The final link to Albany Station

They'll thread the path through the underpass to the left of the tracks.

From here the path will run through the underpass right next to tracks.


The final element in Albany's long-running project to restore and rebuild Albany Station is about to be added, if the Oregon Transportation Committee goes along.

The commission meets in Salem on March 20. It's scheduled to act on a request to allocate $335,530 in federal grant funds toward the construction of a walking and bike path from the station underneath the Pacific Boulevard overpass to Swanson Park. The path is to be 600 feet long. Building it requires a retaining wall to keep the overpass embankment from sliding down. It also is right next to the Union Pacific main line, and the plans call for a fence between the path and the tracks, as well as lighting.

The overall cost estimate: $642,000. The city has grant money left over from other parts of the station project and will kick in another $60,470 in matching funds. That and the new money from the state, assuming the commission says yes, should cover the expense of the path, which then might yet be built this year. At more than a thousand dollars per linear foot, this bike and walking path seems kind of expensive. But the engineering and construction challenge of threading a path through that railroad underpass is substantial. So the price is understandable.

In the vision of Guy Mayes, the former public works employee who did tremendous work in spearheading the station planning over 10 years or more, the path is a crucial link between this transportion hub and the big neighborhood east of downtown. When it's finally finished, I hope it gets lots and lots of use to warrant the expense. (hh)

Rhea Graham responds (April 5):  You're kidding, right?!  Use the crosswalk, cross the street, walk under the overpass, cross the street and at the sidewalk, walk toward Swanson Park which is at the end of the very lovely bike/walking path.
This is an outrageous waste of funds and whoever approved it when there is total access to the park from there really should reconsider.  There are MANY ways this money could be better spent.

Rhea Graham

Voting — or not

It doesn't say it's mandatory, does it?

It doesn't say it's mandatory, does it?

I don't know why we are always urging people to vote no matter what. If an election is in the offing, it is customary for civic-minded voices in public to say things like: "Regardless of which way you decide, be sure to vote." And yes, there's great value attached to the act of voting itself, considering that it's a basic right of citizenship. But voting alone, by itself, is hardly enough.

How about  some other kind of public advice when voting is a possibility, as it is until Tuesday night, March 12, on a couple of Albany ballot measures dealing with city administration? How about this, for instance: "If you haven't done so already, go ahead and vote, but if you're not sure which way to vote, don't feel an obligation to cast a ballot just because somebody asked you to." Or: "Voting is an important right, but there is also a right to abstain, to pass up a chance to vote if you don't feel like it." Or: "If you've heard conflicting claims about these issues and can't make up your mind which ones to believe, feel free to skip voting rather than making a mistake."

Keep in mind what is remembered about elections years after they've taken place. What's remembered is not how many citizens helped make the decision, but whether in the light of subsequent events the outcome was helpful to the public -- or not. (hh)

From Ray Kopczynski: All of your "How about..." voting possibilities are good with one caveat. IF we are ever faced with a super-majority requirement to pass anything, then a person's inability to become an informed voter defeats the system because their abstention may, in fact, cause the issue to fail simply because the requisite number of voters did not cast a ballot.

Time switch may make you sick

Want to save electricity? Light candles and forget about changing the time twice a year.

Want to save electricity? Light candles and forget about changing the time twice a year.

Daylight saving time is here. If we could keep it, I would quit my complaining about it. I'm not against gaining an hour of daylight at the end of the day. What I'm against is the time change twice a year.

Judging from the online chatter, lots of you resent the change as well. And we have science on our side. The Houston Chronicle, in its blog, quoted a biologist to the effect that the abrupt time switch messes with people's circadian rhythms. As a result, accidents increase right after the switch from standard to daylight time in March and vice versa in the fall. Medical problems such as heart attacks also rise. And all for what?

Daylight time is supposed to save electricity. But lighting now accounts for only a small part of electric demand, and anyway, people live and work in buildings where the lights are on regardless of how dark or light it is outside. So there is no "saving" in daylight saving time.

