MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
December 3, 2013
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Morris, Lemhouse, Slattery, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present. Councilor Voisin was absent.
Mayor Stromberg announced vacancies on the Tree, Transportation, Public Arts, and Firewise Commissions and the Band Board.
Mayor Stromberg moved agenda item #3 Final North Main Road Diet report/Transportation Commission recommendation under NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS to item #1 with Council consent.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the Executive Session of November 5, 2013, Study Session of November 18, 2013 and Business Meeting of November 19, 2013 were approved as presented.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS (None)
1. Acceptance of Commission minutes
2. Liquor license application for Jeffery Bauer dba The Playwright
3. Authorization to proceed with a special procurement for consulting and project management to Steve Ennis Architects for Ashland Creek Park
4. Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization Grant Application Approval
Engineering Services Manager Scott Fleury addressed the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization grant application for the Nevada Street bridge extension. The original engineering estimate by Kittelson and Associates was approximately $3,050,000 that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) scoped higher. Staff hired OBEC Engineering Consultants for an independent estimate that came to $5,480,000 and included acquistion, sidewalk, and asphalt improvements to the roadway on both sides of the bridge. The bridge was 200 feet long with 200 feet of roadway on each side of the bridge for a total of 600 feet. The estimate from OBEC Engineering Consultants included a 30% contingency as a factor safety and the engineering. If the City received the grant, it would make up the $2,500,000 balance through a future revenue stream using debt service to accommodate the overages associated with the project.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) ran a new model showing a benefit to the state system. Instead of accessing East Main to Siskiyou Boulevard, Eagle Mill would serve as a bypass route in case the highway closed between Exits 14 and 19. It was also a bike greenway connection and a future transit connection to Mountain Avenue.
Councilor Morris/Marsh m/s to approve Consent Agenda items. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
PUBLIC HEARINGS None
PUBLIC FORUM None
UNFINISHED BUSINESS None
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. Final North Main Road Diet report/ Transportation Commission recommendation
Public Works Director Mike Faught introduced Dr. Eva Skuratowicz, Director of the Southern Oregon Research Center, Kim Parducci, PE PTOE of Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering, and Transportation Commission Chair David Young.
Dr. Skuratowicz presented the results from the Resident and Business Public Opinion Survey for the North Main Street reconfiguration regarding traffic speed and flow, congestion, safety, travel time, and effect on businesses. Southern Oregon University Research Center mailed surveys to 1,000 Ashland residents over three geographic areas, people living off North Main Street, people who lived in the general North Main Street area and the rest of Ashland. They received 552 surveys for a 55% response rate.
Results indicated driving speed on North Main had slowed down with 60% driving the speed limit and 20% driving below the speed limit. Responses regarding congestion showed a 37% perception North Main was usually congested compared to 8% that indicated congestion prior to the lane change. People living in the target area along North Main responded 58% the road was usually congested. Three quarters of those surveyed were not using an alternate route now that the lanes had changed. For safety, 39% thought the change was safe for cars, 54% thought it safer for bikes and 32% thought it was safer for pedestrians with a quarter responses indicating they thought it was less safe for cars.
Traffic flow showed mixed results, 37% thought traffic flowed easier at intersections and 39% indicated it did not flow easily. People perceived traffic flow along the road as worse since the reconfiguration. Travel time to drive the North Main corridor showed half the respondents indicated travel time was longer than prior to the change.
Open ended questions addressed merging and turning. They received 39 comments about challenges with merging with no positive comments. Seventy-eight comments talked about problems making a left off North Main or turning onto North Main. There were 41 positive comments that thought the turns were better. The final question whether respondents agreed or disagreed with the statement that changes had improved North Main Street, 20% strongly agreed and 20% strongly disagreed. The overall assessment of the residents’ survey showed a weak tendency towards agreeing this was a positive change.
Southern Oregon University Research Center contacted fifty businesses and talked to 38 for a 76% response rate. One third of the businesses said their employees had not commented at all on the Road Diet, 40% received negative feedback from employees, and 16% showed positive feedback. Overall, customers did not comment on the lane changes. Businesses utilizing North Main Street for deliveries and transportation expressed schedule and safety concerns due to the lane reduction while three quarters of the businesses interviewed indicated no impact. One business indicated a loss in business. When asked if the businesses supported continuing the reconfiguration, 37% were neutral with the remaining divided for and against the Road Diet.
Dr. Skuratowicz summarized results did not show a strong mandate from the survey but provided important trends, concerns, and positives from the public.
Ms. Parducci from Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering explained Kittelson and Associates set the original performance criteria to determine if the Road Diet was successful. The criteria had five points to Improve Safety, Reduce Vehicle Speeds, Increase Bicycle and Pedestrian Volumes, Maintain Acceptable Vehicle Travel Time, and Gain Community Support.
