By editorial board • 

City off to a sound start on corridor planning project

Over the years, city planners have collaborated with state and local agencies, affected interest groups, the business community and the community at large on a variety of projects.

Makeover targets have included the city’s downtown historic district and adjacent Granary District; Alpine Avenue and other elements of the Northeast Gateway Urban Renewal District; Hill Road and associated westside infrastructure; and two crucial east-west connectors, Second and Fifth streets.

Next is the Three Mile Lane/Highway 18 Bypass corridor in Southeast McMinnville.

One of the key challenges is fostering better connectivity with the rest of the area, which lies on the other side of the Yamhill River. That’s particularly true for foot, bike and bus traffic.

Other important considerations include protecting the core function of the bypass in the first place, which is allowing through traffic to move past as smoothly and safely as possible, and striking the optimum balance of commercial, industrial and residential opportunity.

The imposing river, high-speed thoroughfare and rickety bridge access greatly complicate the task. Those elements put a premium on creative solutions.

It’s too early to embrace specific remedies. The process is well under way, but still in flux on the local level and subject to review afterward on the state level, where the Oregon Department of Transportation figures to play a key role.

However, we like what we’ve seen so far, halfway through the 18-month process. The citizen advisory committee appears to us on the right track.

ODOT is already committed to replacing the narrow wooden bridge spanning the river. That checks one important box.

The committee has one or more roundabouts under active consideration. We can’t be locked into the past in planning for the future, so we find receptivity to the roundabout option encouraging.

Though still viewed with skepticism by some, roundabouts have been widely accepted elsewhere and seem to have passed their first local test admirably on Hill Road. They are capable of handling high-volume traffic, as demonstrated by the one connecting Highways 101 and 202 at the foot of Astoria’s heavily traveled New Youngs Bay Bridge.

Planning Director Heather Richards was quoted Tuesday saying, “Putting together a strategy that actually will work is not just playing Monopoly with phantom land parcels and plastic housing pieces.” She made the remark in another context, but it is equally applicable to the Three Mile Lane/Highway 18 Bypass corridor study.

Completing a plan earning broad local and state agreement is a starting point, not an ending point. The aim is providing a broad planning framework, not filling in all the details.

The city creates opportunities. It doesn’t dictate who takes advantage of them or in what way.

One need planners have identified for the corridor is a broader number of restaurants capable of serving local and highway traffic. But its role is limited to providing suitable zoning in appropriate places.

In the end, the market will either confirm or refute city thinking on the subject in the end. That’s as it should be, both for this element and for the overall plan.


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