and could lose the grant money. Viéville asked what happens if more grants are not received. Faught said if we do not receive grant money we would have a conversation of the local residents paying a share of the cost.
Newberry asked how ADT’s were calculated from peak hour volumes. Sylvester said we have ground counts that were taken by the City for several days, we looked at a correlation of what was counted in the peak hour and what is the whole day. It varies in this area from 9-10%. Newberry asked if the forecast included completion of things like Kestrel Parkway, do they take into consideration the land use plan that is out there and how the traffic would flow if those links are completed by 2038. Sylvester said they take into consideration the comprehensive plan and looking at the elements of what is in the TSP, those are all in the network and are assumed. Newberry said she created some spreadsheets because the maps were a little hard to read. She observed the counts that we are looking at, as far as with and without the bridge, were quite low. Newberry asked if this bridge will significantly decrease traffic in the downtown area. Sylvester said it is a small reduction in the downtown area; it is more noticeable at Hersey and Eagle Mill. Newberry asked how substantial it was at Hersey and Eagle Mill. Sylvester said Hersey is running about 50 with the two directions and Eagle Mill is a bit higher than that.
Ted Hall 210 E Nevada St
Read from attached letter.
Jim Flint 355 Fair Oaks
Read from attached letter.
Susan Sullivan 305 Stoneridge Ave
Read from attached memo.
Marty Breon 295 E Nevada St
She hopes the Commission considers adopting a 12ft pedestrian bridge that accommodates emergency vehicles.
Spike Breon 295 E Nevada St
Nevada is curvy and has an awkward connection to N. Mountain Ave. It does not fit the description of an avenue. All we need is a pedestrian bridge. A 12 ft. wide bridge can be built for under $2 million.
Dennis Kendig 870 Cypress Point Loop
Read from attached letter.
Nancy Driscoll 348 Fair Oaks Ave
Why did the City of Ashland approve and permit a development after 1998 which obstructs its own goals. The street connectivity and design now in place from the recent City approved development is inadequate and obstructive to the 1998 and 2013 TSP priority project. Fair Oaks Ave is the main avenue into this development. If traffic starts to go through and the development gets larger, people will use Kestrel and Fair Oaks; there are some real problems existing already on Fair Oaks Ave. The medium at the bottom, in front of her home, obstructs fire trucks from getting into the alley. People drive the wrong way on the street to get into the alley. Why would you want more cars? There are children on scooters and elderly people who walk their dogs to the dog park. For four years, she rides her bike, walks, or drives her car daily. She observes the elder, children, animals, wildlife, drainage, very carefully through all the seasons and she has decided there should not be a bridge there at all.
Susan Hall 210 E Nevada
Read from attached letter. She heard earlier that the connection across Bear creek was to always be a vehicular bridge, this is not true, the original plan to cross Bear Creek was a pedestrian/bike bridge.
Tom Mar 955 N Mountain Ave
He is disappointed, at the last meeting, the Commission asked the City to present a pedestrian bridge, which was not presented tonight. An auto bridge is counterproductive the goals of the Transportation Commission. More traffic in a family neighborhood is going to be more hazardous. The more cars, the more congestion and frustration, and speed will increase. It will discourage pedestrian travel and bicycle travel. No one wants to be on crowded roads with many vehicles. Construction in a riparian zone that happens to be a major tributary of Bear Creek is not a good idea. This construction will break up the green areas we have there currently and protecting what fish runs are trying to continue to recover. Kestrel Park Way was granted by the City to be in a flood zone. The idea that his bridge will be an alternative to the Mountain Ave bridge, it will not work because it floods in a minor flood. It is not viable. He agrees that the original N Mountain plan had a footbridge and that was changed without due process. This will cost a lot more than just the cost of the bridge. He is against an automobile bridge but is in favor of a pedestrian bridge.
Dave Helmich 468 Williamson Way
He has been asking for about three years to see schematic plans for alternatives. There is an approach fill on each end, which will have an impact on the neighborhood and the wetlands. The price cannot be estimated without a model. When approvals are done in the Planning Commission they demand schematic plans. This is an unusual project for Public Works. He thinks the Transportation Commission should expect the same level of presentation that the Planning Commission does. It will tighten up what the potential conflicts are from neighbor to neighbor and it will better define what the costs will be.
