A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA: Millions for attractive streets?

Written October 21st, 2015 by Hasso Hering
George Crandall listens to someone in the audience Wednesday.

George Crandall listens to someone in the audience Wednesday.

Consultants on Wednesday showered Albany’s urban renewal board with ideas for millions of dollars in downtown street enhancements, but they recommended against angled parking on Second Avenue.

From more than a dozen potential street projects recommended by architects George Crandall and Don Arambula, the advisory board of the Central Albany Revitalization Area picked a handful for further consideration: Second and Third avenues from Broadalbin to Ellsworth Street, Lyon and Ellsworth streets from the bridges to the overpass, and one block of Broadalbin between Second and Third.

Estimated cost of a full treatment for those — new sidewalks and street surfaces, lights, benches, trees, various banners and all the rest — was about $6.9 million. But the board can choose among all the possible enhancements recommended for each, picking some and dropping others, so a cost estimate of the priorities picked Wednesday is pointless. The ideas will come back to the board for more discussion and decisions about the details. The board’s next meeting is Nov. 12.

Crandall and Arambula prepared the package of possible streetscape improvements under a $36,900 CARA contract.

Kate Porsche, the city’s economic development director and CARA’s administrator, said the urban renewal district plans to borrow the money for any streetscape improvements by issuing bonds, paying off the bonds over time with revenue from increases in property tax revenue within the district.

Matilda Novak of Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant and other downtown business owners pleaded with the board that what they needed more than anything was convenient parking. Novak pushed back against the consultants’ recommendation on no diagonal spaces on Second. But they said angled parking would eliminate one of the two driving lanes and the bike lane on Second and yield only four additional spaces while making traffic circulation downtown worse.

If and when any of the street improvements discussed Wednesday will actually get done, nobody knows. Chances are there will be some backlash against any plan to spend millions on downtown sidewalks and things like period lighting. The city council and CARA took a good deal of heat a few years ago over a project to redo one block of Broadalbin Street.

“I don’t even want to hear the word Broadalbin,” Councilman Rich Kellum said Wednesday as he argued for making Lyon and Ellsworth the top and maybe only priorities. But whether ODOT will let the city make any streetscape changes on those legs of Highway 20 is unknown. (hh)

Councilmen Kellum and Collins and fellow CARA board member Mitch Langjahr watch the presentation.

Councilmen Kellum and Collins and fellow CARA board member Mitch Langjahr watch the presentation.

16 responses to “CARA: Millions for attractive streets?”

  1. James Carrick says:

    I thought I’d proved in a past article that the city’s assertion that diagonal parking on one side of 2nd Ave would reduce the traffic lanes to one is false. The bicycle lane would need to be incorporated into a traffic lane (like on 2nd in Corvallis…not a big problem as I see it). If Corvallis can do it, why can’t Albany, despite the lesser width. We’re talking diagonal on one side only here.

    I suspect the city has other objections, whatever they may be but street width isn’t a legitimate on. I also dispute the number of additional parking places that could be gained.

    I will update with the EXACT measurements.

  2. Bob Woods says:

    I prefer to leave analysis of traffic impacts to a transportation planner, delelopment engineer and, best yet, a traffic engineer.

  3. James Carrick says:

    Ronald Reagan advised us to “trust but verify” when negotiating with the former Soviet Union. Good advice and just as wise when it comes to accepting the recommendations of professional planners and consultants. And it doesn’t require the services of a traffic engineer to figure some of this out. I’ve tried to condense this information as much as possible without leaving any key factors out, but it still came out long. Bear with me.

    A $36,900 contract with CARA to come up with streetscape designs? One can only hope (pray) that the designs submitted contain more of value than the Crandall-Arambula claim that diagonal parking would require elimination of the dedicated bicycle lane AND one of the two existing traffic lanes. From a “dimensional” standpoint, that conclusion is false. Maybe their “architectural renderings” are nice.

