Residents of Theater Lane will be happy to hear the gravel portion of East Theater Lane will be paved sooner.
On Monday the Hermiston city council approved a request from city staff to “flip-flop” two items on its streets capital improvement plan.
The plan was for the city to take on no major projects from the plan in fiscal year 2019-2020, then complete a realignment of the three-way intersection of Geer, Harper and Umatilla River roads in 2021 and pave the eastern portion of Theater Lane after.
Assistant city manager Mark Morgan said the city has since changed its philosophy on paying for sidewalks on new projects and decided to only pave travel lanes on Theater Lane, leaving the addition of sidewalks, curbs and gutters to developers who build out there. That cut down the project’s cost from approximately $1.3 million to about $600,000.
At the same time, engineers are having a harder time than expected coming up with a re-design for the Geer/Harper intersection, where three roads cross over the railroad behind Home Depot.
“One of the things we have realized when we got into looking at Geer and Harper is that there are no good solutions there,” Morgan said.
Some solutions would favor everyday vehicles, others would be better for the truck traffic to the nearby Marlette plant. A roundabout would make sense, Morgan said, but members of the public spoke out vehemently against roundabouts last time the city considered them.
Flipping the Theater and Geer/Harper projects would be easier from a cash flow perspective, give engineers more time for design work and have East Theater Lane by the end of 2020.
Councilor John Kirwan said he was opposed to the idea because the portion of Theater Lane that would be paved is beyond where the housing development lies.
“No citizens of the city of Hermiston live past there,” he said.
But councilor Jackie Myers, who lives in the area of the project, said residents still use the road frequently to get to other places. She has asked for years when the city will pave the road. And councilor Doug Smith said his family would use Theater Lane more often if the unpaved portion got paved. Some councilors also pointed out the Hermiston School District owns property along there and hopes to re-try for a bond that could include a new elementary school on Theater Lane, which would also increase traffic there.
In the end, all councilors but Kirwan voted in favor of the change.
Before Monday’s regular city council meeting, the council discussed sidewalks, housing and other topics during a work session.
Morgan said Hermiston had 46 new single family home permits through the end of July.
“We’re easily on track to pass last year’s 81 residential units,” he said.
He mentioned a few developments that have been built recently, including what was originally meant to be town homes off of Northeast 8th Street but instead have been turned into higher-end rentals at about $1,200 a month. He said there is also a plan in the works for a new multi-family housing between Southeast 5th and 6th streets that would provide an additional 50 units to Hermiston’s stock of apartments.
The city continues to work on new ways to encourage housing growth in the area, such as a new water town in the northeast part of town a new residential zoning off of Diagonal Road.
The city is also turning its attention to sidewalks. An intern with city engineering firm Anderson Perry has been cataloging the city’s sidewalks and wheelchair ramps all summer, and Morgan displayed a map Monday with sidewalk-less streets in red.
“I was actually pleasantly surprised with our sidewalks,” he said. “We have quite a few sidewalks.”
The city has about $1.2 million in sidewalk projects it hopes to complete, however, and is applying for funding through the Safe Routes to Schools program.