SEASIDE - Discussions about the U.S. Highway 101 widening project are revving.

City councilors announced plans Monday for public meetings in addition to a March 19 informal public open house hosted by the Oregon Department of Transportation. The open house, focusing on the southern section of the project, is set for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Seaside High School Library, 1901 N. Holladay Drive.

Kathy McMullen, ODOT area manager, has said the clock is ticking for ODOT to reach preliminary agreements with Seaside and Gearhart to roll forward with the highway widening endeavor, also known as the Pacific Way to Dooley Bridge project.

McMullen previously has said a document agreeing to proceed and outlining issues to be addressed, a "memorandum of understanding," would be sought by the end of March - or the $27 million allocated toward the project might be re-directed toward other work in the state.

But in light of the desire of Seaside officials to take more time and receive more public input, an outline of meetings working toward such an agreement apparently will be sufficient for ODOT officials in Salem, Councilor Larry Haller said.

Delays in progress with additional meetings about the project last fall stemmed not from the city but from budgetary issues at the state level, Haller added.

The newly proposed sessions include:

• An April 9 public input

session in which people will sign up to speak for up to five minutes about the project, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, 415 First Ave.;

• An April 16 work session by city councilors to discuss their opinions, 7 p.m. at City Hall, 989 Broadway. The public is welcome to attend, but public comments will not be accepted as part of the work session deliberation;

• A May 12 regular meeting of the City Council at city hall to consider accepting a memorandum of understanding.

Meanwhile, councilors also plan to arrange to meet in pairs with McMullen as well as Rick Garrison, the project coordinator, and his soon-to-be successor as coordinator, Nathan Potter.

The project is designed to improve safety and accommodate increasing traffic on U.S. 101 by adding lanes and other features between Pacific Way in the middle of Gearhart and Dooley Bridge south of Seaside.

Mayor Don Larson said he and Councilor Diana Schafer met recently with McMullen. Larson said he also has consulted with Cannon Beach officials who developed a memorandum of understanding with ODOT for the north entrance project currently under construction.

Cannon Beach officials have recommended Seaside to be detailed in developing expectations about the project in the memorandum, he added. "They said the more you can put into it, the better off you will be."

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