The Newport City Council was told Monday night that Oceanview Drive has been made a bit more pleasant, if not more safe for bicyclists and pedestrians through more road striping, brush removal, traffic signs warning of pedestrians on the roadway and a pedestrian crosswalk at Agate Beach. The council also learned that pedestrians will soon notice wider graveled road shoulders/”escape zones” from cars that sometimes pass too close to walkers or may not even see them. The city will also put fog lines on the roadway giving drivers a better idea how wide (or narrow) the road is while offering pedestrians and bicyclists more visibility. There will also be additional signage placed along Oceanview reminding motorists that they share the road with walkers and bikers and to be on the look-out for them.
There was also again raised the desire to lower Oceanview’s speed limit from 35 down to 30 miles an hour. And that the city will ask ODOT to do another speed study on Oceanview to see if the popularity of Oceanview for multiple types of users might convince ODOT to lower the speed limit.
The city council vote was unanimous. The council also seemed united in exploring making Oceanview a one way street with road striping giving bicyclists and pedestrians even more breathing room than what has been given with fog lines and warning signs.
Adding even more the discussion was the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Committee recommending the creation a north-south bike and pedestrian trail veering away from some of the troublesome stretches of Oceanview. The trail would follow certain city streets and then leave the streets for unique pathways to give access to the beach but also crossing over the top of wetlands – all aimed at keeping pedestrians and bicyclists off Oceanview. The committee representative said such a pricey project would require a substantial amount of grant funding
There was, however, a hint of a warning that Oceanview will be reviewed by the city’s overall Transportation System Plan that is being developed by the city and consultants as the city anticipates future growth and new street layouts – not the least of which pertains to downtown Newport, a possible Harney street extension, future placement of the Yaquina Bay Bridge (it’s getting rather elderly), public transit, driver-less cars, trucks and buses and major urban renewal funding for traffic flow improvements in the Agate Beach area. And needless to say, major attention will be given to the Highway 20 arterial as it enters Newport as well as it’s junction with Highway 101. There’s even been talk about transforming Highway 101 from a simple two lane road through downtown Newport into a couplet where southbound and northbound travel would be split into parallel travel corridors. There would be at least a block between them as seen in many cities around the country. The city’s 2018 Transportation System Plan is still in an early stage of development and must past muster with ODOT because state and federal funds will be required to make a lot of these transportation upgrades even possible.
In other city council action Newport firefighters successfully bargained with city administration to accept a two percent pay increase for each of the next three years and a bump-up in sick leave allowance. The council unanimously approved the bargaining agreement and thanked Newport firefighters for their service and for all the highly unusual work shifts they are required to work to keep the stations manned 24/7 and for the perilous emergency challenges they routinely have to deal with.
The city council got their first glimpse of where the town’s recyclable trash may wind up in the near future. As was told to Lincoln City City Councilors last month, most of America’s recyclables were being bought by China. They’d sift and sort them and turn them into key components to produce a lot of consumer goods. City Councilor Mark Saelens broke the news as was broken earlier to Lincoln City, the Chinese will stop taking America’s recyclables beginning the first of the year. Not a lot of notice.
Saelens said unless the U.S. can find other countries to take America’s recyclables, there will be an unavoidable expansion of our own country’s landfills along with the creation of a lot of new ones – at a huge cost to citizens. Saelens hinted that Americans have gone soft on sorting their recyclables, especially baby diapers, which makes the process even harder to handle. The full impact of the Chinese refusal to take American recyclables is sending shock waves across the country with many unknown implications as to how the country will deal with this new reality. We’re simply in unchartered territory and we’re all going to be anxiously awaiting word on what’s next.
The growing legion of pandhandlers on Newport street corners came up again before the council. The city has been grappling with it for months, yet the problem is worsening with the swelling numbers of homeless Americans. Newport’s moderate climate attracts many from areas that get sweltering hot and freezer cold. Plus the surrounding woods makes for easy shelter. The council said the issue has been laid right at their doorsteps – the City Hall entrance doubles as an overnight defacto sleeping hostel for the homeless.
But it’s not so much the sleeping arrangements as panhandlers slowing down traffic through town. Especially at signal lights – the Walmart/Fred Meyer lights are the worst. By the time the panhandlers have collected all their donations from generous drivers, the light has changed back to red and it makes motorists understandably angry.
The council learned sometime back that the act of panhandling is not illegal. It’s classified as constitutionally protected “free speech.” What IS illegal is stopping traffic while receiving money out a car window.
Other cities facing this problem (including Lincoln City) have passed laws that make it clear that anyone can panhandle – they just can’t step into the street and accept money and stall traffic while doing it. The only legal way is for the driver to deliver the money while parked in a parking space or parking lot. Roseburg has such a law and it seems to work. City officials say they’ll check out Roseburg’s approach and report back to the council as to whether Newport should adopt a Roseburg-like law and see if it solves the problem.
And finally, the city council agreed with Oregon State University’s request to build the Hatfield Marine Science Center’s new $50 Million high-rise Marine Sciences Initiative building to a standard that makes sense rather than just standard building criteria. The council approved OSU’s request that the structure, expected to be built by 2019, will accommodate 900 OSU staff, students and others who will be walk-running to get to the upper floors, with special assistance for the handicapped. It’s called “vertical evacuation” and it was demonstrated to work very well during the 2011 Japanese Tsunami disaster which saved countless lives.