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Plans underway for Highway 211 pedestrian improvements in Molalla

City officials awaiting approval on proposed modifications that would allow extension, streamlining of current outlined project

Part of the stretch along Highway 211 in Molalla between Ona Way and Blackman's Corner, showing the dangerously narrow space on the pavement currently available for pedestrians and bicyclists.In the not-so-distant future, Highway 211 may become much safer and accessible for Molalla pedestrians.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has made progress on pedestrian improvement plans along a stretch of Highway 211 through Molalla as funds have now been secured from the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

The project would create significant transportation upgrades for pedestrians and bicyclists on Highway 211 from Ona Way to the Highway 213 intersection.

Molalla Public Works Director Gerald Fisher and City Manager Dan Huff , however, are looking at alternative plans.

Instead of going with the original plan, which would require a road widening for bike lanes and curb, gutter, and sidewalk as well as addressing Bear Creek and all of the environmental standards associated, Fisher said they want to modify the plans to include only one pathway on one side of the road that's separate from the highway.

"We have an opportunity to kind of streamline the project by having it separated from the roadway, putting in a bicycle and pedestrian bridge, having a separated pathway that's north of the roadway," Fisher said. Ditches would also be covered to eliminate the drop hazard.

Fisher and Huff met with ODOT staff on March 9 to discuss the proposed modifications to the project.

"Things went really well yesterday," Fisher said in an email on March 10. "ODOT staff will be revisiting the paperwork to allow for flexibility as discussed, and we are hopeful that it will be approved."

Fisher said the schedule that ODOT had put together called for construction to begin next year, but he said that date is unlikely with the current proposed plan.

"The time it takes to get through the environmental permitting, design, and through the process that ODOT has in place to let something out, it's very difficult to impossible to meet that date," Fisher said. "However, if we have the flexibility to make an alternative design to that where we don't have to go through environmental permitting, we don't touch anything that has to do with Bear Creek or wetland and can get basically a 'no effect' finding, then we can do it faster."

The city of Molalla is required to provide a 13.51 percent money match to the project's budget, which totals $1,947,022, making the city's contribution come in at $263,111, according to Fisher's estimates.

The engineering consultant that has been hired for the project is Parsons Brinckerhoff, which will do the design work for the project.

That money is locked in for the project, which means if the city's proposed modification is approved, the improvements could be extended along Highway 211 significantly.

"The intent being that if we can keep the cost down, maybe we can extend the bicycle and pedestrian improvements beyond the limits and potentially as far down as Hezzie [Lane]," Fisher said. "There's a lot of chips to fall in place, things to go right, in order for us to go beyond the current limits of the project."

The proposed modification of the project would provide essential improvements to access to Highway 211 for residents of Stone Place Apartments and others nearby, allowing for much safer and easier admittance to stores in the Molalla Market Center strip mall along Highway 213 and Highway 211.

"We need the flexibility to not do the standard plug and chug that we know is going to drive up the cost, extend the time, and make it very difficult to do those improvements," Fisher said.

Fisher said the starting deadline of summer 2018 would be made much more possible with the approval of the proposed project alternative.

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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