Agendas and Minutes

Planning Commission (View All)

Joint Study Session

Thursday, January 20, 2011





January 20, 2011



Planning Commission Chair Pam Marsh called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street.  


Planning Commissioners Present:


Transportation Commissioners Present:

Larry Blake

Michael Dawkins

Pam Marsh

Debbie Miller

Melanie Mindlin

John Rinaldi, Jr.


Thomas Burnham

Eric Heesacker

Steve Ryan

Brent Thompson

David Young

David Chapman, Council Liaison


Absent Members:


Staff Present:

Julia Sommer

Matt Warshawsky

Colin Swales


Michael Faught, Public Works Director

Maria Harris, Planning Manager

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor



1.  October 26, 2010 Joint Study Session Minutes.


Commissioners Dawkins/Blake m/s to approve the October 26, 2010 Joint Study Session Minutes. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.



Erin Ferguson with Kittelson & Associates commented on the project status and provided an overview of Technical Memorandum #5. She noted the key findings from this memo include:

1)       Five study intersections are forecasted to exceed mobility standards.

2)       Seven study intersections have inadequate queue storage.

3)       Transit is generally well-rated, but ignores service gaps.

4)       Bicycle facilities may be uncomfortable for many individuals.

5)       Pedestrians likely feel safe walking along major roads.

6)       A decline in tax revenue is possible and the City should continue exploring alternative sources and potential modifications.


Councilor Chapman questioned the service levels of East Main. He stated walking is difficult in this area since there are no sidewalks or shoulders from Walker to Hwy 66. Commissioner Mindlin added the transit on East Main received a green A rating, but there is no transit service on East Main at all. Ms. Ferguson explained how the methodology for the transit rating works. She noted how the segments are determined and stated if those segments are within a ¼ mile of a transit stop they are deemed acceptable. Suggestion was made for the consultants to consider breaking these down into smaller segments so that the ratings reflect what is really happening in these areas.


Ms. Ferguson continued her review of Technical Memo #5 and the multimodal level of service analysis results. She stated automobiles are being better served than the other modes and provided examples of ways to improve the level of service in transit, bicycle and pedestrian areas.


Commissioner Mindlin asked about the population and business growth projections. She noted there were two different projections contained in the Memo and both seem lower than others she has seen. Ms. Ferguson explained they did two sets of analysis, one used the RVMPO model projections and the other used the City’s assumptions. She stated when you compare the two, the net results are similar in terms of what intersections are, or are not, meeting mobility standards. Mindlin questioned how this relates to the City’s buildable lands inventory and identified this as a concern. Marsh asked if the level of service analysis responds to the seasonal fluctuations in traffic we experience in Ashland. Mr. Butorac provided a brief overview of how these figures are determined.


White Paper Process:

Mr. Butorac explained how the white paper process came about. He stated instead of receiving one very large memo and only having one meeting to review it, they are recommending they explore all of the alternatives within the original scope of work but break it up into smaller segments. He stated they have organized five delivery groups, and each group will have 4-5 white papers. Mr. Butorac reviewed the scorecard for the white papers and explained how these should be filled out.


Road Diets:

Mr. Butorac reviewed this concept and asked for the commissioner’s input. Young commented that certain areas in Ashland should function at different speeds and stated North Main is one where people should be able to move faster. Dawkins stated there is no worse place than North Main to walk or ride a bike. Public Works Director Mike Faught stated the question before them is whether they want North Main to be 3 lanes or 5 lanes. Ryan questioned if there is a way to predict the positive and negative effects before they do this. Mr. Butorac noted the possibility of a pilot program, which can change the environment temporarily. Burnham suggested separating North Main from the railroad overpass out to Valley View, and Mr. Butorac confirmed that they can look at North Main as a whole or in segments.


A straw poll was taken and the majority of the commissioners expressed interest in exploring road diets (especially on North Main) and pursuing a pilot program this summer. Mr. Faught noted an update was given to the City Council this week and they expressed an interest in road diets as well.


