A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Congestion solutions? Not anytime soon

Written February 10th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Vehicles come off the Ellsworth Street Bridge just before 6 p.m. Monday, when traffic was flowing freely.

Don’t expect quick action on ways to ease traffic congestion on Highway 20 in North Albany and downtown. And as for a third Albany bridge across the Willamette? Not likely, certainly not in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog.

That pretty much sums up the situation after Monday’s work session of the city council..

With two members absent, the council took no action on a proposal by Ron Irish, the city’s transportation systems analyst, to start looking for a consultant to study ways to reduce peak-hour congestion on Highway 20 from North Albany Road to Pacific Boulevard. The issue may come up again at the regular council session Wednesday.

ODOT may some day do a capacity study of the entire Highway 20 corridor from Corvallis to I-5, but this won’t happen for at least another four years, and maybe not then. In the meantime, Irish is proposing that Albany take the lead on a study of just the North Albany and downtown segments, and ODOT would help with that. But ODOT can’t spare anybody to help for a year, even if the council says yes now.

Irish has suggested six potential measures to improve traffic flow during peak hours, when vehicles trying to enter Albany sometimes back up to Hyak Park. Possible measures include modernizing the traffic signals from North Albany Road to Third Avenue and adding turn lanes in various places. It takes a computer simulation to learn how each of these, separately or in different combinations, would affect the traffic flow. That’s why a study is needed, Irish says.

Mayor Sharon Konopa worries that creating more turn lanes would take away what parking is left on the downtown couplet. And when that proves not enough, would buildings have to go next? “We need another bridge,” she says, “but I won’t see it in my lifetime.”

Nor, in all likelihood, will anyone else. Building another bridge, and the new highways and approaches it would need, would be incredibly controversial and expensive. And then, depending on commuting patterns at the time, it might not solve the problem.

If the council eventually approves calling for the study Irish proposes, it will be a year and a half before it reaches any conclusions about signal changes or the other possible measures. Then it will be a year or so before any are carried out, if indeed any of them are.

What can commuters do in the meantime? Not much, except to change the their routines, if possible, take different routes, or alter the times they set out on the road. (hh)






12 responses to “Congestion solutions? Not anytime soon”

  1. Bill says:

    Building more homes as fast as possible might not help.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Yet another study to understand traffic congestion on the downtown bridges? This is called putting lipstick on a pig.

    I remember the council doing a study and holding meetings back in 2007 (?), and again in 2010 (?), to find a solution. The obvious answer was a new bridge. But the options looked at were rejected – (1) North Albany Rd. to Elm Street and (2) Conser Rd. to I-5.

    Driving the rejection was the fact that multiple governments would be involved. Evidently it is impossible to ask multiple layers of government to get along and find a solution to a problem.

    So the traffic problem only got worse….and worse….over time. And today the knee-jerk Albany solution is to spend more money on another study?

    Just ignore the elephant in the room – too many layers of government with conflicting policies and agendas. Gridlock, both in decision making and on the roads, is the inevitable result.

    But hey, something needs to be done to placate the frustrated public. So another local study it is…..

  3. Mac says:

    How about no more houses in North Albany until the problem is fixed?
    How about, if you work in Corvallis, live in Corvallis.

  4. Jim Engel says:

    Wait a minute. The Mayors remark, “…would take away what parking is left…..”, sure sounds dumb regarding her promenade down Broadalbin St. So far that action has eliminated some (12) parking spaces. If she gets her way in front of the Eagles building there goes another (8)! It’s like her concerns on the right hand don’t know about her real actions in the left hand.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      First – As I recall, there were 30+ parking spaces added via back-in diagonal around the P.O. when the Carousel came in.

      Second – Every single parking study the city has done shows there is *NO* parking problem in the core area except in some folks’ imagination…

  5. thomas cordier says:

    Since the delays are driven by the red lights frequency–keep the lights green with-in the city on both one-way legs of HWY 20 from 4:30 until 6pm.

  6. HowlingCicada says:

    Consultants might come up with some marginal improvements which might be worthwhile (cost-effective). But they probably won’t have the guts to suggest the only thing likely to work long term — congestion pricing. The question I would ask them: Has it been tried in places as small as Albany?

    The question I would ask everyone else: Is the problem bad enough that you really want to do something about it?

  7. J. Jacobson says:

    “Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.”

    George Bernard Shaw

  8. Thomas Aaron says:

    1.) Make the Conser to I5 bridge a reality, it’s the only way this end of town won’t come to a complete standtill in the next 10 years.
    2.) Buck up and absorb Millersburg while you’re at it, it’s inevetable as we supply 99% of their services.
    3.) Build a parking garage in downtown. There’s a lot of open parking lots all over the place that could easily be converted.
    4.) Time for a new Mayor and to replace anyone else in city/county gov’t who sits on their hands in fear of change.

    Lay the groundwork for a better Albany, you owe it future generations. Stop making excuses for “it can’t be done”, because we all know that’s the biggest pile of B.S. Good leadership would make it happen or die trying.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      1. Exactly how do you propose to do that?
      2. Millersburg is already paying Albany for those services.
      3. As every study has already shown, there is *NO* parking problem in the core to warrant the expense of a parking garage.
      4. “Stop making excuses…” Jump into the fray and run for office – it’s the American way… :-)

  9. Jeff Senders says:

    Buy the old one lane bridge on highway 34 from Corvallis and place it on the existing pilings adjacent to Monteith Riverpark. Not only would that please the historic preservationalists it would draw additional traffic past the Carousel.

  10. Pat Riot says:

    Perhaps a new study should be budgeted for–one that measures the efficacy, productivity, efficiency, and reality of accomplishments done by the mayor and city council members of Albany and Corvallis and how they compare.


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