If you have a day job, though, the extra hour of light in the evening is nice. It allows you to do more things outdoors longer, such as walking, running, working in the yard or even biking. If Congress wanted to do something for Americans' health, it would make daylight saving time permanent. And if that's a problem on winter mornings when kids have to wait for the bus in the dark, let schools start an hour later. That would be much simpler and safer than making the whole country risk more accidents and more illness twice a year. (hh)

The trouble with narrow streets

A street in Benton Woods.

A street in Benton Woods.

Narrow residential streets may be quaint, but in Albany they have caused a problem for school bus drivers. The problem is that in some newer subdivisions, school buses cannot get around corners because the streets are choked with parked vehicles and the space that is left is too narrow for buses to get through.

The city council learned about this in a recent meeting with the school board. Bridle Springs, North Pointe and Benton Woods were mentioned as places where narrow streets have become an issue. It was many years ago when, in the course of redoing its development code, the city decided to allow streets 28 feet wide, rather than the standard 30 feet. The idea was that narrower streets would save money and would also enhance safety by encouraging traffic to be slower. Turns out the planners didn't reckon with people who park their cars not exactly right up against the curb. The contrast between the older part of town and these new subdivisions is striking. Wide and straight streets in sections laid out up to 100 years ago, and winding, narrow streets in some of the newer ones.

Now that the difficulties with school buses have been brought up, Mayor Sharon Konopa suggested the city should take another look at the development code. Sounds like a good idea. Narrow residential streets may turn out to be a passing fad. (hh)

From  Mel: The way to solve the narrow sreet issue is to only allow parking on one side of the street. The city will hear from the fire dept. when they have issues getting to a fire. This happened in Salem years ago and now the street only allows parking on one side. It solved the problem and should do the same for Albany.

From Shane Northern, via  Facebook: Have children wait at the street corners for the bus. Then the bus doesn't have to go down the street. Problem solved.
From Ted Salmons, via Facebook:  Oh no. Say it ain't so. Students might actually have to walk a block or more to a school bus stop.  Whatever will they do.  The kids probably won't care but clingy parents will have fits.


Self-service gas in emergencies?

Relax, this is a simulation, not real self-service.

Relax, this is a simulation, not real self-service.

Senate Bill 127 in the Oregon legislature is rekindling an old debate that had all but died out: Self-service gas, yes or no?

Oregon and New Jersey remain the only states in the country where motorists are not allowed to pump their own fuel at gas stations open to the public. It's a silly law, actually. What's wrong with putting gas in your car yourself? But most people and politicians seem to like the law the way it is -- in New Jersey and in Oregon too.

Now the Oregon Senate's Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee has a committee bill -- no sponsor is individually named -- that would relax the Oregon ban on self-service ever so slightly. It would allow self-service in an emergency when a mandatory evacuation has been ordered. The thinking seems to be this: With everybody having to leave town all at the same time, it would help if people did not first have to line up at gas stations and wait for the attendants.

But the bill strikes me as a bad idea. Imagine the panic and confusion during a mandatory mass evacuation -- ahead of a big fire, say, or some other disaster. Is that the time when you want a bunch of Oregonians unfamiliar with gas pumps to use one for the first time? Here's a better idea, even though I know it won't seem better to a lot of you: Repeal the ban, and when it comes to how best to run a gas station, let the owners decide on their own. (hh)

From LaMont Matthews: If you travelled back and forth to California as often as I do, you might have a little different take on pumping your own gas. I always look forward to getting back to Oregon with a near empty tank where the gas is way cheaper and the attendant not only pumps it but washes your windshield.

From Ted Salmons, via Facebook: Does anybody actually think that during the type of emergency they're talking about, the DEQ nazis will be out at the gas stations making sure that only the highly motivated and well trained attendants are pumping the gas.  If they've got half a brain they'll be "heading for the hills" too.

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