Of the Baker City Herald

Campbell Street is a straight street, but the path to figuring out how traffic will flow on it in the future is curvy indeed.

The Baker City Council heard from several residents over two hours Tuesday, and most said they oppose at least parts of a proposed plan for managing traffic on Campbell Street over the next 20 years or so.

That plan discusses the widest, and busiest, section of the street from Main Street east to Interstate 84.

After listening to the concerns, the council voted to table the issue until its Sept. 11 meeting, when it will again solicit comments from the public.

Between now and then, the city will make available copies of the plan at City Hall, 1655 First St., and at the Baker County Library, 2400 Resort St.

Councilors noted that there is no timeline for adopting the plan; and City Manager Gordon Zimmerman said neither the state, which would pay the majority of the cost for changes to Campbell, nor the city has set aside any of the estimated $2.27 million the work would cost.

I see absolutely no reason to be in a hurry, Councilor Nick Greear said. Im not sure we have some palatable alternatives. Weve got time to take more public comment and hear their concerns.

The 10 or so people who spoke to the council Tuesday concentrated most of their comments on three issues:

o How the street should be striped.

Now there is one travel lane in each direction, with a center turn lane, bike lanes on both sides and parking allowed at both curbs.

That configuration dates to 1997; before, there were two travel lanes in each direction, with no center turn lane or bike lanes.

o Where to install a traffic signal, when traffic counts meet the state standards for a signal.

Although Campbell Street often is crowded, theres not enough traffic on side streets to warrant a signal at any intersections, said Thomas Kuhlman, traffic operations manager for the Oregon Department of Transportations (ODOT) Eastern Oregon region.

That could change quickly when Albertsons opens its new grocery store on the north side of Campbell across from Safeway, Kuhlman said.

ODOT, which has authority over Campbell because the street is part of state Highway 7, thinks the traffic signal should be installed at Oak Street, just west of the Safeway/Rite Aid shopping complex.

The citys planning commission, which has reviewed the plan, suggests the signal be installed at the Cedar/Clark streets intersection, one block west of Oak Street.

o Whether the bike lanes should stay.

Several speakers told the council they believe congestion is worse on Campbell Street since the lane striping was changed four years ago.

I think its a real mess, said Greg Sackos, who owns several buildings on Campbell Street and is developing the shopping complex of which Bi-Mart was the first tenant. Albertsons will be the second.

Kuhlman said ODOT recommended the change from four lanes to three because accidents were common at several Campbell Street intersections in the early and mid 1990s.

He said the old four-lane system contributed to rear-end collisions in particular. Those accidents often happened when a driver in the left lane, which on freeways is the fast one, crashed into a car standing still in the left lane waiting to turn from Campbell to a side street.

Kuhlman said there have been fewer accidents on Campbell since the change to three lanes, despite an increase in traffic of about 2,000 cars per day.

However, as Bill Leigh of Baker City pointed out, the actual number of wrecks may not have decreased as much as ODOT statistics show. The reason, he said, is that the amount of damage that must occur before drivers have to file an accident report (and thus be counted by ODOT) increased not long after the street was re-striped.

Kuhlman said the state could switch to a five-lane configuration two travel lanes each way with a center turn lane but that would eliminate bike lanes and on-street parking.

Most speakers told the council they believe Campbell Street is a poor place for bike lanes.

Ive seen more vehicles go down the bike lanes than bikes, said Paul Townsend, who owns Pauls Transmissions, on Cedar Street just north of Campbell.

Jim Van Duyn, a local architect, said hes not opposed to the city designating bike lanes.

But he suggested using a side street parallel to Campbell, such as Baker Street, which leads to Sam-O Swim Center.

I think bike lanes on Campbell are inherently dangerous, and thats why theyre underutilized.

Councilor Beverly Calder said she often rides her bike on Campbell Street. She reminded the audience that state law gives bicyclists the same rights as car drivers.

We all have to share the road pedestrians, bicyclists and cars, Calder said. We can all get alone, and the more aware we are the safer it is for cyclists and drivers.

Tim Keneipp, whos also a bicyclist, said he actually feels safer riding on Campbell Street than on other heavily traveled streets, such as Main, that dont have designated bike lanes.

Even the thought of removing bike lanes on Campbell is to me ridiculous, he said.