    I arrived at my conclusions using Google maps (satellite view zoomed all the way in for lines and dimensioning), my knowledge of geometry, and some good old COMMON SENSE, along with a willingness to think a little “outside the box” and about 10 minutes this morning with a 25 foot tape (just like the one you all have at home) to verify Google dimensions vs. actual physical measurements. Google is surprisingly accurate BTW, close enough for “government work” as we used to say. The resolution of the satellite photo Google uses is the limiting factor, and one can easily see 3 inch painted lines on pavement. Obtaining accurate dimensions (+/- 1-2 inches) is very easy right from the desktop. One additional note, dimensions stated below refer to line centers. SO………………..

    First question: Is Second Ave between Broadalbin and Ellsworth wide enough to allow any diagonal parking and what would need to be sacrificed to do so? Simple answer…YES! Without doubt, YES! Here’s why:

    Currently, curb to curb….2nd Ave is now 42.08 feet wide. (42′-1″). Call it 42 for our purposes. Parallel parking on the north and south sides of the street are 7.67 feet (7′-8″) each, times 2 (sides), totaling 15.34′ of street width for parking, and a remaining 26.75′ to accommodate motor vehicles and bicycles, divided this way: Left traffic lane = 11.5′ (11′-6″), Right traffic lane = 9.75′ (9′-9″), and dedicated bike lane = 5.5′ (5′-6″). This is what is there now.

    With no additional street width (curb to curb), this could be done instead, as follows: One side of street (either, see later) with parallel parking (7.67′ wide), the other side with diagonal parking 15′ of width req’d (using same angle and length as used in Corvallis’s 2nd Ave), would leave 19.41′ (19′-5″) for traffic (bicycles to share right traffic lane), equally divided would yield two traffic lanes 9.7′ (9′-9″) wide, the same as the current right traffic lane. The only real change to vehicle traffic with regard to width would be the consolidation of the (currently) dedicated bicycle lane with the right traffic lane, a minor concession since bicycles move at close to the same speed as cars there. I see so few bicyclists on 2nd Ave. Dimensionally speaking, this can be done now with no more than traffic paint, at far less than the contract amount paid to Crandall’s firm. When you analyze these changes with the number of parking spaces created, it gets even more attractive.

    Second question then (obviously) is: How many parking spaces could be gained? Simple answer: Seven, at least. Probably eight. Here’s why:

    Currently, Albany parallel parking provides space 17.5 feet for each car, combined with 8′ between every other car for maneuvering. Call it 21.5′ length per parking space. The length of 2nd Ave. is 270 feet between the crosswalks at Broadalbin and Ellsworth. This results in 12 parking places on the north side, and 10 on the south side (because of the 24′ driveway between the old post office and JP’s. Currently there are 22 parking places available on that block, total. Incidentally, the block of 2nd between Ferry and Broadalbin, for these purposes, is the same and everything proposed here would work there as well. .

    So, how would diagonal parking change these numbers? Crandall said FOUR spaces could be added. I come up with SEVEN or EIGHT more spaces, depending on how the driveway between the old post office and JP’s affects the layout. I arrived at these numbers by using the same diagonal space layout Corvallis uses on their 2nd Ave.

    Diagonal parking has its supporters and detractors for a variety of reasons, some valid and some not. But Matilda Novak’s concerns about convenient parking are legitimate, particularly on nights where they are “competing” for customer parking space with JP’s and Rileys. If you don’t believe me, hang out between JP’s and Riley’s for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night. Very “enlightening.”

    This proposal is very “doable” in the short term and traffic paint is cheap compared to new sidewalks, bioswales, benches, and trees that will eventually cause the sidewalks around their root systems to “erupt.” However, if additional convenient (affordable) parking is a worthy goal (I think it is), this is what CAN be done. I’m just tired of being spoon fed information that is (too often) WRONG, then seeing bureaucrats ACT on that bad info because the consultant had “credentials” but little common sense to go with them.

