Southtown Bike Path’s Slow Progress

The bike lane between downtown and Southtown has inched ever so slightly closer to completion. Last year Corvallis submitted applications to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for four projects that represent the Corvallis Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee’s (BPAC) top priorities, one of which is the “Mary’s River Bridge – Crystal Lake Drive Multiuse Path.”

Part of the reason this path is a top priority owes to the current dangerous layout. Bikers heading to Southtown from downtown cross the Mary’s River bridge and are spit out onto a “multi-use” sidewalk that has them heading against the flow of car traffic. They then have to cross Chapman Place, the South Co-op driveway entrance, and Crystal Lake Boulevard; at each intersection drivers wishing to turn right and head north on Highway 99 are looking to their left at oncoming traffic, and not to their right at oncoming bikes. There have been numerous collisions over the years.

The proposed path will avoid these intersections by branching off from the sidewalk shortly after crossing the Mary’s Bridge. It will cut past the BMX park, through the back of the First Alternative Co-op, follow the old railroad tracks that run east between the Evanite Fiber facility and Crystal Lake Boulevard, and finally end on Crystal Lake near the curve.

“There are a number of what we call ‘goat trails’ already following those railroad tracks,” Transportation Services Supervisor Lisa Scherf said with a laugh. “So that’s a good indication that our alignment is on the right track.”

As properties owned by First Alternative Co-op, Evanite Fiber, the railroad, and ODOT would all be affected by this proposed route, the city plans on offering a combination of land easements and outright purchases to obtain right-of-ways.

BPAC applied for $650,000 to settle the final alignment, conduct environmental impact statements, pay for engineering and design work, and construct the new bike lane. ODOT bundles all such grants into one large Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) process, which covers everything from highway, passenger rail, and freight to public transit, bicycle, and pedestrian needs. The STIP program will determine ODOT’s capital program for federal fiscal years 2015 through 2018.

In other words, as Lisa Scherf put it, “it will be a long, drawn-out process, so I don’t want to get people’s hopes up yet.

“Still, I’m hopeful,” Scherf said.

by Nathaniel Brodie

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