SEASIDE - The Seaside Planning Commission's efforts to hear what citizens want for a transportation system resulted in testimony from 21 people and several letters.
After Seaside voters rejected the proposed highway expansion project in May, Oregon Department of Transportation officials said the city will have to create a Transportation Systems Plan before becoming eligible for another project. The city has not yet decided whether to do a TSP. The Planning Commission was charged with gathering public input on highway alternatives and making recommendations to the council.
Members of the commission heard the last of the testimony Tuesday night and promised to consider everything submitted.
Donald Peppin said a bypass would be no good until U.S. Highway 101 is widened through town. He said Astoria has minimal gridlock with four lanes and no bypass.
"Cannon Beach has a bypass," he said. "You still cannot drive through that town in the summertime. It just doesn't work."
Peppin told the commission that whatever the city's transportation solution is, the major challenge will be convincing residents and business owners that it is needed.
He said many store owners are not on the roads during peak traffic hours. "They don't have a clue what the problem is," he said. "You are the ones that have to convince them that there is a need for change."
Peppin said more traffic lights would give pedestrians a place to cross the highway between Broadway Drive and Avenue U, which are more than 20 blocks apart. He said increasing traffic means transportation problems will only get worse. "There's lots and lots of traffic on that roadway that wasn't here five years ago," he said.
Commissioner Tom Horning said a recent ODOT traffic study predicted vastly increased gridlock if nothing was done, but said that was lost in the rhetoric surrounding the May referendum.
"It's local traffic that causes the bottlenecks," he said after the meeting. He said in 10 years, "traffic simply will not be able to empty out as fast as it goes in."
Resident Dave Langlo spoke in favor of a bypass.
Resident Tita Montero read a letter asking the commission to appoint a visioning task force to look into Seaside's transportation needs more thoroughly. She said this group should examine the probable changes in 10 to 20 years in the population, various neighborhoods, schools, businesses and water and infrastructure needs.
During previous meetings, several people said the city needs to decide whether to be a big or small town before developing transportation solutions. Others said the May referendum indicated Seaside citizens want to be part of a small town, not an economic hub.
Many of those who testified at the first two meetings enthusiastically supported a bypass, although opinions varied as to whether it should stretch from Cannon Beach to the east side of Astoria or merely from one end of Seaside to the other.
Short-term improvements suggested included designating right-turn lanes, realigning the Lewis and Clark road, installing stoplights that could be timed and replacing the Neawanna Bridge. Safety concerns and the need to please tourists were mentioned during testimony.
"I think all of us here have always felt that a bypass is a natural approach," commission chairman Pat Phillips said during the first meeting. During the second, he said fixing the Lewis and Clark Road intersection with Highway 101 is the commission's top priority. Because the Lewis and Clark Road intersects with 101 at a sharp angle, turning left onto 101 is difficult and can be dangerous.
According to City Planner Kevin Cupples, the Planning Commission will compile a list of transportation alternatives and then meet with the council. The commission will ask for public comment on those alternatives and the council will have the option to select an alternative.
The council's options include pursuing funding for a visioning process or beginning a formal TSP update.
Comments may be e-mailed to (email@example.com) or mailed to Highway 101 Alternatives, 989 Broadway, Seaside, OR 97138.