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Rebuilt Big Creek Road between swimming pool and NE Harney suddenly controversial

Repaired portion of Big Creek Road north of pool.

Repaired portion of Big Creek Road north of pool.

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The rebuilt part of Big Creek Road that slumped out nearly three years ago has not even been re-opened yet and already it has become controversial. Many residents that live at both the north and south ends of that stretch of Big Creek Road have gotten used to it being a hiking, walking and biking throughway, devoid of cars and trucks. But others living at the north end especially, look forward to using it as a more direct route into Newport, without having to drive west on NE 31st and make what sometimes can be a harrowing left turn (to the south) onto Highway 101. Then there are those who think the rebuilt section should be one way – either north or southbound.

Under direction from the city, the contractor made the roadway wider than before the slide in order to accommodate two-way traffic which it used to be at one point in the past. So technically it could be two-way again.

Retired Police Lieutenant Dave Teem who lives off the north end of the just-fixed part of the road offered these observations:

Of course the increased traffic in our neighborhood would be annoying at the very least; and hazardous to children at play, pedestrians (no sidewalks) and cyclists in the area. But my first concern is for the safety of our community. I understand Tim Gross said (correct me if I am misinformed Tim), that bicycle and pedestrian traffic is not a priority in his consideration to open the road to two way traffic. I hope I am misinformed, because I cannot believe the City would fail to consider the welfare of cyclists and pedestrians, especially on a roadway that is so heavily used by non-motorized traffic.

Many people are emotional in their concerns over this issue and they should be. It is personal and it does impact people significantly when their children walk Big Creek Road many times each week and will now be at risk or will need to find alternative transportation. Increasing traffic on Big Creek will have impacts on all of the NE area neighborhoods, including two school zones. It’s also hard to believe Police Chief Mark Miranda would support a decision that potentially puts so many students in harm’s way.

Because this is very personal and will impact many families in our community (those that live in the neighborhoods on either end of Big Creek road, visitors who walk the trail from Agate Beach and those who participate in high school sports, etc.). I feel it is appropriate to ask Tim Gross and all other city officials who may comment on this issue a personal question or two: Would you be comfortable letting your own children walk on Big Creek Road if it is opened to two way traffic? Do you believe pedestrians will be safe on this road? It’s not 101 in the Deco District, which is flat, paved and lined, and has sidewalks, has no sheer cliffs on either side, parking spaces on both sides and is still challenging to traverse on a bicycle. It’s just not an apples to apples comparison . . .

Here’s a typical scenario I see when I walk Big Creek Road: two or three young teens walking together (not single file – these are teens after all). Now imagine, the teens reach a blind corner at the same time a car approaches from behind and a pickup truck from ahead. Now up the ante to include a bit of speed and an inexperienced high school driver and/or an older driver (such as myself) with slower reaction time. If the teens are on the inside curve, there is nowhere to go unless they can climb straight up a mud wall. If they are on the outside edge, they are flat between the guard rail and the vehicles or on most of the blind curves there are no guard rails and then they’re only option is to go over the steep edge to avoid a collision.

This is an emotional issue, because it impacts real people. If you feel emotional – good for you – your humanity is showing. This is your running trail, your walk to school, your morning ritual with your four legged best friend. Let’s work together to keep it safe for everyone. Even with one way vehicle traffic back on the road – please be safe – take your ear buds out and pay attention.

I would like to see a risk/benefit analysis done. Is the convenience of two way traffic worth putting school children, local families – walkers, runners, and cyclists in danger?

Another comment sent to News Lincoln County pointed out that any vehicle that managed to ride over the top of the guard rail would instantly face a 75 foot drop off and everything that entails. A very unforgiving set of circumstances.

Another comment harkened back to an original plan to offer motorists something like a by-pass around Newport, so they could drive around the east side of town without having to take a congested Highway 101 through town. By designating Big Creek Road as a “poor man’s bypass,” even if it wasn’t built to highway standards, would keep the bypass concept alive.

With opinions ranging back and forth it appears the city may hold a special hearing in front of the city council to get everyone’s thoughts on the issue. The latest information out of city hall could lead one to believe that the road, tentatively scheduled to reopen on December 20th, might remain closed until at least after Christmas to give everyone a chance to have their say.

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