With the goal of identifying future transportation needs and opening the door to grant funding, the City Council has a transportation system plan.
The goal is to anticipate growth and know how to deal with it, City Planner Carole Connell said.
“There will be more demand placed on the city, and this is a program for us to deal with that,” Connell said.
At the top of the list is the reconfiguration of U.S. Highway 101. Planners want to provide greater turning safety and connectivity between the east and west sides of the roadway and reduce bottlenecks and traffic jams.
Additional projects listed in the plan aim to facilitate tsunami evacuation, infrastructure improvements, pedestrian walkways and to ensure that new development complies with the city’s goals.
With one exception, city councilors and Mayor Matt Brown approved the two-volume plan, which presents a blueprint for the city’s transportation systems through 2040.
“I’m a big proponent of it,” Brown said at a public hearing Wednesday, Aug. 2. “It’s been one of our top goals for a long time. I think it’s a no-brainer.”
City Councilor Dan Jesse called the plan “anti-development” and said funds would be better spent elsewhere.
The transportation plan prioritizes investments with four tiers, from the $1.2 million likely to be available through existing funding sources to a wish list that exceeds the likely level of city and state funding through 2040.
Roadway and intersection upgrades, including development of a three-lane configuration on Highway 101 through most of Gearhart, are estimated at $23 million.
Bridge projects — including replacement of the Highway 101 bridge over Mill Creek and Highway 101 bridge over Neawanna Creek in Seaside — would cost an estimated $2 million.
According to the plan, 33 pedestrian and bicycle projects would cost an estimated $25 million to complete. Concepts include sidewalk, path and roadway crossing improvements, and a network of bicycle lanes, marked on-street routes and shared-use paths.
Transit and system management projects comprise the remainder of proposed project costs. None are funded or planned, Connell said, but adoption of the plan will enable the city to request outside funding for future transportation improvements.
Adoption of the plan, prepared by the city, Oregon Department of Transportation, DKS Associates and Angelo Planning Group, does not commit the city to the projects.
“There is a whole other process outside of this,” said Kevin Chewuk, a lead transportation planner with DKS.
Higher cost “aspirational” projects listed in the plan include sidewalk replacement, road extensions and Highway 101 reconfiguration.
Of a potential $51 million for 59 spending projects, the plan lists 35 locally funded transportation projects at an estimated cost of $28 million to the city, an amount that could be supplemented by the county, State Highway Trust Fund, Federal Highway Surface Transportation Program or road district taxes.
Other potential funding sources could include an increase in system development charges for builders, lodging tax increases, debt financing or formation of a local improvement district, among others.
Brown said the plan would improve connectivity in Gearhart, particularly providing safer access to areas east and west of the highway.
“It’s a ‘to-do’ in our comprehensive plan, an that was enough for me to want to be involved in it,” City Councilor Paulina Cockrum said. “I think it’s a good template for us to move forward.”.
Councilor Kerry Smith called it “a good starting point.”
Jesse said he feared the plan would cause the cost of development to rise and stifle new affordable homes by putting an increased burden on builders to comply with new rules.
“I’m not as optimistic,” Jesse said. “If we’re talking about affordable housing, it will greatly increase the cost of land in our community.”
Brown, Cockrum, Smith and Councilor Sue Lorain voted for the plan. Jesse voted against.
The City Council directed staff to prepare an ordinance for the September council meeting, including amendments to the city’s zoning code to ensure consistency with the approved plan.