Thursday, September 5, 2013

Riverside/Galveston/Tumalo Closure Sparks Safety, Business Concerns

Posted By on Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 12:34 AM

Residents says drivers arent following the intended detour. Image via City of Bend.
  • Residents says drivers aren't following the intended detour. Image via City of Bend.

The intersection at Northwest Riverside Boulevard, Galveston Avenue, and Northwest Tumalo Avenue is only two days into a two month construction closure, but area residents and business owners are already over it.

At the Sept. 4 Bend City Council meeting, the visitor's section was filled with concerns about the project's impact. Among the chief concerns: Increased traffic on State Street, pedestrian safety, limited access to Galveston Avenue businesses, and a lack of advance notice for those in the effected neighborhoods.

James McGuire, a State Street resident, said that while Wall Street was the intended detour, poorly placed signage is leading to a dramatic influx of traffic on his narrow street with few stop signs and lots of young children. He said he worries about his 5-year-old son, who has a tendency to follow stray balls into the street.

"The signage for the bridge [closure] is after you cross Wall Street. It would be more useful east of Wall Street," the father said, as his two young children sat in the audience.

Chantal Strobel, another State Street resident, said she's concerned about the safety of her two teenage daughters who are daily runners.

"Today my youngest almost got hit by a car as crossing Tumalo. She was so scared she came home crying and said she wasn’t going to run again," Strobel said, adding that she had seen large semi trucks drive down the narrow street and didn't feel safe as a pedestrian. "[Councilor] Sally Russel's chickens and turkeys stopped traffic. They were more useful than the police today."

Strobel, like McGuire and another neighbor who spoke, said she received no prior notice of the closure.

Jan Gifford, chair of the Old Bend Neighborhood Association, said that notices were sent to the local news media as well as to some residents and that the news was posted to the association's website. Still, she acknowledged that even she was unaware Riverside Boulevard would closed at the same time.

"My pitch is: Go to the Old Bend neighborhood website, sign up," Gifford said. "It’s going to be a long month. It’s much worse than we thought it would be."

For Galveston Avenue business owners, it's been a long — and slow — two days. Though the street is not closed, the detour is enough out of the way to discourage regular and drive-by customers.

Garret Wales, a partner with 10 Barrel Brewery, said he was shocked by the closure and the lack of communication with area business owners. The drop off in customers caused by the closure of the Galveston Avenue bridge, he said, is having an immediate and dramatic impact on his business.

"If the numbers from today and yesterday continue, we’ll have to lay off employees. Today...we sent home half of the staff. Twelve people didn’t make any money today," Wales said. "Galveston is a ghost town right now; the streets are bare."

Wales and Primal Cuts Meat Market owner Bryan Tremayne also said they received no notice of the planned closure — an oversight city staff confirmed.

"I think we had a swing and a miss on that front. We didn’t do a great job of reaching out to Galveston businesses that would be impacted," said Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore. "As a gesture to the business compunity, I’m going to stop at 10 Barrel after this meeting."

Assistant City Engineer Jeff England defended the city's efforts to notify the public — citing multiple public open houses and press releases about the project going back as far as March 14 — but acknowledged that no direct contact was made with Galveston businesses.

"There was advance warning road would be closed on Sept. 3. There’s been news media coverage," England said. "I understand this is particularly difficult given its high profile location. It’s not fun for a while until the dust settles and people get used to the adjustments and the detours. Obviously we’re seeing that right now. I'm not suggesting concerns aren’t valid, just saying it's fairly typical."

England was receptive to the concerns and said he would re-evaluate the placement of signage and look into placing temporary stop signs on State Street. A less likely concession: opening one lane of traffic on the Galveston bridge. The window of opportunity between increased summer traffic and winter freezes is too small to allow for an extension of the project's timeframe.

"We will revisit [notifications]," England said. "You always learn something new with every project. No matter what we do though, it’s always a pain to do a project like this."

But Wales was unsatisfied, arguing that all the discussion of improved notification and shifting signage doesn't address the commercial issues.

"There’s a lot of things I’d like to talk about, but this is an extremely time sensitive matter. Everyone there is running on small margins. It’s day to day. The idea of letting the dust settle and it being a pain — this is an issue of people losing their jobs," Wales said. "We're talking about residences worried about safety."

Councilor Doug Knight suggested concerned citizens get together with England to discuss the matter further and implement changes as appropriate without the Council's involvement.

In other traffic related concerns, one county resident who spends considerable time in the city said she was baffled by the prevalence of speeding drivers — even in school zones — and the dearth of police officers.

In response, Bend City Manager Eric King said that the Sept. 18 City Council meeting will include a presentation from Chief of Police Jeff Sale on a targeted enforcement effort to address speeding and crashes.

How has the Riverside/Galveston/Tumalo intersection closure impacted your day-to-day life?

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