A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany bike project almost killed

Written January 25th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

This remains a bike lane to nowhere unless the long-planned path from here to Scenic Drive goes through.

The planned Albany leg of the proposed bikeway to Corvallis survived a city council vote Wednesday night, but just barely. It took the mayor’s tie-breaking vote to keep the project alive.

Albany Councilors Bessie Johnson, Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes were ready to kill the project by rejecting an agreement with Benton County to share in the costs of the mostly state-paid bike route from the west end of Hickory Street to Scenic Drive. But Councilors Bill Coburn, Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski voted to approve the deal, and Mayor Sharon Konopa joined them to make it 4-3.

The Albany leg would go for a little more than a mile and, according to the original plan, link up at Scenic Drive with a route to Corvallis, which Benton County is still trying to determine whether to build or where.

Wednesday’s council discussion was precipitated by objections to the project from a young couple who own property on Walker Lane, near the path’s likely route. They complained among other things that no one had talked to the property owners about it.

Albany transportation official Ron Irish said property acquisition was being managed by the state transportation department, and because federal funds are involved, ODOT was following federal rules on acquiring rights of way. He said ODOT had asked city and Benton County officials not to contact property owners on their own.

In view of the couple’s objections, Kellum said there was no point in going ahead unless the council was willing to consider acquiring the right of way by eminent domain. City Attorney Sean Kidd told the council later it would be up to ODOT to condemn property if necessary. Right of way or easements are already in hand for the western two-thirds of the Albany leg, according to Irish.

The next Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan calls for the Albany leg of the route to be built in 2018. The cost estimate is $2.7 million. The state will pay more than $2 million, and under the agreement now approved, Albany and Benton County will roughly split the rest.

Disclosure: I have been writing editorials and news stories about the plan for an Albany-Corvallis Bikeway, including the Albany leg at issue here, since it was first proposed maybe a dozen years ago. As the council debated Wednesday whether to confirm its longstanding support of the project, the mayor asked me to walk to the podium and say something. I did — and evidently made a hash of it. If I had been more persuasive, I presume the council’s vote would have been a unanimous and enthusiastic yes. (hh)

24 responses to “Albany bike project almost killed”

  1. John Hartman says:

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  2. Shane says:

    Happy to hear it survived! Not so happy to hear Sykes didn’t support it. Thank you for the update.

  3. HowlingCicada says:

    “young couple … Walker Lane”

    From aerial photos it looks like a first chance for a moderately safe bike/walk route to school and shopping from there. I wonder if some of the other little streets west of Walker Lane will or can connect to the path. It looks like all those streets connect only to Hwy. 20.

    Other than money and procedure, what are the objections?

  4. John Hartman says:

    If it can be demonstrated convincingly that the proposed bike trail will bring substantial benefit to a broad swath of the community, then by all means, pave that bike path. On the other hand, if it appears that the proposed bike thruway will benefit a narrow sliver of Albany’s populace, then there should be a User Fee system put in place to return development costs to taxpayers. Seems a simple transaction. Fits in particularly well with current thinking from Washington, DC.

  5. James Engel says:

    Ya know, IF this path takes hold, is wide enough & they can squeak 13 miles (26 around) out of it there might be enough to host marathons! Those people spend money so yet another venue to energize downtown. And tree huggers, peace nicks, etc could link arms between Albany & Corvallis on Everybody Feel Good day…;). It could be our Yellow Brick road!.. JE

  6. Rich Kellum says:

    Hasso, we just disagree on this one.

    1. Benton County has not picked a route. We don’t know where the path will be so how can we fund this particular path.
    2. There is opposition to this particular path by people who say that the land will have to be taken, and there is not 4 votes to take it. Odot will take it??? sure but it will be the council who gets blamed. I am not averse to using eminent domain when it is called for…..this isn’t my project for that.
    3. this was billed in the past as a way to lessen traffic on Hwy 20 and be safer for commuters……… now Benton County says it is just for recreation….
    4. There is already a bike path that is half built along Hwy 34 to riverside drive… to Bryant Park….and into downtown. would be MUCH safer…
    5. My favorite, Bicyclists do not pay for it, the money they are using comes from funds designed to increase capacity on our roads…. a recreational bikepath does not reduce traffic…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “1. Benton County has not picked a route. We don’t know where the path will be so how can we fund this particular path.”

      As stated by staff (and I agree), the path will/does stand on its own for the improvements outlined.