    I can’t explain why Crandall and company came to the conclusions they did. I can only defend my conclusions. Before the city cuts them a check for their services, someone should ask them, in light of this information, why this won’t work, or fit into the space available. They need to come up with something more than “he’s not an engineer” or words to that effect. The smartest man I have ever known didn’t graduate from the 7th grade……..just saying.

  4. Bob Woods says:

    It says’ a lot about your general lack of common sense, James, to compare Reagan negotiating with the Soviet Union over nuclear disarmament with putting diagonal parking in Albany.

    You are WAY to wrapped up on a minor issue that professionals deal with every day.

    To turn a small decision to be made by elected officials and appointed citizen committee members over parking into ANOTHER fight over “the people versus the government” is overblown, boring, and another indication of your fanatic recklessness.

    If you want to make the decisions, run for office.

    • James Carrick says:

      Bob, only you could have taken my Reagan reference literally. My guess is everyone else understood (perhaps appreciated?) the metaphor and the inherent wisdom of paying attention to what we are being told by/to those that “govern” us and spend our tax money. This is how I choose to participate….by being vigilant, and offering solutions when I can. In this case I have done both. One does not need to “run for office”, nor be ELECTED for that matter. There are many other ways to effect public policy. :-)

      I haven’t seen your name on a ballot for a city election since you don’t meet the city’s residency requirement. Nonetheless, you have no qualms about telling the good citizens of Albany how our tax dollars should be used/spent/obtained…take your pick. Perhaps it is you that’s “too wrapped up”?

      According to you, bringing facts (with supporting information) to the forum is “fanatic recklessness?” What a strange notion that is. If I want to go downtown with a tape and measure the distance between a few lines on a public street, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Just who are you to tell me how to spend my time? Hasso must have seen some value in my post…he published it.

      My goal was to give some of the readers on this site (particularly those on the CARA board and the concerned businesses) another view of this specific question/problem (raised by the Novaks) by contributing to to the pool of information (dimensions) useful in arriving at a workable solution, rather than to sit back and simply gripe. This is NOT a “…people versus the government” issue, and this was no attempt to “compare Reagan negotiating with the Soviet Union over nuclear disarmament with putting diagonal parking in Albany”. For you to suggest I was, even jokingly, “says a lot about your general lack of common sense” Bob, and more about you than me. If the Novaks (and other concerned business owners) see this, I doubt they will find my post with the dimensions “boring.” This is nothing more than differing views on diagonal parking.

      Some of the (many) assumptions you make involving the motives of others are ridiculous, especially when their politics differ from yours. As reported by Hasso, the Novaks (and others) have a legitimate concern regarding convenient parking. And IF there are legitimate reasons why the observations I made above aren’t feasible, then a simple (credentialed?) explanation of why will do fine. Finally, If you have any (or better) ideas on the subject, let’s hear them.

  5. Dick Olsen says:

    Thanks James for your analysis of the diagonal parking question. It would be interesting if you could use your measurement method to find the width of second street in Corvallis where diagonal parking seems to work well.

  6. James Carrick says:

    Dick, I appreciate your interest in how I came up with my information. Glad to help.

    Second Street in Corvallis measures 51 feet curb to curb where they have diagonal parking on both sides. Diagonal parking consumes 15′ of street width on each side, leaving 21 feet for the two traffic lanes, split down the middle for 10.5 ‘ each. And as I noted previously, traffic paint indicates the right traffic lane as a full width bicycle lane in addition to motorized vehicles.

    I also found places on 2nd in Corvallis where only 14’ of width is devoted to diagonal parking and judging from the cars, that seems to be adequate, which for Albany, could mean an additional foot of width available for traffic (6 inches more per lane).

