Riding a bike from West Albany to Corvallis and back is going to be a blast — and a much safer blast at that — once the bikeway along Highway 34 is completed this fall. The route is still closed, according to all the signs. But on Friday, with nothing but time on my hands, I tried it out anyway.
An ODOT contractor has paved almost all of the bikeway’s new segment, which runs well off the north side of the highway between Wolcott Road and Riverside Drive. The asphalt is about 12 feet wide and, of course, perfectly flat except where it crosses numerous driveways.
Only two sections remain unpaved: a short segment just west of Riverside and, farther west, the approaches to the Owl Creek bridge, which itself still needs a deck and maybe some paint.
West of Wolcott, the new $1.1 million segment links up with an existing off-highway path. The old segment loops underneath and then across the Van Buren Street Bridge and delivers the cyclist in Riverside Park and downtown Corvallis.
The beauty of this bikeway, when completed, is that it provides for two-way traffic so that on the way east from Corvallis to Albany there’s no need to cross the four traffic lanes and median of Highway 34.
The 5.8-mile leg of this route on Riverside, from the highway to Oakville Road, is supposed to be improved for bike traffic when Linn County does its scheduled pavement overlays over several years. This is supposed to start in 2016 on the stretch from Oakville Road to the old Riverside School.
Riverside doesn’t feel unsafe even now. With a few exceptions the shoulders are of a decent width, and traffic is relatively light. Still, the completion of the grand Highway 34 bikeway by the Oct. 31 contractual deadline poses a challenge to Linn County: Follow through quickly with the work on Riverside so this entire bike route between Albany and Corvallis will be complete. (hh)