      “2. There is opposition to this particular path by people who say that the land will have to be taken, and there is not 4 votes to take it. Odot will take it??? ”

      Yes — The ‘taking” would be done by ODOT – it would not be done by the city..

      • Rich Kellum says:

        and because of your vote you and the other three will be held accountable for the taking of someone’s land for a non essential use

  7. Rich Kellum says:

    BTW Hasso, you probably got an extra vote… so now this is all your fault…:)

  8. Tony White says:

    A waste of taxpayer money to benefit a very small number of people.

    • Shane says:

      Where would we even begin with the number of things we could say that about? The truth is people only get upset when it’s nothing that interests them.

  9. centrist says:

    Eminent domain is a weapon that should not be taken lightly. It’s best left sheathed until an emergency arises. Frankly, it can be tantamount to piracy, separating property from owner.
    Seems to me that a bike path falls into the want category and fails the “need” test

    • Bob Woods says:

      1) Eminent domain is rarely used and even when proposed is usually settled at a mutually agreed upon price.

      2) When eminent domain is used it pays the fair market value, or more. There is NO PIRACY which is theft without payment (ignoring that piracy refers to ships at sea).

      3) Yes, people feel aggrieved when a court forces them to comply. Yet the practice pre-dates the founding of this country because of the simple fact is that sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.

      4) The original “roads” were footpaths. Then they accommodated horses and wagons. Boats were used on rivers.Streets were created in villages and towns, and railroads covered vast stretches of area. Then came bicycles, and later cars and trucks. ALL of these transportation modes used forms of eminent domain in many ways.

      5) In case you haven’t noticed, kids DEPEND on bicycles until they get their drivers licenses, and there are a lot more adults using bikes than when most of us were growing up. Creating a safe method for those people to use the transportation of their choice is a grace, not a burden. Public paths do not diminish our lives, they enhance them.

      Life ain’t perfectly fair to every person all the time. And ODOT, the Department of TRANSPORTATION, is charged with serving everyone, not just people who never get out of their cars.

      • centrist says:

        Copy most of that.
        I have heard “eminent domain” used too frequently lately, almost frivolously.
        An example of the pirate use is Robert Moses in NYC. The landlords got payment, but “those people” got nada.
        Just sayin’

  10. Rich Kellum says:

    Let’s make sure I understand, Benton County is using funds specifically designed for recreation, not to increase capacity, and the City is using funds restricted to only those areas that increase capacity to arterials…. all for the same bike path….. and if the bike path is built by the city and Benton county does not hook up to it in the right spot, it definitely does not increase capacity, so either the City is not using the funds correctly or Benton County is not using the funds correctly…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Call it a “Rural Promenade” & we’re done… :-)

    • John Hartman says:

      That is precisely why Albany Ward III voters put you back in office…to solve these problems, not gripe from the sidelines.

      • Rich Kellum says:

        It was not the sidelines that I was speaking from. I was and am the leader of not spending money on things that only serve a minority of folks at the expense of the rest

  11. Andrea says:

    I grew up in a community with numerous bike paths, which I used regularly — mostly for recreation and exercise, and sometimes for transportation. I am not an avid biker. Living in Albany for the past 12+ years, bike paths and all that entails are the one thing I greatly miss. I strongly hope this path comes into existence.

  12. Dave says:

    A waste of taxpayer money is designing & building roads that only serve cars. I live in North Albany and my kids do not have a safe bike route to attend West Albany HS. We should be building multiple bike paths that safely separate cars & pedestrians instead of arguing over one. We should also be planning a pedestrian bridge over highway 20 and the river that safely links North Albany children, adults and seniors to downtown, the river trails and greater Albany. That sounds like a great place to live, work & play to me.

    I regards to the bike path project, look at the map in the document in the link above. This path does not require any homes or businesses to be demolished. The proposed path runs along a road, a railroad easement and straddles a few private property lines. To vote “no” on an issue that can most likely be negotiated to a reasonable outcome seems short sighted. Recreation and traffic capacity are important, but is one more important than the other? Can we negotiate the proper payment for this thing rather than complain about it?

    Who knows, building a bike path that connects Albany & Corvallis could lead to so many more opportunities than just making our community more accessible and safe. According to Travel Oregon, bicycle tourism in Oregon brings in $400 million annually. ( http://industry.traveloregon.com/industry-resources/product-development/bike-friendly-business-program/ )

    If you build it, people will come.

    • Shane says:

      Great post, couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately half of our city council are making it very clear that safety and fitness (livability) are not important to them.


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