Bryan Fulbright 960 Oak St
Maintaining existing streets should have priority over the bridge. A pedestrian bridge would be acceptable only if it were to be part of the greenway completion and economical. There is a bridge over Ashland Creek just before it connects to Bear Creek on the greenway; does not think it costs anywhere near a million dollars to build. In the last election, the measure to increase by 25% the amount of meals tax to buy land and to remove from tax rolls was labeled as a measure to increase road maintenance funds. We need the streets repaired and maintained and not remove more money from the tax rolls. He thinks this project should be dropped. If you build the bridge anyway, will it be maintained as well as Hersey St is now.
Greg Williams 744 Williams
He takes Admiral Brown’s expertise to the highest degree. We have some real problems in this City. The bridge over Ashland Creek is inadequate. He has written to Faught and the Planning Commission about it. He could spend the million and half fixing that. He was here in ’97, ’74, and ’64 and that bridge completely washed out. Raw sewage was being dumped into the stream; that bridge needs to be fixed. If that washed out, this new bridge will do no good. Now that we have the road diet, people are traveling over that bridge constantly. He encourages the Commission to look at where they are spending the money.
Craig Anderson 575 Elizabeth Ave
He has been a transportation planner for 25 years and worked for Rogue Valley Council Governments for six of those years. He developed the transportation model that has been referred to with ODOT when he was there. He currently works for Jackson County, but is representing himself, not Jackson County. Transportation projects are primarily oriented towards serving future development. This project is coming before you to mainly provide the infrastructure for the N Mountain plan development. It has been justified and funds were allocated by the NPO for a bypass project. This bypass relies on Eagle Mill Road, which is a highly substandard road that will not be improved by the county; it is not in their TSP. It relies on E Nevada, which is a steep street; it is a 19% gradient over a section of it. It is 24ft wide and there is no development proposed on the right side that would pay for the widening of the street. The City recently completed a project on Plaza Ave. Plaza Ave is a one block street, it has eight residents on it, so the only people who use it are the people who live there or who visit. That project was completed for $800,000; that gives you an idea of the lack of thought that has gone into the construction of projects in the City of Ashland in recent years. He worked with Paula Brown who got the Siskiyou Blvd project done for $2.2 million. That project provides transportation for everyone in the City every day. Another issue that is related to this is the Normal Ave plan that was recently approved. Normal Ave for 20 years plus, was planned as a through connection from Ashland St to E Main. The City had owned right of way, it was a straight shot and relatively easy to construct. When they worked with the developer for that project, the result was a street that meanders around the development and provides excellent access for that development, but provides no connectivity for existing residents. The existing residents are going to end up paying for that street. The cost of the railroad crossing alone is going to exceed the forecast costs for all of the streets that are going to be built. The original cost estimate for this bridge in the TSP is $2 million. We have developers that are paying SDC fees based on those ridiculously low costs in our TSP. Development needs to pay its share. Existing City residents should not have to pay for new infrastructure required by new development. Whatever this Commission prioritizes as its projects should be based on what is in our TSP and what our TSP says in terms of broad policies, which is primarily promoting bicycle and pedestrian transportation and multi modal transportation. This project is not going to do that. RVTD will not run buses up that street and they do not have money to run that route anyway.
Andrew Kubik 1251 Munson Dr
He has 25 years of planning experience in Cal Trans. He wrote a letter to the Daily Tidings about a year ago. A project should have a purpose of needs statement to be initiated and they need to become justified. They also need to have a project study report. These things did not occur early on. They should have been the first thing that occurred and from there, we would have had a more fluid planning process. The purpose and needs has not been established. Bridges are among the most challenging projects any agency can undertake and he cannot describe the number of pitfalls and surprises one discovers in a course of one of these projects. The $8.8 million estimate that ODOT provided is based upon many things they know; he would not brush that aside, it could cost even more than this estimate. If this were presented to him as a planner, without having the documents necessary and the necessary rationale, he would say no to the project.
Linda Peterson Adams 642 Oak St
Read from attached letter.
David Brabec 440 Drager St
Read from attached letter.
Jennifer Hall 440 Drager St
Read from attached letter.
Jennifer Butler 986 Stoneridge Ave
Agrees with Jennifer Hall’s comments. We have 17 children living on one block and roam free there. This project will destroy our neighborhood.
