Webb suggests Urban Renewal District loan could finance Safeway traffic signalA temporary traffic light at the busy Safeway intersection at 33rd Street and Lief Erickson Drive could be in operation before the end of this year, and a permanent light could follow - thanks to suggestions by Don Webb, a civic-minded Astoria resident who regularly attends Astoria City Council meetings.

Webb's suggestion Monday night that the city borrow $90,000 from the Urban Renewal District to pay the Oregon Department of Transportation's share of funding for the light was met with enthusiasm by Mayor Willis Van Dusen.

He said he had learned of Webb's idea earlier, and had already shared it with state Rep. Betsy Johnson, who told him she would take the idea to ODOT officials.

"I met with Betsy Johnson this afternoon and she thinks Don's a genius," Van Dusen said. "That's what urban renewal money is for and it might be a way to get that light up in a heck of a hurry."

The city has its own $50,000 share of the project in hand and Safeway has agreed to put in $60,000 for the signal, estimated to cost a total of $205,000.

But ODOT funding has been the missing link and Mike Spaeth, district manager of ODOT's District 1, has said the money might not be available until 2008. Van Dusen said ODOT hasn't yet committed to pay back the urban renewal district loan, but he expects that aspect of the proposal to be worked out with Johnson's help.

Spaeth said earlier he has already put the traffic light in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which the Transportation Commission will act on in a few weeks.

Webb's other suggestion was to put up a temporary light, like the one at the Washington end of the Astoria Bridge - called a construction light - until a permanent light can be installed. He said he had asked Spaeth to locate the one used during construction of the Astoria roundabout.

Webb said his suggestions were prompted by extremely heavy traffic on U.S. Highway 30, known as Marine Drive on the west side of town and Lief Erickson Drive on the east side. One day about three weeks ago, he said he noticed traffic was backed up all the way to Smith Point and into Warrenton as far as Marlin Avenue, which led to the suggestions he presented to the City Council.

The mayor agreed.

"We definitely need a traffic light by the new Safeway store," Van Dusen said.

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