When local residents drive around McMinnville, familiar landmarks become a background blur. They are actually quite evident, but we don’t give them much thought, beyond acknowledging their existence.
Obviously, controlled intersections require us to stop and wait, then allow a certain allocation of time before we can proceed on our way. While we’re waiting, we can put the act of driving cautiously and alertly temporarily on hold.
During this brief interlude, we have a million things on our mind. But one of them is most likely not considering the significance of our immediate surroundings.
The mindset might be different for first-timers in town, particularly when they come to the major intersection at Second and Adams.
That shorthand description of the three-way intersection is used for a reason. To the north lies Northwest Adams, to the east East Second, to the south Southeast Adams and to the west West Second.
This correctness of compass directions is given little if any consideration by motorists. Only individuals and business located along those various disparate descriptions get a daily reminder of the fact when their mail arrives.
The most notable aspect of this particular intersection is what occupies the four adjacent blocks. If there is any one place in town that can lay claim to local gravitas, this is it.
Drive it for yourself. Head south on Adams or west on Second. But don’t head east on Second, at least not during high traffic periods. Movement can be brought to a crawl, thanks to traffic turning left onto Baker, a block away.
That warning for the unwary aside, take a good look at the good looks of the buildings dominating their respective blocks.
The McMinnville Public Library occupies the northwest corner, First Federal the northeast corner, the McMinnville Fire Station the southeast corner and the McMinnville Police Station the southwest corner.
So what you have are institutions of information, finance and public safety, all essential elements of a community, facing one another at this single intersection. The fact that Adams is actually the southbound route of Highway 99W adds to its importance.
McMinnville City Manager Kent Taylor supplied the stats on construction of the fire station and the library annex. The police station information was simply extracted from news coverage, as it is of more recent vintage.
For information about the privately owned block housing the red brick bank building, whose modern shape makes a stately statement, I turned to the Yamhill County Assessors Office. Public property is not assessed for property tax purposes, but private property is.
It was McMinnville’s good fortune to be included in a national Carnegie Library bequest. It funded construction of a handsome library building in 1912.
Seventy years later, the people of McMinnville approved a $1.7 million bond for construction of an 11,500-square-foot addition. The bond covered purchase of the property, development of parking and all architectural, engineering and construction costs.
The new fire station, completed in 1998, was funded out of a $2 million bond approved in 1996. The bond covered demolition of the old station in addition to construction of the new one.
The most recent addition was the new police station, which rose on the huge vacant lot at the southwest corner of Adams and Second between June 2007 and May 2008. Working with a $9.5 million budget, the city council was able to secure a bid of $8,385,000 for all design and construction.
The sleekly modern and efficient building, designed by BOORA Architects of Portland, now serves members of an appreciative police department who were formerly working under confined, antiquated conditions in a former food mart.
Although you wouldn’t guess from looking at it, the monolithic home office of First Federal is almost 40 years old. It now carries an assessed value of $1.7 million and a market value of $2.3 million on the assessor’s books, but was no doubt built for a lot less than that back in 1972.
Anyone who travels this route with any frequency is well aware that this is a very busy intersection, with all legs carrying heavy traffic during rush hour. According to Community Development Director Mike Bisset, the latest ODOT count, from 2010, had 13,000 vehicles traveling south on Adams between Third and Second.
The one-way grid, of course, continues south to the point just beyond Walgreens. Adams and Baker merge again there.
The grid has proved very valuable in reducing backups at the downtown chokepoint. Remember, this is Highway 99W, a favorite of log truck drivers bringing full loads to the Willamina mill.
Though no current figures are available for West Second, it is apparent that this narrow, two-way urban street was not designed to accommodate its current counts.
Traffic burdens aside, consider what a fitting source of community pride this intersection embodies.
And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — waiting through four light changes eastbound on West Second in order to turn left onto Northeast Baker.
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 503-687-1227.