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Phoenix road diet switch delayed

Conversion of Main Street from one traffic lane back to two has been delayed by holdups on another major road project in the same area. City officials had hoped to see work underway by this fall on the change.

“We don’t want to have Main Street and North Church Street with construction going on at the same time,” said City Manager Aaron Prunty.

North Church is one block west of Main Street, and residents reported it became more of a through arterial for traffic after Main Street was changed to one lane. A report on conversion and preliminary design work is now in process, and Mayor Chris Luz said work on Main Street might begin in spring.

Phoenix converted Main Street, which is also Highway 99, from two lanes southbound to one lane in the fall of 2015. Residents were told it was a trial, but then changes to the city Transportation System Plan in 2016 meant the road couldn’t be converted back without a conditional use permit. Many residents have voiced displeasure with the one-lane arrangement that runs from just south of Bolz Road to Oak Street.

In March, City Council approved changes to the transportation plan to allow a two-lane configuration on Main Street without a conditional use permit. New provisions in the plan permit 10-foot travel lanes rather than the typical 11- or 12-foot lanes.

In early October the council approved a contract with RH2 Engineering to provide preliminary design, cost estimates and a project schedule as Phase I at a cost of $24,467. Work on that is expected to be finished in December, and a meeting will be held in January to view results and plan for Phase II, which will include finial design and construction.

“RH2 will give the council a couple of different options and possible cost for construction,” said Prunty. There won’t be a budget for the project until the council has more information and decides how it will look, but there’s enough money in the city budget to cover a range of options, Prunty said.

Prunty anticipates the bike lane will be retained. Whether parking will be on one or both sides of the street won’t be determined until the council considers RH2’s report.

“Parking will be dependent on some council decisions and be based on constraints of the width and other improvements like sidewalks,” said Prunty. Current bulb-outs to aid pedestrians at crosswalks will also be examined.

“We’re going to have wide spots and more narrow spots. That’s why the council will decide how they want things to work,” said Prunty.

Among areas under investigation by RH2 will be whether hardscape along Main Street installed since the conversion will need to be changed to accommodate a two-lane configuration. Work was done on sidewalks when the Civic Center, at 220 N. Main St., was constructed in 2018. RH2 will also look at sidewalk ramp safety improvements and the condition of asphalt on the road.

Oregon Department of Transportation will need to be consulted on the work because the roadway is a state highway, although the city has jurisdiction over it.

Work on Church Street is expected to be finished by the end of the year depending upon the weather, Luz said. Delays were encountered with utilities relocating infrastructure as part of the project, he said. The project includes storm-water improvements, a new street surface, curbs and gutters and a sidewalk on one side of the street.

City staff don’t hear a lot about Main Street in City Hall, said Prunty. But he thinks councilors may hear more from residents.

“It’s just been delay after delay,” said Luz, who made reconversion of Main Street a campaign issue during his successful runs for the mayor’s office in 2016 and 2018. He says it’s still the number one complaint he hears from citizens.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

The Phoenix Plaza opened last summer on Highway 99. Photo fromo phoenixciviccenter.org.