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Interchange project leaves business in wait-and-see mode

by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Kevin Baker, co-owner of Baker & Baker Towing Service in Woodburn, is looking to redevelop his lot as the Woodburn Interchange Project is under way. The Woodburn Interchange Project is drawing a new line along the south side of Highway 214, where businesses are preparing for the changes that are coming their way.

The lines have already been drawn along the outer edges of the Baker & Baker Towing Service parking lot, which sits at the southwest corner of Evergreen Road and Highway 214.

The family-owned business, which has been at the location since 1967 and is both a towing company and a used car lot, closed its Union 76 gas station July 16. Co-owner Kevin Baker said he is still waiting to determine whether a new station could be opened on the site.

“We’re in a wait-and-see mode,” he said. “We don’t have all the answers yet. We’re waiting to see what kind of redevelopment we’re going to do.”

A median already is planned for the latter stages of the project along Highway 214 that will prevent left-hand turns into businesses on the south side of the highway.

At issue is the median that could be in the works on Evergreen Road, which would force drivers to turn right out of the business away from the highway, Baker said.

“Most customers getting gas want to get back on the freeway,” Baker said. “That’s one of our biggest concerns for redevelopment.”

Baker is in negotiations with the Oregon Department of Transportation, which is building the project, over the median, he said. Other options could include scrapping the gas station idea and redeveloping the property with a fast-food restaurant or remaining just a tow truck company, he said.

The new highway will be widened from 52 feet to 76 feet from curb to curb, according to Lou Torres, spokesman for ODOT.

Most of the widening will be to the north of the highway since there will be fewer impacts there and because of the location of the bridge over Interstate 5, Torres said.

“Yes, there will be a median barrier installed along 214 in the project area to control access,” Torres said. “This will be added during the latter part of the project.”

The changes will improve the efficiency and connectivity of Evergreen Road and make it easier and faster for buses, shuttles, car pool vans and motorists to move in and out of the park and ride/transit facility, Torres said.

Other businesses along the highway also are preparing for the changes ahead.

At Wells Fargo, the interchange project already has resulted in a loss of a drive-thru window a couple of years back, said Maricela Beach, branch manager.

The next step could be loss of the front parking lot, which would result in moving the bank’s ATM to the back of the parking lot, Beach said.

“We still have parking back there,” Beach said. “That’s the good thing. If anything, there would be more room for cars.”

Wells Fargo also is considering relocating its branch to the west side of the interchange or consolidating its two Woodburn branches, Beach said.

Just east of Wells Fargo, Columbia Bank has plans to relocate its branch across the highway to a site near Walgreens, said Deborah Wade, branch manager.

The bank is working on permits with the city of Woodburn and plans to start construction on a new bank by the end of January, with a new branch completed by June 2014, Wade said.

“With the widening of Highway 214, we will lose a good percentage of our parking, which will not provide good service to our customers,” she said.

The move should have low impact on customers, according to Wade. A memorial that honors two officers killed and one seriously injured in the 2008 West Coast Bank bombing also will be relocated to a site at the Woodburn Transit Facility along with the “Welcome to Woodburn” sign, according to the city. The memorial will be erected next year after widening of the highway is completed.

“I’m totally comfortable with that,” Wade said. “I think having it in a more public venue is very important.”

One business on the north side of the highway that has already been impacted by the interchange project has been KFC, which broke ground on a new restaurant just north of its previous location last week.

“We’re happy,” said Fred Jackson, franchise owner. “I wish we could go faster with the good weather.”

Jackson said the construction project, which costs in excess of $1 million, is expected to be completed by January.

“It’s a 120-day process with rain,” he said. “It could be a 75-day to 90 process without.”

KFC, which closed June 17, laid off its 20 employees at the time. Jackson hopes to have most of them back, he said.

“Anybody who worked for us before – we’ll call them,” he said. “A couple of employees have said they’re moving out of the city.”

The new KFC will be slightly bigger than the old one with more parking in the new space, which is just north of the old location, Jackson said.



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