Ms. Parducci based Improve Safety data on crashes. The Road Diet reduced four lanes of traffic to three and immediately decreased conflicts at intersections. The new bike lanes also reduced conflict and provided a buffer for pedestrians on the sidewalk. August 2013 data indicated three crashes between November 2012 and July 2013. Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering eliminated the third crash because it did not follow the criteria on reporting crashes. Since July 2013, no crashes had occurred. The 10-year average showed 12 crashes per year for North Main Street. Since the Road Diet, there were two to date. She confirmed 39 of the crashes over the 10-year period occurred at the Wimer and Hersey Street intersection.
Increasing Bicycle and Pedestrian Volumes involved a snapshot that counted pedestrians and bicyclists at various locations September 2012. Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering gathered and charted data monthly that resulted in slightly higher volumes since implementation. Ms. Parducci observed the biggest change was type of bicyclist and pedestrian that included young families and older people. Smoke from the fires during summer and weather attributed to the slight rise in pedestrian and bicycle usage. September 2013 showed a marked increase. It would take a couple years of study to determine actual changes.
The study showed the speed slightly slower for Reduce Vehicle Speeds and Maintain Acceptable Vehicle Travel Time. Kittelson and Associates reported the speed was 31 miles per hour (mph) northbound and 32 mph southbound. Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering data reflected 30 mph in each direction. Kittelson and Associates reported travel time as 235.5 seconds northbound and 233.5 southbound. Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering data showed slightly less both directions with a 5 second difference over two miles. Ms. Parducci concluded travel time and speed had not really changed.
Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering looked at every intersection within the corridor to determine stop delays on side streets and North Main Street, where queuing occurred. Prior to the reconfiguration, two intersections did not meet performance standards. The intersection at Hersey, Wimer, and North Main operated at a Level of Service (LOS) of F as a four-lane facility and now operated at a LOS of D under the three-lane facility on the worst month of the year. Other times showed the intersection operating at a LOS of C. The Manzanita, Skidmore, and North Main Streets intersection operated at a LOS of E prior to the three-lane conversion and now operated at a LOS of C.
Major changes in delay, turning from North Main Street to a side street or from a side street onto to North Main Street at a stop controlled intersection took less time with the three-lane facility. However, congestion in queue lines at signalized intersections was higher. To improve queue lines, the facility would look into minimizing the pedestrian crossing times to allow more green time for North Main Street. Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering was working with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) at meeting the minimum pedestrian crossing time instead of using the current maximum.
Traffic volumes for side streets showed a 10% increase due to people re-routing.
Further improvements would include addressing the merge leaving downtown northbound by adding a turn pocket at Bush Street that would push the transition back. Other design changes was adding a turn pocket at the Bush, Glen, and Coolidge intersection, creating a two-way left turn lane for Glen and Maple, and realigning the driveway just north of Maple Street so it was directly across from the Siskiyou Eye Center as well as shortening the turn pocket. Also proposed was adding a crosswalk on North Main Street between Laurel and Maple and minimizing crosswalk time at Helman, Laurel, and Maple Streets.
Mr. Faught explained the only significant expenditure was moving the driveway for Stone Medical and that would cost approximately $50,000. The remaining improvements consisted of restriping.
Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering addressed Gaining Community Support by utilizing citizen input to create the design revisions.
Ms. Parducci clarified the longest stop time recorded for turning onto North Main Street during the two-hour peak period was at Hersey and Wimer where it took 125 seconds. The average was 22 seconds per car. At Hersey, the average was 24.7 seconds per vehicle and 81 seconds was the maximum. Glen Street experienced 108 seconds maximum wait time with an average of 17 seconds per vehicle. Bush Street was 91 seconds and Sheridan was 93 seconds. She recommended retaining the three-lane facility.
Southern Oregon Transportation Engineering did not factor population into the study. The City would continue measuring speeds and crashes on the corridor. Significant changes in type of collision or a pattern would indicate problem areas.
Transportation Commission Chair Dave Young explained Ashland adopted the goal of modal equity and increasing the opportunities for multi modal transportation options years ago. The Transportation and Planning Commissions looked into the Road Diet as part of the Transportation System Plan (TSP). Last week the Transportation Commission voted 4-1 to retain the three-lane configuration because it primarily met the objectives, reduced crashes, provided a safe multi-modal corridor for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Commission recognized there were issues with the reconfiguration that required design revisions. The Transportation and Planning Commission would look into a future study of the downtown corridor as it related to parking, transportation, and deliveries, to backload into the TSP. Currently there was not a safe corridor going through downtown. The Commission also recognized crossing North Main Street as a pedestrian was still a problem. The Transportation Commission recommended retaining the Road Diet.
