SEASIDE - During busy weekends and summer months, trying to drive through the intersection at Broadway Drive and Columbia Street in downtown Seaside can be a nightmare.

Public Works Director Neal Wallace is working on a plan to help both vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow more smoothly. He talked about the issue and other downtown public works projects at Thursday's Seaside Downtown Development Association meeting.

"If you've driven through there anytime when the weather is nice or even in the middle of the afternoon, it's almost impossible to get through unless you nose your way out," he said. "Pedestrians don't stop for you. They just keep on going. If you have to wait for all pedestrians to clear, I don't believe there would be any vehicles going through."

The city has engaged a traffic engineer from HDR Engineering, the same firm working with the city on the U.S. Highway 101 design. The engineer will study intersection design, traffic and pedestrian flow information and will use the information to generate a plan of action.

The traffic light at the intersection currently blinks red, signaling drivers to stop before proceeding. There are no pedestrian signals functioning. The light does have the capacity to transition from red to yellow to green.

"I think the study would be a pretty simple project because it's a pretty tight, compact intersection," Wallace said. "We're just not sure what we're up against and we want to know what is the best method for handling traffic."

If the engineer decides that a traditional traffic signal with a timing schedule and pedestrian buttons would work, the fix will be quite simple. If a more complex system is needed, such as sensor plates under the pavement, it would be a "whole different realm and cost," Wallace said.

The troublesome intersection is something the SDDA Transportation Committee has been talking about for a while. Members have suggested several options, including using a pedestrian crosswalk signal with a countdown. Because the intersection has functioned so long without pedestrian signals, another issue would be re-education of pedestrians.

"It's very irritating to cars trying to get through and someone could easily get hurt," Chairman Keith Chandler said. "We just want something that helps control pedestrian and vehicle traffic. But it has to be something that is specifically tailored to this intersection."

Other downtown projectsPublic Works crews will begin Monday to complete the underground utilities project on Columbia Street in front of Heritage Square. Business owners should expect minor power interruptions while the work is done. Wallace hopes the project will be completed by the end of the week.

Plans are in the works to rebuild the intersection at Columbia and Broadway. The area has "seen a lot of abuse" thanks to undergrounding projects and a sewer mainline break last year. The project has gone out to bid and Wallace is waiting for project proposals.

The city has decided to use stamped concrete in the intersection instead of bricks for durability. Asphalt will be placed in the center of the intersection and the stamped concrete will be used to form the crosswalks. Wallace is also examining using a higher-strength, faster-curing concrete that would allow crews to shut the intersection down for only 24 hours while the concrete work is done.

"If we did it that way, we could have traffic back on the road in 24 hours," he said. "Pouring concrete is a simple matter, but doing it in the middle of an intersection won't be simple."

Wallace hopes the project can be completed by May 28. However, if there is not enough time before Memorial Day Weekend, the city will wait until the fall to begin.

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