Benton County Commissioners are making progress on the Corvallis-Albany Bikeway this week, having just concluded a work session this past Tuesday, May 16. The goal of the work session was to further discuss the proposed Highway 20 route, and get closer to deciding whether or not to push the project to Phase 3.
After roughly a decade of deliberation, the bike route is the closest it’s been to being fully realized. According to County Commissioners Anne Schuster and Xan Augerot, as well as Public Works Director Josh Wheeler, it’s all thanks to the addition of stakeholders, an advisory group of 11 people meant to provide direct recommendations for the past 5 months.
Wheeler says they made the biggest impact when it came to narrowing down the proposals to the Highway 20 route. The people consist of farmers, general citizens, people from health and environmental interest groups, and other property owners.
“Instead of talking to people, we’re talking with people and that’s the big difference,” says Wheeler.
The Board of Commissioners is expected to make a final decision on proceeding to Phase 3 on June 6. Phase 3 launches one route, presumably the Highway 20 route, into the preliminary engineering stages. The year-long process will determine the actual cost of developing it, and the exact location of it, as currently the route is purely conceptual.
Provided Phase 3 comes to fruition, planners will speak with every property owner along the bike path, as well as hold more community meetings throughout late fall and winter, so as to not interfere with the farming season, according to Wheeler.
One key determination in Phase 3 would be the crossover from the south side of Highway 20 to the north side. Schuster says there was a real safety issue with the original planning of the route that did not include a safe way to get across the highway. Wheeler came up with a fix to divert the bike path under Highway 20 at Bowers Slough, which he said could come in the form of a tunnel, a hanging bridge, or some other form of engineered pathway.
If the Highway 20 route is moved to Phase 3, the stakeholder advisory group recommended that the rural route be added to the Transportation System Plan, which will outline the Corvallis transportation network for the next 20 years.
Wheeler and the Board of Commissioners are still taking public input on the routes up until their decision on June 6. If Phase 3 commences, they will continue to engage the public, especially those in direct contact with the path.
“We will be able to engage everyone, though I have no idea if we’ll end up with a bike path,” he stated. To them, “That’s what’s important.”
By Regina Pieracci