BANDON - The Bandon City Council voted unanimously at its regular meeting Monday to rescind a previous decision to enter into an agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to re-configure U.S. Highway 101 through town.
City Manager Robert Mawson said he was still in favor of the "road diet" for safety reasons, but public outcry after the council voted 4-2 at its April meeting to proceed with the plan has changed the minds of councilors and Mayor Mary Schamehorn.
"I wasn't for this reconfiguration from the beginning," said Councilor Claudine Hundhausen, but after hearing from Fire Chief Lanny Boston, who is opposed to it ... We want firefighters to get where they need to go."
Following the April vote, Schamehorn and others met with ODOT officials to see if they could agree on how to make highway crossings safer without implementing the road diet, in particular the crossing at the corner of Ninth Street SW and Highway 101 by Dairy Queen. There have been many near-misses at that intersection, plus a fatality caused by a crosswalk that has poor visibility.
A new way to address the crosswalk issued was introduced at Monday's meeting by Darrin Neavoll of ODOT. The Ninth Street crosswalk will be moved to the north side of the street and a short refuge island will be placed in the middle of the highway. As a result, there will be poles on either side of the highway where a pedestrian can push the button and activate yellow warning flashing lights. There will be flashers under each sign on the sides of the street and in the middle at the island.
Neavoll described the lights that will be placed at the new crosswalk as "very fast-flashing and bright. They will stay on for the amount of time somebody walks across plus a little buffer time. The lights will not come back on until somebody pushes the button again."
"Not all plans are finalized," Neavoll said at the meeting. "We are disappointed, but we understand. It really needs to be a community decision. There are other concerns than the crosswalk and those may come up in the future. It's a trade-off."
According to Schamehorn, Bill Caldwell, manager of McKay's, is fine with the proposal, which will mean instead of turning into the alley behind McKay's from the center turn lane, large trucks will now turn from the inside lane. But since there will continue to be two lanes on both sides of the highway, traffic should not be impeded.
Motorists turning right onto Ninth will have to do so without a turning lane, and those entering the highway will have to pull directly into traffic. The crosswalk will be similar to one in Winston.
Neavoll said the cost of the new configuration will be between $80,000-$90,000, with the state to pay half the cost.
"Because the City of Bandon is facing big problems in our water and sewer accounts, I have agreed to spearhead fundraising of the other $40,000, with the help of Lori Osborne, who volunteered to assist me," Schamehorn said. "I have pledged $2,000 toward the effort, and Bill Caldwell already said McKay's would also contribute."
The Greater Bandon Association has established a dedicated Ninth Street Crosswalk Fund. Those interested in donating can mail a tax-deductible donation to P.O. Box 161 or drop it by Banner Bank.
Schamehorn said speed enforcement will be also stepped up by Bandon police.
"Maybe we can get (motorists') attention and become known as speed trap," she said.
The new crosswalk will likely not be put into place until September.