by Ron Georg
In the late ‘90s, the Corvallis City Council adopted the South Corvallis Refinement Plan (SCARP), endorsing a concept for Southtown which included “a comprehensive package of ways to reduce reliance on the automobile and assure the transportation system works over the next 30 to 40 years.”
So far, that hasn’t happened, but efforts by the Tunison Neighborhood Association and the Corvallis Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Commission (BPAC) could lead to some major improvements in the coming years.
“Just walking yesterday, I had my baby in the stroller, I couldn’t hear him, it was so loud,” Rebecka Weinsteiger said of a stroll along Oregon Route 99W. “It’s just so unpleasant.”
It’s a state highway to the Oregon Department of Transportation, but it’s South Third to Corvallis residents. With I-5 so far to the east, the road is a major transportation corridor through the Willamette Valley, but it also runs right through South Corvallis neighborhoods—and it’s the only way to leave Southtown.
“If we could not have to ride on the highway, with children, ever, I would go out of my way to make that happen,” Weinsteiger said—and she’s been backing that up. As secretary of the Neighborhood Association, she’s been an integral part of a successful effort to get the Tunison-Avery Shared-Use Path into the city’s Capital Improvement Program, a list of preferred projects for future expenditures.
It’s not the first time the city has seen the path—it was originally presented in the SCARP, as part of a non-motorized path that would have circumnavigated South Corvallis, with an eastern portion running along the river and a western section following the railroad from Tunison Street to Avery Park.
The neighborhood association wants to see the western portion installed. That’s not just because it’s on their side of the street, it’s also much easier to design, permit and build than anything near the well-regulated and flood-prone river.
“There is a proposed bike path within the refinement plan, and we’re advocating for a portion of that bike path,” Weinsteiger said. “So it’s not a new idea. It relieves the west side Corvallis residents from having to travel on 99.”
For South Corvallis residents who want to stick with their cars-or who just prefer biking or walking along the highway—BPAC hopes to help calm the zone with a 25 mph speed limit from Avery Avenue to Tunison Street. The current speed is 35 mph, with a school zone for Lincoln Elementary which lowers most of the section to 20 mph much of the time.
BPAC has requested that the public works department submit a speed limit change request to ODOT, which would initiate an investigation into the appropriate speed limit for the stretch. ODOT will track current speed patterns, and they apply a formula to determine if a lower speed is appropriate.
With the existing lighted pedestrian crossings—some of the first in the state—the speed limit could help make South Third feel like more of a neighborhood, which, of course, is also the goal of the Tunison Neighborhood Association.
“I would love to see any kind of neighborhood development, a plan for that neighborhood center,” Weinsteiger said. “Just recently we decided to go car-free, so the more services closer to home, the better. It seems you have to get out of south Corvallis to get almost any service, unless you need a building to rent—a storage facility—or tires.”
You can follow the Tunison Neighborhood Association’s bike path initiative at their Facebook page, Safe Paths to Southtown. The Corvallis Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission meets the first Friday of each month at 7 a.m . in the city offices across Monroe Avenue from City Hall.