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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow ELGIN MAN FIGHTS ODOT PLAN

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ELGIN MAN FIGHTS ODOT PLAN

ENTRANCE COULD GO: Cecil Churchill, owner of C-Zer's Drive-in in Elgin, is circulating a petition in an effort to get the Oregon Department of Transportation to make changes in its proposal for new sidewalks and "bulb-outs" along Division Street. Churchill said the plan calls for elimination or narrowing of his driveway entrances from the street. (The Observer/RAY LINKER).
ENTRANCE COULD GO: Cecil Churchill, owner of C-Zer's Drive-in in Elgin, is circulating a petition in an effort to get the Oregon Department of Transportation to make changes in its proposal for new sidewalks and "bulb-outs" along Division Street. Churchill said the plan calls for elimination or narrowing of his driveway entrances from the street. (The Observer/RAY LINKER).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN — More than 80 people have signed a petition asking the Oregon Department of Transportation to make some changes in a $3.06 million proposed road improvement and beautification plan.

Since he started circulating the petition last week, Cecil Churchill said only two people have declined to sign it.

What several business folks don't like are the proposed "bulb outs" and raised sidewalks along Division Street, which is also Highway 204. Work is scheduled to begin in 2005 inside the city limits. Several meetings have been held involving ODOT, the city council and local business people.

The subject is scheduled to be on tonight's Elgin City Council agenda at 7 at City Hall.

ODOT's Mike Barry said, "Nothing is finalized on the project," which will run the nine blocks from Highway 82 to 17th Street, a distance of .4 mile.

"It goes by the (Stella Mayfield) school and a goal is to make the road more pedestrian- friendly," Barry said.

This includes installing or replacing sidewalks on both sides of the street, putting bulb-outs on all corners except at the intersection with Highway 82, and reconstructing the street.

ODOT's Monte Grove said whether the bulb-outs remain "is pretty much a call by the city. We've been involved in a pretty intense planning session for six months and will be looking to the city for direction on that."

Some business owners don't like the aspects of the plan which will remove some of the access driveways to their stores and curtail or restrict parking.

"I don't mind ODOT re-doing the street but it needs to be functional," said Scott Ludwig, one of the owners of Food Town at Division and 15th streets. "They shouldn't wipe these businesses off the face of the earth. My concern is the effect it will have on businesses along this strip."

He said the businesses want beautification, but people need a place to park when they come to shop.

"Half the people around here are on horse trailers," he said.

His brother and partner, Bob Ludwig, said ODOT had said the changes were because the nine-space, pull-in parking area in the front is a safety hazard. when people back out into traffic.

"We've been here 25 years and haven't had an accident," Bob Ludwig said.

He said the plan calls for parallel parking along the highway as opposed to the present straight-in parking off the street. That would cause Food Town to lose about six parking spaces, he said.

"I sure hope people pay attention. Some logging truck is going to run right up over a car trying to back into a parallel space," Bob Ludwig said.

Parking in front of the store is a convenience to elderly people, too, he said.

Cecil Churchill, whose family operates C-Zer's Drive-In at 14th and Division streets, said the plan as proposed would wipe out two of his drive-up entrances.

"They would leave me with one driveway entering from the state highway," Churchill said.

And a new sidewalk would mean long vehicles, including logging trucks, RV campers and horse trailers, couldn't park along the street adjacent to the building next door.

He wants the bulb-outs, the raised sidewalks that jut out into the traffic lanes similar to the ones on Joseph's Main Street, left out of the Elgin plan. One at his corner would stick way out almost into the traffic lane and cause such a sharp angle for drivers at one drive-up window as to make it impossible to use.

He said he has rejected ODOT's suggestions that he move the window farther to the back of the building, "and they wanted me to move my canopy (which has two picnic tables)," Churchill said.

Besides "plugging up my business, which depends almost entirely on drive-up traffic," the state is "just making an obstacle course for people trying to get to my business.

"My business serves a lot of logging trucks, fifth-wheelers, hay trucks trucks that have a hard time maneuvering in small areas. They can't parallel park if a new sidewalk goes in on this side of the street. People in RVs traveling as a group will have a hard time (parking)," Churchill said.

"If they make it so you can't park, people will drive on to Imbler, Enterprise or Joseph. "I have a lot of repeat business by people from Walla Walla driving to and from Wallowa Lake. If they don't stop here on the way home, their tax dollars will go to Washington."

Churchill has owned his business for 24 years.

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