The business district along 10th Street in Baker City has fared better than commercial zones in some other cities where, as happened here, a new freeway bypassed what was the main drag through town.
Despite having most through traffic shunted onto Interstate 84, and the development of the typical retail strip next to the freeway (East Campbell Street), the 10th Street business district has retained much of the flavor that it had when the interstate was built 40 years ago.
There's a couple of burger drive-ins and old-fashioned motor
lodge-style motels. And a few other restaurants, a mix of other
businesses and government offices.
Yet it would be a fair complaint to say that 10th Street has been
neglected, at least as compared with Main Street downtown, another
business district that was disconnected, so to speak, from a major
stream of commerce when the four-lane freeway replaced two-lane Highway
It's been a bit more than two decades since Main Street was rebuilt, complete with new sidewalks.
Tenth Street, meanwhile, has changed little.
It's an easy street to negotiate - so long as you're driving.
The scarcity of sidewalks, though, makes the street nearly inaccessible for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.
It's no breeze for bicyclists, either, due to the lack of bike lanes and that cars can park along the curb.
Fortunately, the Oregon Department of Transportation seems interested in making significant improvements to 10th Street.
(Specifically, the section from Broadway to Pocahontas, which is still part of Highway 30.)
ODOT originally applied for a $1.2 million federal grant to build
sidewalks on both sides of 10th Street between Pocahontas and Broadway.
The agency recently withdrew that request, though, deciding instead to
work with city officials and other interested parties to come up with a
bigger package of improvements.
That makes sense.
We hope, though, that ODOT's eventual proposal will include those sidewalks, as well as at least one bicycle lane.
The freeway notwithstanding, 10th Street remains an important street, both as a commercial center and as a travel route.
In particular it is a vital link to Baker High School, just two blocks to the east.
The street deserves a share of the attention that's been lavished on Baker City's other thoroughfares.