A re-do for Dewey Avenue

March 07, 2002 11:00 pm
The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to change the intersection of Dewey Avenue and First Street when it rebuilds Dewey in the summer of 2003.  The agency wants to build curbs to confine traffic to specific lanes. Now, with no curbs, drivers can drift into the wrong lane, particularly drivers turning left from Dewey onto First. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).
The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to change the intersection of Dewey Avenue and First Street when it rebuilds Dewey in the summer of 2003. The agency wants to build curbs to confine traffic to specific lanes. Now, with no curbs, drivers can drift into the wrong lane, particularly drivers turning left from Dewey onto First. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

When you drive Dewey Avenue youre rolling across a chapter of Baker Citys street-paving history.

But only for another year.

In 2003 the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to rebuild Dewey from Auburn Avenue south to Myrtle Street.

But this wont be a simple overlay, in which a thin new layer of asphalt is packed atop all the old ones.

ODOT will grind up all three of the old paving layers on Dewey, and even put down a new layer of base rock.

The first of those paved layers probably was laid down during the Roaring 20s, when paved roads were rare, said Mark Hanson, ODOTs project leader.

Hanson discussed the $1.5 million project with the City Council last week.

Engineers are still working on the details, and they hope to finish the preliminary design by May, Hanson said.

ODOT will present that design during a public meeting, probably in early summer, and possibly change it depending on comments the agency receives from citizens and the city, Hanson said.

We definitely want to get public input, he said.

Although certain details arent determined, the basic plan is set, Hanson said.

ODOT will replace not only the asphalt, but also most sections of sidewalk on both sides of Dewey, he said.

The agency will build new driveway entrances for homes along the street, as well, Hanson said.

Other aspects of the project might prove controversial in particular the proposed changes to Dewey Avenues intersections with First and Second streets, and ODOTs proposal to close the Dewey Avenue entrances for three businesses between First Street and Auburn Avenue.

First Street intersection

Hanson said ODOT engineers dislike this intersection because First Street does not meet Dewey at the 90-degree angle traffic engineers prefer.

Hanson said the agency wants to re-align the intersection slightly to bring that angle closer to 90 degrees.

Another problem is the wide expanse of unbroken asphalt, which allows drivers to cut the corner when turning from Dewey onto First Street, Hanson said.

There are a lot of uncontrolled turns in conflict at that intersection, he said.

ODOT wants to build curbs in the intersection to confine cars to the proper lane and prevent drivers from drifting into the wrong lane while making the left turn from Dewey onto First Street, Hansen said.

Second Street intersection

City Councilor Beverly Calder, who lives on the east side of Dewey at this intersection, described it as horrible.

Its actually a three-way junction, with Grace Street meeting Second Street barely a car length from where Second intersects Dewey.

Calder, who is a member of the citizens committee ODOT created to help the agency plan the project, said northbound drivers on Dewey often cut the corner when they turn left onto Second Street, taking advantage of the wide expanse of asphalt there.

Some drivers take the corner at tire-squealing speeds of 40 mph or faster, Calder said.

Hanson said ODOTs proposed solution is to build curbs to replace the row of poles in front of Elkhorn Athletic Club.

That will force northbound traffic to stay in the right lane, rather than drift into the left lane while turning onto Second Street, Hanson said.

Councilor Chuck Phegley said he is concerned ODOTs plan to re-align the intersection will make it difficult for trucks to negotiate the turn.

On paper it doesnt look good and on the street it doesnt look good, Phegley said.

Hanson said the intersection will be designed to accommodate trucks towing trailers.

Harry Williams, who owns Elkhorn Athletic and also is a member of the citizens committee, said he agrees with ODOTs proposal to replace the poles with a curb.

But Williams doesnt think the change will prevent drivers from cutting the corner.

There isnt much they can do with the intersection, he said. I dont think theres any real answer.

Williams hopes ODOT will move the crosswalk on Dewey farther north, closer to Second Street.

Now, the crosswalk is so far from the actual intersection that some drivers seem surprised to see pedestrians crossing, Williams said.

The crosswalk also is shaded by tall trees on the east side of Dewey, he said, making it less visible to drivers.

Another possible solution to the left turn dilemma is to designate, with paint stripes, a left-turn-only lane on Dewey, Hanson said.

ODOT counts showed sufficient traffic to warrant a turn lane, he said..

However, to add that turn lane the state would have to subtract curbside parking in the area, he said.

The decision is the citys, Hanson said.

ODOT also is proposing to make Grace Street one-way (westbound traffic only) in the area of South Baker Elementary, although thats only a suggestion, Hanson said.

Several residents said they opposed that plan when the city proposed it more than a year ago.

Myrtle Street intersection

This junction, just before Dewey drops beneath the railroad tracks, marks the end of the project.

ODOT isnt proposing any major changes here, Hanson said.

Some residents have suggested adding a lane on the east side of Dewey so drivers turning onto Dewey from Myrtle can merge into northbound traffic. Now, because the walls of the underpass and handrail along the sidewalk block the view down into the underpass, the turn from Myrtle onto Dewey is a precarious one.

Hanson said a merge lane isnt feasible because the Second Street intersection is too close.

A possible compromise is to ban curbside parking on the east side of Dewey in the area, creating an unofficial merge lane, Hanson said.

ODOT also may cut back a portion of the underpass wall and handrail so drivers waiting to turn can see farther into the underpass, he said.

Business driveways

ODOT is proposing to close entrances onto Dewey Street at three businesses, all on the west side of the street Oregon Trail Yamaha, the Oregon Employment Division, and Ragsdale Mobile Glass.

Hanson said all three buildings have entrances on other streets.

Business owners can appeal ODOTs recommendations, he said.

Michelle Kanadle, who works at Oregon Trail Yamaha, said the business definitely opposes ODOTs plan to block the business entrance to Dewey.

Closing that entrance would cause congestion in the stores parking lot, Kanadle said.

Landscaping

Workers probably will have to cut some trees while building new sidewalks, Hanson said.

ODOT will plant new trees to replace any that are felled, he said.

That will be one topic during this summers public meeting, he said.

ODOT also wants to hear residents opinions about detours that will be necessary during construction, Hanson said.

Because workers will be rebuilding Dewey literally from the ground up, it wont be possible to keep one lane of travel open during construction, he said.