By Greg Myers
Part of a proposed multi-use path connecting Corvallis and Albany was recently approved for $2 million in funding from the state. It will not be enough to complete the entire path, but a significant leg of the trail has now secured the funds needed for its construction. Once completed, the 10-mile-long paved trail will offer pedestrians and bikers a safe, dedicated route between the two cities.
Currently, the only option for pedestrians and bikers is to brave the trip on narrow shoulders along busy highways with high-speed traffic and hazardous intersections. Needless to say, biking a few feet from big rigs and SUVs whizzing by at 60 miles per hour is not just unpleasant, it’s also unsafe. Yet thousands of commuters travel this route every day. A large percentage of the Corvallis workforce lives in Albany, including many Hewlett-Packard and Oregon State University employees. With no feasible options for bike commuters, nearly all of these daily commutes are made by automobile. Although a 10-mile trip each way may not be for everyone, it would make commuting to Corvallis by bicycle a real possibility for Albany residents.
The ride will be mostly flat, following the Union Pacific railroad tracks—which roughly parallel Highway 20—going to Albany. The trail will be a 10- to 12-foot-wide asphalt path, much like the existing Corvallis-Philomath multi-use path. The leg of the trail that the funds are allocated for will stretch from Independence Highway to Scenic Drive in North Albany.
The $2 million grant comes as part of the Connect Oregon V program, a lottery-funded Oregon Department of Transportation initiative to provide funding to projects that strengthen and enhance Oregon’s transportation system. Last year was the first time that Connect Oregon grants were opened up to bicycle and pedestrian proposals. Required by the program to provide a minimum of 20% the costs of the project, Benton County will chip in an additional $500,000 in funding for this leg of the project. An ODOT consultant has estimated the final cost to complete the project at around $10 million. The County anticipates another $2 million grant for this project in 2016 through a similar program, the Enhance Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell, a long-time supporter of the project, weighed in, saying, “Eventually, we would have a multi-use path that links up to trail/path systems in and beyond Albany as well as the systems serving Corvallis and Philomath. When the Corvallis-to-the-Sea Trail is finalized, we will have a link to the Pacific Ocean. Can’t get better than that!”
Don’t get ready to ride to Albany just yet, however, as construction on the North Albany section is not expected to begin until 2016. Modrell explained, “This is a large project and it will have to be built in pieces as funds trickle in. We operate on grant funding which means it is kind of the luck of the draw. So, work occurs in fits and starts. To give you an idea, this has been a marquee project for Benton County since 2004.” Still, this project has never before seen these levels of funding, and every bit brings the trail closer to being a reality. Even if this momentum continues, the trail will still require several more years of planning and construction. The good news is that this leaves plenty of time to get in shape for the ride.
For more information, visit www.co.benton.or.us/pw/multi-use_path.php.