Ron Irish

AlbanyTransportation Systems Analyst Ron Irish updated the city council on the Interstate 5 interchange project. (Mark Ylen/Democrat-Herald, 2013)

Potential effects of proposed Interstate 5 improvements on streets and traffic flow in Albany prompted concerns among city councilors Monday.

Staff from the Oregon Department of Transportation, led by project manager and planner David Helton, visited the council’s work session to go over a roughly $400 million plan to widen the freeway from the south Jefferson interchange to the Highway 20 interchange, and to redo the interchanges at Highway 20, Knox Butte and Millersburg.

The plan, still in the environmental assessment stage, caused worry on the council for a number of reasons, including the capping off of southbound Airport Road just south of the Heatherdale Mobile Village, and cutting off Price Road and Commercial Way from the eastbound lanes of Highway 20.

The I-5 improvement plan is based on the mid-valley’s transportation needs a quarter-century from now, and construction could be 20 to 30 years away, according to Amy Ramsdell, an ODOT area manager based in Corvallis.

A mix of state and federal funds would be used for the work, which would add a third lane to the freeway in either direction between south Jefferson and Highway 20.

The reason Airport Road, which runs between Pacific Boulevard and Highway 20 on the west side of I-5, can’t remain in its current configuration is that ODOT plans to put a new southbound offramp on ground Airport occupies; that exit would replace the current loop ramp that’s south of Highway 20.

Reconnecting Airport Road with Highway 20 farther west of the freeway was not deemed feasible because of the number of properties and residents that would be affected, Helton told the council.

The panel, however, is concerned that the truncation of southbound Airport Road will funnel traffic through the nearby South Shore and North Shore residential neighborhoods.

Preventing left turns to or from Price Road and Commercial Way also provoked anxiety on the council. Councilors felt that would be a hardship on users of Timber-Linn Memorial Park and the Linn County Fair & Expo Center, and on any businesses on those roads who would be harmed by their customers encountering restrictions in trying to reach them or depart from them.

Each of the six councilors present — Ray Kopczynski, Floyd Collins, Rich Kellum, Bessie Johnson, Dick Olsen and Mayor Sharon Konopa (Bill Coburn was absent) — took turns expressing their various concerns with the freeway plan to Ramsdell, Helton and two other ODOT staffers.

Ron Irish, an Albany transportation engineer, also provided input.

At the close of the 90-minute discussion, the panel thanked the state workers for bringing them up to speed on the I-5 project.

“I feel like we have an ear at ODOT and it’s not like a big state agency just coming in and hitting us with their hammer,” Collins said.

Next up for the project is the publication this summer of the environmental assessment. Public hearings on the assessment are scheduled for the fall.


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