Walla Walla Council votes to keep Rose Street at four lanes

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WALLA WALLA — A controversial plan to reduce Rose Street to two traffic lanes and a middle turn lane has been ditched in favor of maintaining its current four-lane configuration.

The Walla Walla City Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday, reversing its decision in March, after Council Member Shane Laib motioned to rescind the lane reduction plan, which had also included bike lanes.

What followed after his motion was a lengthy debate over what made sense — whether more lanes are better than fewer — compared with city engineer reports that the main east-west arterial to College Place would be safer with two lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes on each side.

“We are talking about a major industrial corridor in the city of Walla Walla,” Laib said. “And we are talking about taking it down from four lanes to three, and I am sorry it makes no sense.”

Laib and Council member Conrado Cavazos were absent at the March 27 City Council meeting when the lane reduction plan was narrowly approved in a 3-2 vote. Council members Barbara Clark, Chris Plucker and Mayor Jim Barrow for it; Jerry Cummins and Mary Lou Jenkins voted against it.

What followed was a huge public outcry from people who didn’t want to see traffic slowed down to one lane, feared traffic crashes would increase and opposed cutting down old sycamore trees to improve visibility as part of the project.

Among the opponents was Tim Demitor, owner of Champs Garage in Walla Walla, who worked over the following weeks to garner support to change the Council’s position.

On Wednesday night Demitor presented Council with two petitions in support of keeping the four lanes.

One petition was signed by approximately 125 residents of Golden West Estates Manufactured Housing Community. The other had signatures representing 23 of some 25 businesses located on or near the lane-reduction section, which would have stretched from 13th Avenue to just before Myra Road.

“I personally went to every single business owner, every single one of them. And not one of them was in opposition (to four lanes),” Demitor said, noting the two exceptions were Key Technology and Koncrete Industries.

Opponents also saw support from Mayor Jim Barrow, who originally had voted to reduce lanes to improve safety but voted Wednesday to maintain the existing four lanes. Cavasos, who was absent during the March meeting, also voted Wednesday for four lanes.

“I came to this meeting tonight believing that it is our responsibility to do what is right,” Barrow said, noting that he still believed city engineers when they stated that Rose Street would be safer with fewer lanes. “On the other hand, we are elected to represent the people. And unless it is immoral, illegal or unsafe, I think we have a duty to represent the people.”

As for the sycamore trees, City engineer Neal Chavre said the city will still be able to keep the number to be removed at six, regardless of the lane configuration.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Laib motioned to officially designate Rose Street as four lanes so city officials could stay on schedule with bid requests for the $2.2 million repaving and line-striping project.

There was also some discussion over whether keeping Rose Street at four lanes would result in the loss in state and federal grants that will pay for 80 percent of a $700,000 traffic light project at Rose and 13th Avenue.

City Manager Nabiel Shawa said he would look into the matter to determine if the grants would still be allowed with the four-lane configuration.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

Comments

namvet60 1 year, 5 months ago

Thank you and common sense prevails.

4

stvsngltn 1 year, 5 months ago

BRAVO! I driven down Rose almost daily for many years and was amazed that consideration was being given to reducing the four lanes to 2.5 (with the .5 being a silly barely-used turn lane). And bikes can use the nearly-deserted sidewalks. Nice to see some common sense being employed here.

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oldguyonabike 1 year, 5 months ago

Well, I think this is a horrible decision and I will be reducing my purchases in the City of Walla Walla as I do not want to pay additional taxes to the Transportation Benefit District for the next two years that will be funding this ill advised vote.

Was there any public notice about this other than the petition distributed by some marginal businesses and mobile home residents?

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sohcammer 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm sure your marginal tax dollars will be sadly missed. Americold, WW Farmer's Co-Op, Color Press, Ferrell Gas, Grassi, Coachman, Harold Electric, Luttrells, Stubblefield, Moreno Nelson and the rest of the opposing businesses that were mentioned during the meeting are anything but "marginal" and their contribution to the community along with a large residential outcry was recognized last night as significant.

It was refreshing to see Council responding to who is really affected by this plan. Economies and tax revenue are driven by business not bikes. So take your marginal tax dollars, Freddie Mercury's advice and "GET ON YOUR BIKES AND RIDE!"

6

Bigdog 1 year, 5 months ago

Well said - I appreciate the Freddie Mercury analogy!

3

oldguyonabike 1 year, 5 months ago

Yes, I do regret the marginal comment. Nice list of companies I have done business with and will not in the future.

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dogman12 1 year, 5 months ago

I am noting my surprise that a decision was based on common sense! Can we start a trend? Thanks are due to the council members who listened, and then defied the "road priests" to make a reasonable choice.

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kurtfr 1 year, 5 months ago

It's great to see that Walla Walla holds the engineering expertise and judgement of a trailer park to be better than the engineering expertise and judgement of engineers.

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dogman12 1 year, 5 months ago

kurtfr:

That is a narrow minded comment. Outside the road priest community the negative reaction to the three lane plan was nearly universal. This includes professional drivers.

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kurtfr 1 year, 5 months ago

You're right. Who needs engineers? Let's have drivers and trailer park residents design bridges! "Hey, Jethro, I think a couple of 2x4's and some plywood will do the jobs. Ain't no need for reinforced concrete & structural steel."

I'm sure the traffic study done by those against was very well thought out and thorough. Oh that's right, they didn't have one did they? Emotions and "feeling from the gut" makes much more sense than historical data, engineering principals and best practices.

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sohcammer 1 year, 5 months ago

kurtfr:

You've gone from narrow minded to just plain simple minded. Comparing the settled issue to building bridges is just that.

One of the points that was brought out during the final debate(if you had listened to the broadcast) was that 30% of the accidents on the accident report were irrelevant because they were outside the boundaries of the project.

Yet we had engineers and high priced consultants basing their "studies" on these reports andtelling us that Rose St. has a 50% higher accident rate compared with other streets of similar design. Then telling us that poor visibility due to trees was a major safety issue, which is why we needed the 3 lane design to improve sight distance. 70% of the accidents on the report happened between 13th and 10th where THERE ARE NO TREES!!(I think the Mayor made this comment during the debate and derived that there really wasn't a safety catastrophe at hand).

Ironic how sometimes just a little common sense can debunk the most professional "study".

This plan would have been dead before the public ever heard about it had there been a full council the first time around. It squeaked through by 3-2 with 2 members absent, was rescinded 5-2(Mayor changed his mind based on public outcry and questionable accident data) and passed as a 4 lane plan by a clear majority of 6-1.

Look at it this way - It was never meant to be. It was a bad idea from the start and the majority of Council was against it from the start. How do you think they were able to bring it up again for reconsideration? It took more than angry business owners and residents to do that. It took a majority of unhappy Council members to procedurally rescind this.

The fact that so many businesses and residents were against the 3 lanes and the majority of Council was against this from the start, should(and unfortunately, God knows it won't) silence the clear minority.

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oldguyonabike 1 year, 5 months ago

Not one person on council is an engineer and for them to be designing roads on whims is embarrassing for those of us that think Walla Walla is a special place. This council needs to be replaced with people that are serious about building Walla Walla for the future. This knee jerk reaction by council is only slightly worse than their pension spiking vote earlier.

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oldguyonabike 1 year, 5 months ago

I think the dollars that are being supplied by the "road priest's" should be withheld and Rose St should be privatized and paid for by the businesses and trailer park residents who "own" this public right of way. Otherwise gravel is good for me.

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