    I would also like to make clear here, that I AM NOT RECOMMENDING any one solution over another for Albany as has been assumed (wrongfully). There may be other factors to consider in whatever is decided. I am simply making the case that, dimensionally speaking, there is sufficient street width on Second in Albany to accommodate 2 traffic lanes, along with parallel parking on one side, with diagonal parking on the other.

    If I can be of any further help, feel free to let me know.

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    There are a couple of other options – none of which will see the light of day:

    1. Since parallel parking is the standard in virtually all towns, require the ability to do so when acquiring a drivers license (and/or “driver training” to get an insurance discount).

    2. Use common sense: If you already know you’re going someplace with friends that does not have parking directly in front of or an adjacent lot, drop them off, then you go find a parking spot and walk back. Do the reverse when done. Many of us do that automatically for folks heading out to a party or bar.

    Like I said, none of the above will become pervasive since so many folks feel they’re entitled…

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Good points, Ray. Also, there are always spaces available (diagonal ones, too) in the old PayLess lot outside Two Rivers. From there it’s a block and a half to Novak’s. The short stroll back is especially helpful as it helps settle what you ate before you cram yourself back in your car. (hh)

      • James Carrick says:

        Even closer than Two Rivers (to Novaks) is the US Bank parking lot.

        On most evenings, I’m guessing there is enough available street parking to accommodate Novaks. On Friday and Saturday evenings, it’s a much different story.

        I HAVE spent time, simply observing the activity (call it a “fringe benefit” of a job I held for a short time) in the area on Friday and Saturday nights, and that is another matter entirely as crowds of younger adults move back and forth from one bar to the other, and they occupy all of the street parking in the immediate area. On that basis alone, I share Novaks concern. There are also those customers unable to make a short walk many of us think little of. And there are NO handicapped spaces nearby. What about those people?

        One more observation: CARA became “concerned” to the point of providing assistance to Novaks in restoring the building to relocate their restaurant too. Therefore, CARA should have an interest in helping them be as successful as possible, in order to pay back that loan and accordingly, be just as interested in alleviating impediments to that success as falls under their ability…ie: parking issues. I hope that CARA’s “concern” didn’t end when Novaks reopened in their new location.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “There are also those customers unable to make a short walk many of us think little of.”

          Which leads directly back to my mention of having a “designated driver.”

          And If any restaurants’ survival is soley dependant upon the parking issues you describe, they probably should not have located there. I say that in all honesty, because, to my knowledge, multiple other restaurants downtown haven’t raised the same issue. Probably because it is already very well known that one of the key components down the road is to get a parking structure located in the core area. We were advised that would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of ~$30K per parking spot. That is still on the long term “to do” list.

          • James Carrick says:

            Well, with diagonal parking, handicapped spaces can be made available. With parallel parking, some…such as people with wheelchairs for example, might need to double park. That’s one plus for diagonal parking. Just saying. Nobody is saying anything about a restaurant being “dependent” on handicapped parking. A parking structure is a long way off so what do we (CARA) do in the meantime, Ray.

  8. CBonville says:

    Funny how all this fuss about parking seems to indicate a failure of efforts to make our downtown inviting and WALKABLE.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The “inviting” part is what CARA has been doing for many years now – and it has been very successful… As for “walkable,” please explain.

  9. Dick Olsen says:

    Walkable? The other day I talked to a couple who were walking along the 8th Ave. canal by my house. They had come from Salem because they like to walk around in Albany!

  10. David Abarr says:

    Unless we know all ordinances regarding street infrastructure I don’t see how we can come to the conclusion of what “could be” ? I plan on going to Corvallis to look at downtown and do some rough estimates to better understand what we are talking about here . Typically I’ve found that sincere honest help is often neglecting to see the full picture . We assume there is a solution to the parking but in fact we were told the correct data in the first place . Business owners are very passionate about this topic . It’s their livelihood . They wouldn’t be business owners if they weren’t passionate . There is much more commitment in being in being old restored building vs a strip mall .


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