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Gearhart transportation plan vital for grant funding

Revisions address tsunami concerns
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on July 17, 2017 9:13AM

Last changed on July 17, 2017 10:12AM

Carl Springer of DKS Associates addresses the Gearhart Planning Commission.

R.J. Marx/The Daily Astorian

Carl Springer of DKS Associates addresses the Gearhart Planning Commission.

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GEARHART — The city could be on the road to applying for more than $28 million in grant funds for projects as diverse as bike lanes, trail connections, public transit and tsunami evacuation routes.

The Planning Commission voted 6-1 Thursday night to forward the Gearhart Transportation System plan to the City Council.

If the council adopts the plan, Gearhart would be considered more competitive for grant money to fund “aspirational” projects.

“One of the requirements for most of those grant applications is it has to be in an adopted plan for the city,” Carl Springer, of DKS Associates, said. “Now they can actually check that box, assuming it gets adopted (by City Council). Without it you can still apply, but you’re less competitive.”

Wish list

After the city applied for and won a grant to fund the plan in 2015, the Oregon Department of Transportation selected and hired DKS to prepare the document.

Over the last year and a half, DKS and members of Gearhart’s Transportation System Plan Advisory Committee held a series of public hearings in which residents presented their goal and wish lists. Among them were a safer U.S. Highway 101, regional bike trails and neighborhood connections.

DKS prioritized investments with four tiers, from the $1.2 million likely to be available through existing funding sources to a more than $20 million wish list that exceeds the likely level of city and state funding through 2040.

At the lower figure, the city could provide traffic calming devices, tsunami evacuation route identification, bike parking and wayfinding signage, among other enhancements.

Higher cost “aspirational” projects include sidewalk replacement, road extensions and Highway 101 reconfiguration. Bridge improvements over Neacoxie Creek could exceed $2 million.

Seventy-five potential projects are listed in the plan, which outlines policies and projects considered important to protecting and enhancing the quality of life in Gearhart.

Adoption of the plan does not commit the city to the projects, Springer said.

None are funded or planned, City Planner Carole Connell said, but adoption of the plan will enable the city to request outside funding for future transportation improvements.

Funding sources could include Federal Highway Trust Funds, the State Highway Trust Fund or a Gearhart Road District tax, according to the June draft plan.

Tsunamis, big and small

Gearhart’s tsunami risk was a primary component of the plan, and among the last subject to revision.

“One of the reasons this was funded was it’s the first transportation plan to include tsunami evacuation routes,” Connell said. “ODOT was pretty excited about getting this in a TSP.”

On the assumption an extreme Cascadia event would “take out everything west of the highway,” the original plan advised evacuation to points east of Highway 101.

Evacuation to the west is often the best option, Patrick Wingard of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development said in an email.

After requests from Wingard and other state officials, DKS analyzed high ground areas expected to remain dry in 95 percent of tsunami scenarios analyzed.

“These areas are for last resort evacuation in cases where someone is physically unable to get outside of the hazard area or there are impassable obstacles,” Wingard said.

The plan revision references three north-south “dune spines for evacuees on the west side” of Highway 101, Connell said, including North Marion Avenue near McMenamins, the Ridge Path and Summit Avenue.

Heading to council

Commissioners Jeremy Davis, Terry Graff, Richard Owsley, Russ Taggart and Chairwoman Virginia Dideum voted to forward the plan to the City Council. Commissioner Carl Anderson abstained.

With the recommendation, DKS and Connell will present the revised transportation system plan at the council’s August meeting.

“The city has yet to prioritize projects,” Connell said. “This is getting the framework in place. The tricky part is figuring out what mix of projects is the most appropriate for the community.”


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