Megan Danforth 248 Orange Ave
She supports so many of the sentiments that have been communicated already. She values the undeveloped places in her neighborhood, there is a huge space of just green space with Bear Creek going through it, and it is not a park. To be able to go down there and enjoy that space in the heat of summer is an exquisite treat for their neighborhoods. She has lived there for 10 years and watched tons of families move in. Her friends on the other side of the bridge have never thought they needed easier access between Hersey and Eagle Mill Rd. The communities on either side seriously do not want this. Is it not our obligation to respond to the immediate need in those areas in order to improve the quality of life.
Brian Comnes 444 Park Ridge Pl
The City of Ashland is about to embark on the energy action plan. One of the stated aggressive goals on that is reducing our carbon footprint. Any project that promotes more cars is going to work against those citywide goals. Let us stick to a bike/pedestrian bridge and not enable more cars to pass through our town faster.
Peter Schultz 375 E Nevada
He is in favor of the bridge. He has property on both sides of the bridge. He wants to see pedestrians, bikes and vehicles go across it. He travels to Medford and it is a great way to get to the north Ashland interchange, it is a great way to get to downtown and will save us from going over to Eagle Mill which has no shoulders or room for pedestrians to walk. All the people who live on Eagle Mill are subjected to cars going by all the time, a lot faster than they would be going down E Nevada St. He has heard a lot of objections to the bridge by siting environmental problems, but what it comes down to is that people do not want more cars going by their house and he was there before that subdivision. If he had protested that subdivision, none of those people would be living there today if he had protested successfully. Every road, bridge, and house we have in this town was not there before it was built, we all want to live in houses and drive on roads, it will vastly increase connectivity from east to west and a boom for the area and help traffic in Ashland. He is for it.
Beth Oehler 215 E Nevada
Read from attached letter.
Andrea Napoli 325 Stoneridge Ave
She is in favor of a connection. She knew when she bought her house a connection would be coming in. She does not want to rely on their car all the time to get to downtown. She would love to be able to walk or bike to downtown. The N Mountain neighborhood is a mixed-use neighborhood; we have one existing commercial building, one mixed-use building currently under construction, and two more mixed-use buildings that will be coming along soon. Right now, the existing commercial building has been empty for quite some time, there was a coffee there but it had to close its doors because of the lack of connectivity. She of course does not want speeding cars past her house, but a 20 MPH roadway with some traffic calming is not that scary to her. She wants to see a bike/pedestrian connection and does not want the commercial to fail in that area.
Don Morehouse 325 Stoneridge Ave
Agrees with Napoli’s comments. He hears comments about the bridge generating traffic, which he does not agree with. He is in favor of the bridge. The main point is connectivity. He wants to be connected to downtown and Lithia Park. There are not many options right now for getting to downtown or Lithia Park. What we have now is inadequate.
Laz Ayala 604 Fair Oaks Ct
He is in favor of the bridge. He supports the connectivity for the same reasons that Schultz, Napoli, and Morehouse stated. He rides bikes and there is no safe way to bike out of that neighborhood. There is a need for connectivity and this neighborhood is still in the development process. There is plenty capacity to build for what remains of the vacant land. He lives there, works there, and thinks it makes sense for the community to build the bridge.
Mark Knox 485 W Nevada St
He is in support of the bridge. He hopes the Commission does not deny the project because of a few neighbors complaining about a few extra trips past their houses. He is asking the Commission to base their decision on the comprehensive plan and sound analysis by at least two certified traffic engineers. The maps that he handed out to the Commission show aerial views that show the growth from 1994 to 2012. Roughly 900 units have been developed or being planned. As a land use planner himself, he cannot imagine how the community does not plan for that type of growth where we do not have any east/west connections. We are sending trips out Eagle Mill Rd where there are no shoulders and cars go by 50 MPH, where kids are walking to their houses without any refuge. He hears many conflicting comments that is ok to push off traffic onto other streets but not in their backyard. There are tough decisions that have to be made and not based on emotion but on sound analysis.
Graf said people will have two weeks to send in comments about the bridge before we make a decision.
Barth asked about the left turn on Eagle Mill to N Mountain and how that was a problem at the speed, changing the left turn to Nevada would be safer. Why not drop the speed limit on Eagle Mill toward that left, it would solve the problem. Sylvester said the speed limit is set by the state traffic engineer. It is based on a speed zone study. It measures speeds that people are currently driving and they set the limit to what is close to the 85th percentile and that is perceived by drivers as a safe speed. We do not want to set speed limits that are artificially low because that will encourage people to disobey them.