Street Patio Demonstration Projects:

Mr. Butorac reviewed this concept and asked if the commissioners had any questions or input. Burnham asked if this process could include exploring the potential for the Plaza to change into more of a pedestrian space. Mr. Faught clarified the Plaza space is included in this process, but fine tuning the plaza improvements is separate from the TSP update. Ryan raised concern that merchants may complain if their neighbors take away their parking by creating a patio. Chapman commented that they may need to work around the issue of store owners not owning the space in front of their businesses. Mr. Butorac clarified this would be temporary and the pilot program would last 5-months. Blake noted the City would only be providing the mechanism, business owners would have to pursue this on their own.   


A straw poll was taken and the majority of the commissioners expressed interest in street patio demonstration projects and pursuing a pilot program this summer. Miller recommended they start discussing this with businesses early on order to have a successful program. Mr. Butorac agreed and noted they could place a limit on how many of these they allow during the summer pilot.


Railroad Crossings:

Mr. Butorac reviewed this concept and noted a railroad representative was at the TAC meeting today. He noted the City has 11 at grade crossings and has expressed interest in pursuing new crossings at 4th Street, 2nd Street, Washington and Normal. He explained in order to add a new crossing, you have to take one away; and stated this is because of a Federal policy to limit crossings for safety reasons. He noted there is process to establish a new crossing without closing one, however this is a very lengthy and costly process and often does not succeed. Mr. Faught noted the possibility of a crossing outside of the City closing which would enable the City to open one up.


The commissioners shared their thoughts on the item. Young recommended they focus on one crossing and felt creating a crossing at 4th Street was most important. Ryan requested additional information on the process to create a new crossing and stated if it is a lengthy process they may want to start now. Chapman recommended they not close the Glenn or Wightman crossings to bicycles and pedestrians, but is comfortable with restricting vehicle access.


Other Modes of Transportation:

Ms. Ferguson reviewed this section and explained this could include elements such as an electric bicycle program, funiculars, gondolas/chair lifts, and trampes. Mr. Faught commented that most people cannot ride up or down our hills, and stated a good portion of our community lives on the hillside. He added this element suggests possibilities to get more people out of their cars. Burnham commented that these are good ideas, but feels most are for higher populated areas. Young recommended they not pursue this. He stated the ideas are very intriguing, but they need to be realistic about what is appropriate for Ashland. Miller noted when she lived on a hill, she and her family would park their bikes at the bottom of the hill and walk down. She suggested bicycle parking in existing parking lots, and owners could drive down from their homes, park, and then ride their bikes around town. Miller also commented that crosswalks that light up when pedestrians cross are very effective. Mr. Butorac clarified these types of lights are imbedded in the pavement and stated ODOT is interested in doing a pilot program and Ashland is high on their list. Dawkins voiced support for using electric bicycles to address the hills issues; and Ryan commented that buses can carry bicycles and people up into the hills as much as they choose to run it.


Offset Intersections:

Ms. Ferguson provided a brief overview and listed the offset intersections in the City. Mr. Faught clarified the Transportation Commission has been working on the N. Main/Wimer/Hersey intersection, which has the City’s highest accident frequency. He added A Street is another intersection with a lot of problems and encouraged them to select these for further exploration.  


Upcoming Work Activities:

Mr. Butorac provided an overview of the upcoming key near term dates and questioned if the two commissions were comfortable with the white paper process and additional meeting dates as proposed. Mr. Faught noted the costs for these meetings is extra, but the total cost will not exceed the amount allocated for this project. Mindlin voiced her support for the direction they are taking and stated it is important for them to share their input before the draft plan is produced. Additional support was voiced for the scorecards and the white paper process.



No one came forward to speak.



Mr. Faught proposed a new starting time of 6:30 p.m. for the joint meetings. A few commissioners expressed concern, but it was agreed they would try it out and see how it works out.


Mr. Butorac requested the commissioners submit their completed scorecards on the first set of white papers to Mike Faught no later than Tuesday, January 25.


Meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

April Lucas, Administrative Supervisor

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