As the city and school district continue to discuss traffic safety issues near Philomath’s schools, the most notable project on the table involves a new road that would connect South 16th Street to the east with Cedar Street.
The new route would theoretically improve school traffic in the area around Philomath Elementary and could have positive impacts on bus routes. The end result would be a widened, paved road with underground stormwater drainage, curbs, gutters and sidewalks on both sides of the street.
In other words, instead of that stretch of South 16th ending at the Public Works yard as you drive south, it would curve around behind the school and extend east to the South 17th-Cedar Street intersection.
Officials have a lot to consider with the new road’s configuration. The school district owns the two tax lots that would be impacted — the elementary school and undeveloped property to the south (the location where that path runs through from Public Works to South 17th and Cedar). The project would require 0.43 acres of school property to be dedicated as public right-of-way.
There’s more to come as this road project takes shape.
Perhaps the more interesting news that came out of an April 27 work session between Philomath School Board and Philomath City Council members is the possibility of a mini-roundabout going in at the intersection of Applegate Street and South 19th Street.
The traffic study identified that particular intersection as one of the most troublesome. School traffic, residential commuters, student pedestrians, logging trucks and various other factors are all part of the picture. The mini-roundabout with “pedestrian refuge islands” was recommended by the traffic engineer consultant as a possible solution.
Now there’s a whole lot that would need to happen for that traffic feature to become a reality — such as input from the public, bus drivers, parents, the Oregon Department of Transportation (which has a highway just a block north) and so on.
The city manager, Chris Workman, suggested that the improvements under consideration focus first on the 16th Street-Cedar Street connection to improve traffic circulation around the elementary school before tackling the possibility of a mini-roundabout, which would predictably be a contentious issue.
Other project priorities deal with improvements to 19th and Main, 17th and Main and the student pickup area at Clemens Primary School on South 19th.
These traffic conversations will continue and the public will have opportunities to provide input, so stay tuned.
2. Crashes and drugs
Benton County put out a couple of news releases in recent days providing results from separate operations — the “Enough is Enough” campaign and the Drug Take Back event.
Sheriff Jef Van Arsdall introduced the Enough is Enough initiative as a response to the increasing number of highway fatalities that were seen last year and continued into the early weeks this year in Benton County. Highway 99W, in particular, has seen its share of crashes.
Through funding provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation, Van Arsdall increased traffic patrols over a two-month period from Feb. 17-April 17 to target speeders, distracted motorists and impaired drivers.
During that stretch, BCSO deputies made 47 arrests for driving under the influence of intoxicants — 35 involving alcohol and 12 involving drugs. What do those numbers mean? Well, compared to the same period in 2022, there were 22 arrests for DUII — 19 for alcohol and three for drugs.
The county has seen fewer fatal crashes compared to last year at this time.
Van Arsdall encourages drivers to continue reporting erratic behavior such as passing in no-passing zones, following too closely, excessive speeding or failing to maintain their lane.
From BCSO: “Have your passenger call 9-1-1 immediately. If you are traveling alone, find a safe place to pull over and call 911 to report the location, direction of travel, license plate and description of the vehicle.”
The Drug Take Back event on April 22 brought in 601 pounds of unused or unwanted medications in a single day.
As a reminder, you can drop off medications year round with local police. The Philomath Police Department maintains its own collection bin at the station on Applegate Street.
3. Philomath Connection
Riders who want or need to ride the bus on Saturdays can rejoice. That’s because the Corvallis Transit System folks (who oversee the Philomath Connection routes) were able to solve issues with its contractor to secure drivers and resume weekend service.
Saturday service started back up again this weekend and will continue with Philomath Connection runs 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
While that’s good news, officials still put out a disclaimer to “be aware that driver shortages continue to challenge transit systems in our region.”
In case you didn’t know, there is no fare to ride the Philomath Connection, which provides service in and between Corvallis and Philomath with stops that include Oregon State University. The bus doesn’t run on Sundays and major holidays.
The most recent Philomath Connection ridership numbers I could find show the average rides per month hovering in the vicinity of 3,000.
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).