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Agenda & Minutes

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Transportation Commission (View All)

Transportation Commission Meeting

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Virtual Meeting via Zoom                            

Call to Order: 12:32pm
10.   Roll Call
Commissioners Present:
Al Densmore, Chair
Dennie Conrad
Mickey Harvey
Kim Parducci
Peggy Penland
Jared Pulver
Suzanne Schroeder
Paige West
Commissioners Absent:
Guests Present:
Gary Leaming, ODOT
Staff Present:
Cory Crebbin, Public Works Director
Karl MacNair, Public Works
Kyle Kearns, Planning
Debra Royal, Public Works
20.  Citizen Communications

30.  Approval of Minutes from October 28, 2020
There being no additions or corrections, the minutes were approved as presented by unanimous consent.

40.  Action Items

50.  Discussion Items

          50.1       ODOT’s Project Update by Gary Leaming

 Highway 140 Roundabout
Mr. Leaming provided a detailed presentation with photos and video of the new 200’ wide roundabout on Highway 140. Details about the construction and how the roundabout is functioning were shared. Mr. Leaming gives the roundabout the grade of “Good” thus far. This grade reflects feedback received from motorists, including freight operators. The roundabout is being fine-tuned with the users’ comments in mind.
Mr. Leaming also discussed why the roundabout was needed. As part of their TSP, Jackson County was extending Foothill Road, thereby creating the need for a crossing at Highway 62. There are a number of reasons why the roundabout was chosen over a signalized intersection. Studies have shown that roundabouts are much safer than signalized intersections, especially on high speed rural roadways. The initial costs of a roundabout are higher, however the lifecycle of the maintenance costs, electricity, and the societal costs of personal injury and fatalities, that are more common at signalized intersections, were contributing factors in choosing the roundabout.  
Mr. Conrad asked if the speed limit on the roadways leading up to the roundabout had been reduced. Mr. Leaming offered that no speed changes were made, but that the speed within the roundabout is 20 mph. He then presented a video demonstrating the safety of roundabouts verses traffic signals. Mr. MacNair concurred that signals have a much higher percentage of fatal accidents than do roundabouts.
During the planning phase, ODOT held an open house for White City and surrounding area residents and business owners to provide opinions and feedback on the roundabout plan. There was also a task force created, the “Roundabout Rodeo”, made-up of individuals in the freight industry. There were concerns, so ODOT created a replica of the roundabout in an open parking lot. Tractor trailers, buses, and other large vehicle operators tested the proposed design. The reviews were good. ODOT also used an overhead camera to video the movements of the vehicles through the roundabout and they moved freely and safely.
Concerns raised during the planning period, at the Open House, and after the opening of the roundabout include questions about emergency vehicles’ ability to access accidents within the roundabout, how would an accident imped traffic flow and be removed quickly, noise pollution caused by the airbrakes of larger vehicles, and the somewhat confusing arrow layout currently painted on the roadway leading up to the roundabout. To some, the arrow appears to indicate a left turn prior to the traffic circle, thereby causing drivers to go the wrong way in the roundabout. ODOT will be making the arrow clearer with a “dot” to indicate the driver should enter the roundabout, pass by the traffic circle and then continue left. Generally, the roundabout seems to be operating well. A three-tier FedEx freight truck was witnessed navigating the roundabout with no issues.
Mr. Conrad asked about any studies regarding noise levels created by a roundabout verses a standard signalized intersection. Mr. MacNair shared that all published guidance agrees that roundabouts are quieter.
A hazard that was noted is that some drivers appear to be unfamiliar with roundabouts and are confused where and when to yield and are stopping while in the roundabout to allow others to enter. Additionally, ODOT has replaced the river rock barrier between the roundabout and the sidewalk with textured concrete as the rocks were being throwing up onto the roadway causing a hazard for motorcycles.
Ms. Parducci noted that due to a skew in the roadway, the roundabout is not visible until motorists are nearly on top of it. She asked if there were plans to install anything tall in the traffic circle so that approaching drives could see that the roundabout was near. Mr. Leaming pointed out that there is a sign posted prior to the roundabout, but that possibly it should be posted further away from the roundabout giving motorists more time to react. He discussed that the street lights circling the roundabout alleviated this problem during night time hours.
Mr. Conrad inquired about costs. Mr. Leaming said the cost of the roundabout was approximately $3.5 million. Chair Densmore cited the decrease in greenhouse gases due to no idling vehicles.
Mr. Leaming discussed some of the other planned roundabouts in the state. He went into detail of the freight industry’s great influence on the topic of roundabouts and that ODOT takes their needs very seriously, so much so that there is a state Mobility Committee made-up of the freight industry.
