by Rob Zako, Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation
BEST believes that we are better when we speak and act together, and that our streets should be safe for everyone. Across the nation and locally, fatalities are rising for people walking, bicycling, or otherwise not traveling by car. Many motorists fear that in a moment of inattention, they might hit a child or other vulnerable user.
Eugene can make five of its most heavily-travelled corridors work better for everyone. Earlier this year, BEST and other community leaders supported MovingAhead so that the city of Eugene and Lane Transit District could become eligible for federal funding to make such improvements possible.
In this special BEST Digest, we republish a recent LTD guest viewpoint summarizing what has and hasn’t been decided, needed further studies, and continuing opportunities for the public to weigh in.
As MovingAhead studies safety corridors, residents encouraged to learn, weigh in
by Caitlin Vargas
for The Register-Guard, July 24, 2022
In March, the Eugene City Council and the Lane Transit District Board of Directors unanimously approved the conceptual visions, also known as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), for five transportation corridors under the MovingAhead banner:
- River Road: EmX,
- Highway 99: enhanced corridor,
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard: enhanced corridor,
- Coburg Road: enhanced corridor/additional study, and
- 30th Avenue to Lane Community College: no change.
MovingAhead is a partnership between the city of Eugene and Lane Transit District to study and prioritize opportunities to improve safety and access for people walking, riding a bike, taking a bus or using a mobility device to travel along the five corridors, while also taking into consideration the potential traffic congestion problems that could occur if Eugene’s population grows by 34,000 people by 2032, as is projected.
The governing bodies’ decision to approve the conceptual vision or LPA for each corridor was informed by the input community members gave to city and LTD staff over the last seven years. This included more than 20 open houses/workshops, emails to more than 1,000 accounts, 60 presentations/community events, 46,000 mailings and canvassing 500 properties along the corridors. This robust outreach resulted in endorsements by neighborhood organizations, including those in River Road and Santa Clara.
The City Council- and LTD Board-approved LPAs only directs staff to further study and refine each LPA, develop a funding plan that leverages local, state and federal dollars, and continues to engage neighborhood organizations, property owners and community members in meaningful discussions about the MovingAhead corridors in their neighborhoods. These important next steps in the MovingAhead process will begin in 2023. Eugene City Council and LTD’s Board will continue to shape the project through this next phase, including approval of the final project after staff complete an environmental review.
The decision to approve EmX as the LPA on River Road has drawn the ire of some people who live along the corridor that has included launching a petition to recall a city councilor. Many in the River Road community concerned about EmX are new to the area, chose not to participate in the neighborhood outreach meetings or didn’t know about them, or are simply against the project. To those neighbors, I ask that you participate in the next round of community engagement so your concerns can be heard and considered about potential design features such as bus lanes starting near Maxwell Road, protected bike lanes and more pedestrian crossings throughout the corridor that enhance safety for all using the thoroughfare.
It is important for residents along the MovingAhead corridors, especially those who live in the River Road neighborhood or are involved in the recall petition to understand that MovingAhead is about how people can safely and efficiently move throughout our growing city 10 or more years from now, not how we travel across town today or next year. There is still plenty of time for all voices to be heard before the first shovel goes into the ground on River Road or the other MovingAhead corridors.
I encourage people interested in MovingAhead to stay informed by going to the project website (www.movingahead.org) to sign up for updates as they become available later in the year.
It has been a privilege to collaborate with the City of Eugene and neighbors on this transformational project. We look forward to the connectedness and added safety the transit improvements will bring to all in our community.
Caitlin Vargas is the president of the Lane Transit Board of Directors.
Rob Zako is executive director of Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation. Donate to BEST at https://www.best-oregon.org/donate/.