MEDIAN DISCUSSIONS SHOULD BE HELPFUL
Two words describe the approach the Oregon Department of Transportation is taking with merchants along Island Avenue: cooperation and communication.
ODOT believed it had a sound plan in place for making Island Avenue safer. That involved constructing concrete medians (highway dividers) along much of Island Avenue from Willow to 26th streets.
Officials, however, say they are willing to step back and take a look at their plan following a La Grande City Council work session this week. The meeting brought highway officials and business owners together to discuss ODOT's proposals. Businesses on Island Avenue fear that entrance and egress from their restaurants, shops and stores could be severely impacted when medians are in place.
ODOT Region 5 Manager Tom Schuft showed he is willing to cooperate with the businesses when he promised to slow down the process by two to three months. "We are willing to discuss some of the design elements. We can't eliminate the median totally from the projects, but we can talk about some fine details," Schuft said.
ODOT is willing to communicate further with the business owners at meetings that will be scheduled later. The goal will be to help the owners feel comfortable that their businesses will not sustain losses by the placement of medians. Entrance and exit points also must be addressed. Business owners need assurances that trucks and other vehicles that enter their property will be able to exit easily.
Further research is needed on the motor vehicle accident history along Island Avenue to identify trouble spots. Those areas could be targeted for more attention, including medians.
ODOT wisely sees the importance of getting the business owners involved in Island Avenue access planning. The discussions should help both sides discover how to approach the street project in a safe but sane manner.
Stop if necessary
The Oregon Department of Transportation is reminding residents that April marks the beginning of construction season in many of the state's highway work zones.
Motorists must be cautious when passing through work zones for two reasons. First, a 1995 Oregon law doubled traffic fines in work zones. It applies to all roads and all types of roadwork, regardless if a "traffic fines double" sign is posted. Second, accidents in work zones can be deadly not only to the road workers but to the motorists themselves.
Drivers should react to a work zone in the same way they would respond to a sign that says: "Stop light ahead." Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop when necessary.