BANDON - Following public outcry after the Bandon City Council's recent decision to move forward with the Oregon Department of Transportation's "road diet" - the re-striping of U.S. Highway 101 for 1 mile through town, the council will revisit the issue - and their vote.
The council voted 4-2 at their April 1 meeting to proceed with the plan, which would effectively take the highway from two lanes in each direction down to one lane in each direction, with a continuous center turning lane, and would include a bike lane in either side.
There will also be additional space as a separation for pedestrians and can be used in certain areas as a stopping point for the Bandon trolley and bus service, according to City Manager Robert Mawson. Parking along Highway 101 was not going to be allowed at this time, Mawson said.
Councilors Brian Vick and Chris Powell voted against the proposal. Councilors Geri Procetto, Madeline Seymour, Claudine Hundhausen and Peter Braun voted in favor.
Mayor Mary Schamehorn said at the meeting the council could "undo" the re-striping if the new highway alignment didn't work out. However, ODOT official Darrin Neavoll told the council that while ODOT will pay the approximately $50,000 for the re-striping, they won't pay the $50,000 to undo it. Several people spoke against the idea to the council.
Following the meeting and after a story in the Bandon Western World, social media blew up with people both incredulous and angry about the decision. Residents are visitors alike are concerned the plan will not address one of the main issues other than slower drivers down, which is making crosswalks safer, especially uptown near the schools. In addition, travel time through town would be increased, it will be nearly impossible to pull out onto the highway, it will actually make the highway more dangerous, and will make it harder for emergency vehicles to travel through town, opponents said.
Safety has been one of the selling points of the road diet. Mawson believes the Highway 101 Interface Improvement Project, a term he prefers to "road diet," will improve safety, reduce vehicle speed, increase bicycle and pedestrian volumes and maintain an acceptable vehicle travel time.
In addition to the hundreds of comments on social media, a few residents circulated petitions, speaking in particular to businesses along the highway, some of which had no idea about the proposal. Lori Osborne, who helped gather signatures along with Scott Vierck, who spoke against the project at the meeting, some 28 signatures were gathered, which represents approximately 90 percent of the businesses along the highway.
Threats of City Council recalls were also made on social media.
The mayor responded to the angry residents in her As I See It column (see Opinion, page A4). Following further research of other cities that have adopted the road diet and after communicating with Bandon Fire Chief Lanny Boston and others, Schamehorn said Sunday that based on the information the council has discovered since making the decision to go ahead with the road diet, they have decided to revisit the proposal at the May 6 meeting.
"Based on the public's reaction and what we've learned about other areas that have tried the road diet, I've asked that it be put on the agenda," Schamehorn said.
The mayor said she also spoke with Neovoll about options for making the crosswalks safer without adopting the road diet.
"I believe there is a solution to the crosswalk issue," Schamehorn said.
Mawson said implementation of the road diet has been postponed until the council decides how to proceed.
"Basically, at this point, because of public comments and concerns raised since the decision, we have asked ODOT to hold off awarding the contract until the council has a chance to talk about it," Mawson said.