Newberry asked about 2.3 on the analysis. She looked at the numbers here and did not see that these comments had anything to do with the bridge because there was no significant impact. Sylvester said she was being comprehensive about where she saw the shifts occurring. She saw a small shift here and this is a problem location that will get worse.
Amarotico said people had mentioned slope of that street and if it could be an avenue. Faught said they will answer that at the next meeting. She asked about the developer and the neighborhood and if costs would be passed on to residents and what the chances are of that happening. Faught said his goal is get grant funding for the project and not have residents pay. If the residents did have to pay, it is a shared responsibility because it is a collector; it would be a small piece that would be tied to the neighbors in terms of cost. The rest would be funded by existing funds we have.
Viéville said there is not a schematic with exact building and costs. Does the City have to do environmental impact studies? It seems that we are being asked to approve a blank check without knowing how much everything will cost. Faught said we are in the early phases of deciding to do a project or not to do it. We hired a bridge building consultant that understands all the environmental constraints. He is confident in their cost estimate. Since we are in the phase of deciding, we do not want to spend additional money until we decide to approve the connection. This is common with Public Works documents. We get a project estimate, then it is approved, then we start with the specific design. If we are not going to do the project it does not make sense to do the full schematic design.
Barth said he thought the update of Eagle Mill was contingent with this solution, but it is not in Jackson County’s TSP to improve it. Faught said he did not talk about improving Eagle Mill, what he talked about is that is part of the project. When we did the 2012 TSP update, the technical review committee actually included the County Public Works group. We talked about this as a potential bypass and whether or not that would work in terms of a bypass with the facilities the way they are. They did not have any issues with us as listing this project and supported it as part of the technical review for the TSP update.
Amarotico asked how this moves forward if the Commission approves. Faught said we would get larger schematics for design options to review with the Commission and then it would go to Council. He would continue to work on getting the rest of the funding for the project.
Graf said he feels an obligation to the people in the developments that are east of the creek, they are sandwiched between I5 and the creek and if there is only one way out, why isn’t Eagle Mill Rd an acceptable second egress for the people who live there. If almost all the people who are going to take the bridge according to the model take it from east to west, are people who would have gone over the interstate and that wouldn’t necessarily be people who actually live in that community. He is confused about the value added of the bridge to the people who live to the east of it and that makes it hard for him to figure out which way to lean on this. Sylvester said we saw an increase in traffic in the model west of Oak St on Nevada. When the connection is built through, there is some through movement of traffic that is coming from Mountain Ave area from the west. Graf said it would be easier for him to understand if he saw the traffic counts from Nevada St and Fair Oaks right now, without the bridge. Sylvester said we could get those counts. She said Eagle Mill is out of the way, it is not going to be improved based on the county’s plans, it is not good condition, not enough shoulder, the intersection and Oak and Eagle Mill Rd where traffic today is making a left and going on Eagle Mill opposed to following the natural pattern of the road to go straight and go across the bridge, logically the way the road is laid out it would direct you down Oak St, it would make sense to do that if you have the Nevada bridge connection. Graf asked if we went with a pedestrian/bike bridge, is it clear that this is the best place to put the bridge? Faught said he is working with parks to do an analysis of where the best location would be.
Young said he wants to attend the next meeting via Skype because he will not be in town. He feels that from the get go this thing has been done wrong and backwards. He regrets supporting this from the beginning because he did not have the right information. He does not think this project should be considered and push it back to the TSP update. Viéville said she seconds that. She voted for it without understanding the full implications because she did not have all the information. She would like to push it back to the TSP update and prioritize it then. We could work on other projects in the meantime. Newberry said this project does not do any of things it has been portrayed to do, shown clearly in Sylvester’s traffic modeling. We do not have estimates based on diagrams, drawings or studies. She thinks this project has been a colossal waste of our time. She does not think there is anything that justifies it and all of this should have been done before applying for a grant. She thinks it should be pushed back to the TSP update. Barth said there have been so many inconsistencies with this project and would like it to go back to the TSP update. Amarotico said she would like to have more input from the community for the next two weeks and make a decision then. Graf said he is not sure a vehicle bridge is justified based upon the data he is seeing. He is not convinced the pedestrian/bicycle bridge will be in the best place right there.
Discuss current action item list
FOLLOW UP ITEMS
Making an Impact Newsletter (January)
COMMISSION OPEN DISCUSSION
FUTURE AGENDA TOPICS
Transportation System Plan update process
Meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
Public Works Administrative Assistant