By JAYSON JACOBY
Of the Baker City Herald
The only things preventing drivers from cutting the corner at First Street and Dewey Avenue are stripes of white paint.
Not much of an obstacle.
But the Oregon Department of Transportation intends to replace those stripes next summer with something more substantial.
Curbs, to be specific.
The barriers are part of ODOT's $1.7 million project to rebuild and, in places, re-design, Dewey Avenue from Auburn Avenue south to Myrtle Street.
Mark Hanson, ODOT's project leader, discussed the agency's plans during a special Baker City Council meeting Tuesday evening.
The problem at the First Street intersection is that it's an expanse of asphalt where drivers arrive from all directions and with an array of turning choices, but only those white lines to guide them.
Often, drivers traveling north of Dewey and turning left onto First Street drift into the lane for southbound traffic on First Street and sometimes at tire-squealing speeds.
It's easy to do, because of all that asphalt and because the streets don't meet at the 90-degree angle ODOT prefers for intersections, Hanson said.
The agency's solution is to replace those stripes with curbs. That will confine vehicles to their proper lanes, requiring northbound drivers on Dewey to make a 90-degree turn, at slower speeds, onto First.
The triangular area inside the new curbs will be landscaped.
Hanson said ODOT will pay for the work, but wants the city to design the project.
Councilor Jeff Petry suggested the city ask its Tree Board for help.
Hanson said ODOT is proposing similar changes at the intersection of Dewey and Second Street.
It's not as wide an intersection, but like First Street, Second Street does not connect to Dewey at a 90-degree angle.
ODOT plans to build new curbs, and move existing ones, to prevent drivers from cutting that corner, as well.
That's not an uncommon occurrence, said councilor Beverly Calder, who lives on the east side of Dewey directly across from the intersection.
Although Hanson said ODOT has agreed to delay construction until school is out next year to avoid problems at nearby South Baker School, the project will require residents to temporarily adjust their driving routes.
The detour route is west on Auburn, across the railroad tracks to 10th Street, south on 10th to Myrtle, than east on Myrtle to Highway 7 just south of the railroad underpass.
In addition, Hanson said driveways on Dewey will be closed during weekdays while workers are busy.
The contractor will be required to open those driveways every evening, he said.
An exception to that is during construction of sidewalks and concrete driveway approaches, Hanson said. At that time the driveways could be closed for a few days while the concrete cures, he said.
Calder asked Hanson if it were possible to designate temporary parking areas for residents displaced during construction.
Otherwise, she said, drivers who forget to move their cars before workers arrive could be stuck until work ends for the evening.
Hanson said he assumed drivers would park on nearby streets.
City Manager Gordon Zimmerman said he would talk with officials at the David J. Wheeler Federal Building to see whether spaces in the large parking lot there would be available.
The Dewey Avenue project is much more than a simple re-paving job, where a fresh layer of asphalt is packed on top of the old ones.
Because the street has a high center crown, and because the asphalt layers are so thick that only a short section of curb stands above them, ODOT plans to start from scratch, removing all the pavement layers and even the base rock beneath, Hanson said.
The new street will be flatter, without the center crown, he said.
ODOT also plans to replace most sidewalks in the neighborhood.
Some of the historic sections, which date back several decades, will be preserved and possibly used as walkways around the landscaped triangle andquot;islandandquot; at the First Street intersection, Calder said.
In addition to rebuilding Dewey Avenue, ODOT plans to re-pave Bridge Street and Elm Street, from the Powder River bridge south to the intersection with Old Highway 30.
That part of the project will be faster and simpler than the Dewey Avenue work, Hanson said.
Crews won't be removing any of the old asphalt on Bridge and Elm streets, nor will they replace any sidewalks, he said.
As part of the Dewey project, ODOT recommends the city restrict traffic on Grace Street to one-way (eastbound only) between Fourth and Second streets. That's on the north side of South Baker School.
The City Council has yet to decide on ODOT's proposal.