Mr. MacNair discussed the roundabout that will be constructed at Springbrook and Cedar Links and how crash rates and less idling were significant reasons behind the decision to install a roundabout.
Chair Densmore offered that local and state infrastructure planning bodies should have more frequent and thorough communications as that would greatly enhanced each one’s resulting plans.
Mr. MacNair then asked for updates on Seismic Triage Routes and the Viaduct projects.
Mr. Leaming discussed that the 2017 transportation bill, which was passed by the state legislature, included the Seismic Triage project. The project addresses ways to keep Southern Oregon connected in the aftermath of a Cascadia Subduction event. It includes the reinforcement of certain bridges and shoring-up of slopes. This work will be a contractor project. A preconstruction meeting will be held in Grants Pass in the next two weeks. 
ODOT will work with the City on the viaduct effort. Given the $85 million cost and the state’s current financial situation, Mr. Leaming is hopeful that the new administration will be able to get the project moving. The viaduct will be widened by 28’ on the east side. When completed, the shoulder will be widened for breakdowns and emergencies. If I-5 becomes three lanes, there will be enough room for the lane and shoulder.
Chair Densmore inquired if it would be appropriate and helpful for the Commission to provide encouragement to the City Council regarding these projects. Mr. Leaming thanked the Chair adding that positive comments are always welcome, but that he is not requesting the Commission do so.
         50.2       ODOT’s Hwy 99 Project Proposal
Mr. MacNair offered there has been a request from the MPO Rouge Valley Council of Governments for ODOT to reallocate funding to a project on Highway 99. This would have affected some Medford projects. The request was withdrawn, but will likely be reinstated at a later date. Chair Densmore asked ODOT to stay in communications with the Commission as the project redesign schedule is developed. It will be helpful to understand how ODOT decisions will be impacting the Medford area.
Mr. Leaming offered that this was a project that ODOT considered undertaking in response to the Alameda Fire. However well-intentioned, it was determined that going outside the usual process set a bad precedent. It is understood that the need for this project is great, therefore there will be more information about it in the future.
Mr. MacNair mentioned the project would include bike lanes and sidewalks along Highway 99 between the north Phoenix and south Medford.
         50.3       BPAC and Traffic Committee Interviews
As the parent commission to the BPAC and Parking Committee, Mr. MacNair reminded members of their responsible to interview committee applicants. There are two vacancies on BPAC and two applicants. Both are new to BPAC, therefore full interviews are needed. The Parking Committee has four vacancies. One committee member has reapplied and there are two new applicants.
Chair Densmore asked for recommendation from Ms. Schroeder and Mr. Harvey as they are members of the BPAC and the Parking Committee, respectively. Ms. Schroeder suggested current members need not be re-interviewed, but recommended Commission and Committee members be given the opportunity to provide input on why current members might not be suited to continue on the Committee. Mr. Harvey agreed to this process for the Parking Committee.
Chair Densmore asked for interview panel volunteers. Ms. Schroeder, Mr. Harvey, and Ms. Parducci volunteered to sit on both panels. Mr. MacNair will facilitate scheduling the interviews via Zoom.
         50.4       City of Medford TDM Plan Update
Mr. Kearns of the Planning Department made a presentation on the Transportation Demand Management Plan Pilot Program City Employee Survey. The survey was completed in November.
Of the approximately 600 City employees, 118 responded to the survey. Of those respondents, 46% live within five miles of their worksites, but some City employees live as far away as Portland.
The survey collected data on the different modes of transportation City employees use to commute to and from work.
The purpose of the survey was to gage the likely success were the Plan to be implemented.
  • Approximately 96% of respondents drive to work alone.  
  • Approximately 1% ride bikes.
  • Two pairs of co-workers carpool.
  • Zero respondents use transit at this time, but many employees did not take the survey.
  • Respondents said they drive alone for convenience and for emergencies 
Chair Densmore inquired if Mr. Kearns was asking for the Commission’s endorsement of the Plan. Mr. Kearns responded that he had considered the Commission’s previous feedback in the development of the Plan and that he was just here today to provide an update. Chair Densmore praised Mr. Kearns for the processes he has put in place, agreed with Mr. Kearns’ goals, and that his reasoning was sound. The Chair also suggested that perhaps this is a year-long project rather than just a six-month one even though the current funding ends in six months.
Ms. West agreed with the Chair’s comments and underscored the importance of the survey to gather data about people’s opinions on commuting. Ms. West added that planners and leaders can never do as much as they would like especially with the COVID-19 situation. For the immediate future, being separate seems to be the safest way to travel.
Mr. Kearns discussed the best time to introduce different modes of commuting is at the onboarding of new employees. At that time, with mangers approval, new employees should be provided with bike and transit maps and told about the benefits of alternative modes of commuting.

