A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Bikeway project stalls over undercrossing

Written February 3rd, 2020 by Hasso Hering

As seen from West Thornton Lake Drive this afternoon, this is where the bikeway would cross under the Union Pacific trestle.

This is supposed to be the year ODOT builds the Albany segment of the long-proposed Albany-Corvallis bikeway. But the project has hit another snag: It requires the trail to cross under a railroad trestle, and the railroad has said no.

The rail line is owned by the Union Pacific and leased by the Portland & Western. As planned by Benton County and the city of Albany, the bikeway would run west from Hickory Street in North Albany, on the south side of the track, cross to the north side under the trestle off the end of Rainwater Lane, and then run along West Thornton Lake Drive to Scenic Drive.

The 1.7-mile trail would allow cyclists to avoid the narrow shoulders in the curves of Highway 20.

According to ODOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, this section of the bikeway is on the 2020 schedule for construction at an estimated cost of about $1.4 million. Engineering and the acquisition of right of way were scheduled from 2016 through 2019 at a combined cost of about $1 million, bringing the total estimated cost to $2,447,048.

In response to a request for an update on the project, Benton County Engineer Laurel Byer said by email: “It is true that the North Albany section is temporarily on hold as we resolve issues with the railroad.”

Public Works Director Gary Stockhoff didn’t say whether the objection comes from the UP, the PNWR , or both. He did provide other details. The railroad, he said, rejected the plans because the undercrossing could cause potential conflicts in its right of way, would be in a floodway, and could present maintenance problems.

“Currently we are working with ODOT to set up a meeting with the railroad reviewer who rejected the plans,” Stockhoff wrote in an email Monday. “The hope is that we can talk them through their concerns and get the permit we need to complete the undercrossing.”

Meanwhile, at the Corvallis end of the bikeway, Byer reports that the county is coordinating with ODOT on a section along Highway 20 between Conifer and Merloy. David Evans and Associates has been selected as a consultant. The idea is that design and right of way acquisition can occur in parallel with safety projects ODOT is planning for Highway 20.

When this bikeway was first proposed about 10 or more years ago, it sounded like a great idea that would encourage both recreational riding and “active transportation” between Albany and Corvallis. Now you have to be on the south side of middle age in order to have a realistic chance of ever riding on that completed path. (hh)

11 responses to “Bikeway project stalls over undercrossing”

  1. Ron Green says:

    Bureaucracy, exorbitance and mostly fear continue to govern our affairs. There’s not much hope at the national level, but one would expect that two Oregon counties could work together to bring us this long wished-for resource.

  2. Andrea S says:

    I’m grateful for those who continue to work on and support this project. It is unfortunate that it is constantly hit with problems.

  3. Anon says:

    West Thorton Lake drive and Scenic are in Benton County, as is the rest of this project. It would seem the problem with this project from day one has been right of way. They should have attempted to secure all of the right of way prior to approving and beginning the project, thus avoiding the expenditure of substantial public funds for multiple paths to nowhere.

  4. Nate Conroy says:

    Hasso, bike trails have been built next to UP tracks in other places I imagine. Has there been efforts by members of the public to pressure UP to approve this project? Sometimes negative or positive local PR can help sway a railroad.

    • Craig says:

      I like this idea. As a fellow biker, I have a few friends that might be interested in commenting to UP to help the biking cause. We live in such a beautiful place, it’s a shame not to make it bike friendly.

      I anyone can provide the contact information, I could spread the word.

  5. thomas cordier says:

    Gee with all the hype over such a long time; seems like the planners did not plan well.
    Forgetting the RR has legal status is totally predictable.

  6. Jeff Senders says:

    Along the same lines, what have you heard about completing the “road widening ” project on the southern half of Riverside Drive?

  7. Gene says:

    Hey will motorbikes or motorcycles be able to use this trail. ? Don’t they get to share the road with automobiles. ? Will there be a toll charge for use. ? Won’t this interfere with the spotted owl or Global Normal. ?

    • Pat Riot says:

      The proposed multi-use path if ever built won’t be the first of its kind to exist and no it’s not another vehicular highway or road. Believe it or not, a motorized vehicle is not the only way to travel between two points.

  8. North Albany Guy says:

    The Corvallis/Philomath bike path goes under a trestle near Pioneer Park (https://goo.gl/maps/aBs7LerAZ37jW6AZA)

    If memory serves, the path is completely bounded by cyclone fencing.

    I wonder if this path will be even more popular with ebikes.

    Thanks for keeping up with this project.


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