Kelly Madding/545 Fordyce Street/Drove and biked North Main. Before the Road Diet, she would only bike to work because it was too dangerous to bike home on North Main. Now she actually rode her bike home, it felt safer. She thought the City used good criteria to measure success, commented the Road Diet was successful, and hoped the City carried it forward.
William Heimann/647 Siskiyou Boulevard/Input on the Open City Hall comments indicated residents of Talent and Phoenix entering Ashland on north Main were more comfortable and calmer. Based on the data and the other option of going to five lanes, the City should stay with the three-lane configuration.
Tracy Harding/334 Bridge Street/Shared comments from a petition Malena Marrin started that supported the Road Diet.
Malena Marrin/220 W Hersey Street/Lived less than a block from North Main and the improvements were great. She could bike to medical appointments that she previously had to drive to and walked her dog twice a day on North Main. She started the petition when she heard people were opposing the project and quickly gathered 500 signatures. She noted many had problems accessing the City website to leave feedback. She went on to share comments from the petition.
Gus Janeway/2000 Ashland Mine Road/Lived just outside city limits and on Wednesdays walked with or rode bikes with his children to school. He felt considerably safer, happier and more in a civil environment on North Main Street since the Road Diet. Having the bike lanes met an existing need and the turn lane down the middle was a huge safety factor.
Noel Chatroux/75 Nursery Street/Explained he had lived at his address since 1996 and his wife’s office was across from North Main on Hersey Street. During the four-lane configuration, she did not walk to her office for safety reasons. Since the Road Diet, she was able to walk to her office safely. Bicycling was his primary mode of transportation and he rode his bike on North Main to get to his office. Many times bicycling on North Main made him uneasy without a bike lane and that had changed with the reconfiguration. He felt he could now encourage his children to bike and noted the Road Diet was a family value supported through engineering. He commended the City for doing the pilot and hoped it remained.
John Bullock/777 Palmer Road/Shared the bike routes he typically used in Ashland. He was glad to see the reconfiguration on North Main Street and thought Ashland was almost a complete multi modal safe transportation city. Many of his friends that initially opposed the Road Diet now liked the reconfiguration. He also heard the City of Talent and the Oregon Department of Transportation had contracted in the next construction season a similar three-lane configuration for Talent.
Heath Belden/180 Alida Street/Experienced less tail gating on North Main since the Road Diet. He shared a negative experience he encountered as a bicyclist on North Main that made him feel unsafe prior to the reconfiguration.
Morgan Lindsay/717 Faith Avenue/Commended the City for implementing the Road Diet. Making walking and cycling a safe and attractive option for people was essential to the changing climate.
John Baxter/831 Liberty Street/Supported the Road Diet. For the past 34 years, North Main was a hostile and unsafe road for bicyclists. The old speed on North Main was often 40 mph. A pedestrian or bicyclist hit by a car going 40 mph had a 15% chance of survival. North Main was now safer with the bike lane and people driving slower. Since North Main was unpleasant to ride bicycles for many years, it was unrealistic to expect an increase in cycling within a year. He encouraged Council to retain the Road Diet.
Eric Dittmer/2217 Milford Drive, Medford/Explained he was a cyclist and frequently biked to his job at Southern Oregon University year round. The lack of a bike lane on North Main was nerve wracking and he shared an experience where a car almost hit him. He worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation to install a fog lane as a visual that separated bicyclists from motorists. Since the Road Diet, it was a more refreshing ride with a welcoming entrance into Ashland. A new law required motorists to maintain a 3-foot clearance as they passed bicyclists and the bike lane made that easier. He supported the project and hoped Council would vote to continue the Road Diet.
James Haim/152 Orange Street/Explained he lived close to North Main, used the route daily, and appreciated the Road Diet. He was previously nervous walking and cycling on North Main and noted that it was safer now.
Ron Zell/250 Scenic Drive/Used North Main Street daily as a cyclist and motorist and loved it. He shared aspects from a report from the League of American Bicyclists based on data from 2005 to 2012 from 70 cities that noticed a 95% increase in bicycle commuting in bike friendly cities. The other 32 cities were not designated bike friendly cities and experienced a growth rate of 46% over the same period. He went on to share additional statistics and expressed his support of the Road Diet.
Julia Sommer/1158 Village Square Drive/As a driver, the Road Diet made it pleasant and safer to drive, traffic flow was smoother, and left hand turns easier to make. North Main needed at least one crosswalk between Laurel and Maple streets. The bike lanes ended abruptly at either end of North Main and were only useful and safe for bicyclists between Schofield and Laurel. Cyclists would use the bike lane more if it connected through downtown to Siskiyou on the south and north to Valley View and the Greenway. The Road Diet supported Ashland’s goal of multi modal transportation. She urged Council to retain the three-lane configuration with the suggested modifications.