Ms. Schroeder agreed that the survey was a terrific idea to get responders to start thinking about how to get to work other than in cars. She discussed the emotional and physical benefits to biking to work stating that the City should be creating infrastructure that will increase riders’ confidence on the roads, including separating them from autos.
Chair Densmore supports the idea that the City is setting the example for other employers and asked Mr. Kearns to keep the Commission updated. At this time, Mr. Kearns reported that he is taking a new job in Salem starting December 17.
The Commission members were sorry to hear of Mr. Kearns departure. He will be greatly missed, but wished him well in his new endeavors. Mr. Kearns is hopeful that the TDM Plan project will be taken over by another City employee and that it gets the attention it deserves. There will be a learning curve for a few months, but he is hopeful the Commission and BPAC members will continue to support the project. The TDM Plan budget is small and expires at the end of the current biennium.
Mr. MacNair reiterated the sense of the Commission that Mr. Kearns will be greatly missed in both the Planning and Engineering departments. Mr. MacNair offered that Mr. Kearns has already done the bulk of the work so that its continuation should be easily accomplished.
60.  Planning and Public Works Department Update
Mr. MacNair announced that on December 1, Public Works was awarded three Safe Routes to School grants and that work on these projects will begin in the next fiscal year - after July 1, 2021.
Mr. MacNair shared other updates. 1) Beginning January 4, Springbrook Road will be closed to all but local traffic due to the Springbrook and Cedar Links roundabout improvement project. The road will be closed from Roberts Road to Delta Waters Road with an estimated reopening time of early September 2021. There will be a detour on the north end of Springbrook. 2) The $2 million detention basin at Oregon Hills Park on McAndrews is nearing completion. 3) LED lights are being installed this month as part of the City-wide upgrade. 4) Bids for the Columbus Avenue and Prune Street Rapid Light project are due December 15. This project has a completion estimate of spring 2021.
Chair Densmore commended staff and was pleased to see the Springbrook Road improvements entering the final stage as he has been involved in this effort since 2013. The Chair opined that these projects take a very long time, and that it is important for the northeast part of the community and it’s good for circulation.
70.  Comments from Commissioners and Other Committees
Ms. Schroeder updated the Commission on the BPAC’s efforts to assist cyclists navigate Medford safely. This includes finding paths for cyclists so they can avoid busy roadways, identifying where signage improvements would be helpful, and creating maps for cyclists. A new cycling route was identified in northeast Medford, as an alternative to a previously identified route, and BPAC made a recommendation to modify the route to use the new alternative. This project will be installed next spring and will include sharrows on the low traffic streets west of North Medford High School, which would keep cyclists off the busier roadways.
Mr. Harvey shared that the Parking Committee did not meet last month, but will December 10. He requested recommendations from Commission members for nominees to serve on the Parking Committee.
Ms. Penland shared that Traffic Coordinating Committee members appreciate hearing updates from the Commission. It helps them piece together the jigsaw puzzle of issues involving traffic and infrastructure construction. Mr. Harvey agreed. The Parking Committee also benefits from understanding what the work in the Commission’s jurisdiction. Chair Densmore commented how helpful it is that City staff integrate much of the work going on around the City into the agendas of the committees’ and commissions’ meetings.
Ms. West offered that she is currently representing transit issues on a rule making advisory committee for the state. The committee’s objective is to review the governor’s executive order to reduce greenhouse gases and make recommendations to achieve her environmental goal. All the members are working on separate initiatives to move the governor’s order forward. The committee has 45 members with approximately half being experts in city policy and transit issues and the other half experts in equity issues. The guidance is to accomplish the committee’s assigned task within one year. To-date, there has been one meeting. Ms. West will keep the Commission apprised of the progress.
Mr. Harvey offered that the Parking Committee is looking at sustainable and objective way to charge for parking within the City. He would appreciate Commission members’ thoughts and ideas that may assist the Parking Committee accomplish this task.
Chair Densmore observed that when the pandemic situation passes, life will have drastically changed. But with crisis comes opportunity, and consensus on issues that in the past many have been difficult to reach, may now be easier.
80.  Agenda Build
Mr. MacNair informed the Commission that there was nothing pressing at this time, so he will revisit the list of potential agenda topics.
Chair Densmore asked staff to reach out to Congressman-elect Bentz, Congressman DeFazio and Senators Wyden and Merkley to ask for update briefings on federal issues regarding transportation. As Congress had extended the reauthorization to September 2021, it would be helpful to understand where Medford stands so the Commission can make a report to Council. Mr. MacNair will reach out to the Congressional delegation.
90.   Next Meeting:  January 27, 2020
100. Adjournment:  2:16pm
Respectfully submitted,
Debra Royal
Public Works, Engineering


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