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Jeb Bladine: After street bond, right back to work

McMinnville transportation bond projects have and will create significant improvements in McMinnville traffic flow, but in just a few years, it could seem like an inadequate Band-Aid.

It’s not for lack of trying; city geography works against us.

Years of work by city staff, consultants and a citizen committee produced a $24 million plan that voters approved. Bond proceeds had to fund needed roadway and walkway improvements throughout the city, traffic lights, safety measures and more.

Fifth Street work was an acclaimed success, giving city motorists a viable new route from downtown to Lafayette Avenue. The nearby Alpine project — an edgy, far-reaching concept some people still consider a head-scratcher – launched development of a district that will become the popular sister to our city’s growing downtown.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

The major Hill Road project — continuing under construction throughout summer and fall months — will allow much-improved traffic flow from Second Street to Baker Creek Road. As that west-side system is further improved, it will be the high-usage bypass of a core McMinnville area destined to become more difficult to traverse in years to come.

On Google Earth, it’s easy to see how difficult and expensive it would be to construct major new bypass routes. State highways, the Yamhill River system, west hills and other natural boundaries don’t provide many options for the kind of work-arounds possible in growing communities with plenty of open space.

Perhaps the most interesting long-term possibility is creation of a north-south bypass on the east side of McMinnville over a bridge-required route from Three Mile Lane to Riverside Drive. That could feature a route for truck and other traffic from Highway 18 to the north-McMinnville entrance of Highway 99W.

Any such option would require a huge investment. That might seem unlikely today, but it will draw much more interest if and when the core area situation becomes increasingly congested and dangerous.

Meanwhile, the state has plans for replacing the Three Mile Lane bridge connecting our downtown to Highway 18. That long-awaited project should be accompanied by considering turn lanes and other improvements to handle the inevitable rise in Lafayette Avenue traffic.

A growing community with increased wine country tourism guarantees more cars will compete for use of already busy city streets. McMinnville can’t afford to wait for major overloads to exist before planning for the next round of transportation improvements.

If recent history is any indication, we won’t do that.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com and 503-687-1223.

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