Egon Dubois/381 W Nevada Street/Used North Main for driving, cycling and walking, and crossed it numerous times both before and after the reconfiguration. Entering North Main from a side street in a car was significantly easier and traffic less unpredictable. Additionally it was dangerous to cross four lanes as a pedestrian. Drivers focused on one another and not pedestrians. Now there were two lanes of traffic with one turn lane that provided a buffer zone and traffic actually stopped when prior to the reconfiguration motorists did not.
Scott Calamar/322 Wimer Street/Read from a letter he submitted into the record.
Cindy Barnard/128 Wimer Street/Loved the Road Diet and shared comments from neighbors who felt much safer driving, walking, or biking on North Main Street since the change. She had not seen an increase in side street driving. She did encounter backups on Wimer Street but attributed it to drivers acting safe versus making poor decisions. Her son was an avid biker and she actually rode the bike lane with her grandsons. She appreciated the Road Diet and hope it would continue.
John Fisher-Smith/945 Oak Street/Thought the Road Diet was an elegant solution that gave everyone something. He biked twice a day often on North Main Street and described his prior experience using this route. It was much easier and safer now. He was grateful for the Road Diet and liked that it was collaborative.
Councilor Marsh/Morris m/s to retain the current North Main three-lane configuration with recommended modifications, if approved by ODOT and a monitoring schedule to be determined. DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh based her decision on the positive impact the reconfiguration had on cars and driving patterns. Data will compile over the next period of years but there were positive indicators, the number of crashes was down, speed curtailed slightly, and intersections had functional improvements. Councilor Morris thought it was an interesting experiment worth trying and the option of increasing to five lanes was not good. He supported the Road Diet.
Councilor Lemhouse thought Council should have studied the Wimer and Hersey intersection prior to the realignment. The study was well done but at a disadvantage due to the realignment of Wimer. It was not a perfect solution but this was the best they could do right now and further changes may occur. He cautioned that while multi modal was encouraged to remember this was Highway 99 and commercial trucks needed to access the road for deliveries.
Councilor Slattery shared that he initially did not support the Road Diet even though he supported the Hersey and Wimer intersection realignment. Some of the data was inconclusive but two things made him in favor of retaining the Road Diet. One was the increased bicycle and pedestrian safety, the other was the decrease in crashes. He suggested further studies and the need to address concerns. Councilor Rosenthal noted his own skepticism initially and how the data, studies, and public input swayed him. He agreed with the proposed revisions and wanted to see the merge issue studied further. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Marsh, Morris, Lemhouse, Rosenthal, and Slattery, YES. Motion passed.
2. First Quarter financial report for year one of the 2013-2015 biennium
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained the City looked good through the First Quarter of 2013. Staff focused on how the City did on a fiscal year and a biennial basis. It was important departments did not exceed 12.5% of their budgeted expenditures or go beyond 25% for the fiscal year. Currently the City overall was slightly below 25% for the fiscal year. First Quarter numbers were difficult to assess because the major revenue source from property taxes did not start coming in until the second quarter.
Prior to final adoption of the budget, PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) legislation passed but the City still increased the PERS payment in the budget. Since the money was budgeted as a payment for service, the City was paying its own insurance fund. It was unappropriated revenue in the insurance fund as a payment from all the other funds. In the next biennium, the money would be available for what the City anticipated as an increase to PERS costs. Staff did not create a separate reserve for PERS but insured the money would be available for PERS in the next biennium.
The Shakespeare Festival experienced its best year in attendance ever. Lodging throughout Ashland was up over the previous summer. Staff anticipated a larger than budgeted increase in both Transient Occupancy Tax and the Food and Beverage Tax and did not see either, both revenue streams were right on budget. Councilor Slattery noted there was a research group trying to measure the impact the wildfires had during summer on the Food and Beverage Tax. Mr. Kanner agreed the smoke most likely had an effect and requested results of the study when it was ready. Alternately, it was possible lodgers lowered their room rates in an attempt to attract customers during the smoke. Occupancy could have gone up but revenues did not.
Councilor Slattery/Lemhouse m/s to approve the First Quarter financial report for FY 2013-2014. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
3. Council discussion of future planning initiatives
Delayed due to time constraints.
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS (None)
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS/REPORTS FROM COUNCIL LIAISONS
Councilor Lemhouse announced controlled burning in the watershed began earlier in the day.
Councilor Rosenthal extended Happy Hanukkah greetings and noted the first lighting of the Menorah in the Plaza would occur December 4, 2013.
Meeting adjourned at 10:03 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder John Stromberg, Mayor