A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On Gibson Hill: The smartest fix

Written April 26th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Albany Councilor Floyd Collins and Laurie Starha of Benton County Public Works at Tuesday's open house.

Albany Councilor Floyd Collins and Laurie Starha of Benton County Public Works at Tuesday’s open house.

What’s the smartest way to fix the North Albany intersection of Gibson Hill Road and Crocker Lane? Floyd Collins, the Ward I councilman and North Albany resident who dealt with public works issues all his professional life, thinks the smartest way is to rebuild the intersection once and for all, not to do one thing now and then spend more money to do the final fix in 10 years.

I asked Collins, a retired Albany public works director, about this at an open house on the intersection alternatives Tuesday afternoon at City Hall. The motoring public had previously expressed itself in an online survey sponsored by the city, and hardly anybody from the public showed up at the open house. But Mayor Sharon Konopa and Councilors Collins, Bessie Johnson, Dick Olsen and Ray Kopczynski did, and so did public works staffers from Albany and Benton County as well as a rep from David Evans and Associates (DEA), the consulting firm that drew up five possible intersection treatments.

The alternatives are: Putting in an all-way stop at the three-way intersection, a simple or a more extensive signal setup, and a small or a full-size roundabout. The cost estimates range from $9,500 for the stop signs to almost $1.9 million for a set of signals with turn lanes on Crocker and Gibson Hill. The turn-lane signal alternative and the full-size roundabout would require buying some land, and the cost of that is not included in the estimates, Cameron M. Grile of DEA told me.

I turned to Collins and asked him what, in his opinion, would be the best way to go. He says it’s to consider that North Albany at build-out may hold 20,000 people, compared to about 8,000 now, many of them making several trips to and from town a day. With that in mind, he prefers doing the traffic signal with turn lanes. It’s the most expensive of the alternatives, but it would be smarter to do that and be done with it, instead of doing something less now that would eventually prove insufficient and would have to be redone.

Ron Irish, the city’s traffic systems analyst, expects to assemble information from the intersection survey, which produced 326 responses and many written comments, and the open house (I counted only two written comments by the time I left after an hour) and present a summary to the city council in May or June. It will be up to the council to pick an alternative to pursue.

If the council picks one of the more elaborate alternatives, it might be built in 2018, depending on availability of funds, though it’s hard to predict how long it would take to acquire the necessary right of way. Simple stop signs would take hardly any time at all. (hh)

10 responses to “On Gibson Hill: The smartest fix”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Putting up stop signs seems like a bad idea. During peak traffic cars would get backed up for long distances and make getting to and from town a nightmare.

    • AnyonymousToo says:

      I’ll 2nd that! Those of us living off the streets near that intersection will quickly find it impossible to get on or off Gibson Hill when the traffic starts backing up and blocking off every possible offshoot.

  2. Hasso Hering says:

    On Facebook, Floyd Collins commented: “In reviewing the 5 alternatives, I believe that either the multi lane traffic signal or the full size round about would serve the existing and future needs of the community. The traffic signal option will have higher long term operating cost.

    “Since there are only two routes to US Hwy 20 from this area ( Scenic or Gibson to North Albany) it is important to provide a safe and efficient route to town. Movement of emergency vehicles must also be considered. I am hopeful that the Council will select the final alternative within the next two months and that we can budget construction for either the summer of 2017 or 2018.”

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    That buildout number is surprising. 8k now growing to 20k! I realize there is one develop going on and what looks like 3 starting but that is a significant jump. Suppose it is natural for the areas two largest towns to grow closer.

  4. Shane says:

    The important thing to remember is that the overall goal is to keep traffic flowing. Adding more lights does not do that, they stop people when it is not necessary to stop. This area is the perfect place for a roundabout. There are only a couple times a day that traffic is a problem there. Keep traffic flowing like it should.

  5. HowlingCicada says:

    North Albany at 20,000 is probably mostly a bedroom community for Corvallis, not a bad idea by itself. But then, in addition to $2+ million for one intersection, you’ll need 4 lanes to Corvallis on Hwy 20 at an astronomical cost.

    How about looking at the trend from a little higher up? Smaller families living in larger houses filled with more unused junk, driving larger cars solo for longer distances because everything has grown unsustainably.

  6. GregB says:

    Traffic lights are probably the best solution to this problem intersection. Putting in a roundabout would be quite an impact on the houses adjacent to the intersection. The owners most likely would lose their homes or at the least have traffic in their backyards. A immediate improvement, before anything else, would be to remove vegetation along Gibson Hill Road so you can see traffic coming from both the east and west. As it is now, I have to nose my pickup almost into Gibson Hill traffic to see what is coming and then when there is a gap in traffic, briskly accelerate to try and fit into a gap. That’s my 2 cents.

  7. Gregg tyler says:

    I think a roundabout is a bad idea because people traveling up north Albany road and down Gibson hill hardly ever stop when they should at our other roundabout, and it would probably be worse for people coming off of Crocker with this roundabout, not to mention people on near by streets to Crocker would be stuck. When school buses are running it would be a disaster. Spend the money and put in some turn lanes and lights. It will be a long time before North Albany has 20 thousand people.

  8. Nommel says:

    The traffic isn’t all North Albany residents at high volume times. It’s people who work in Monmouth, McMinnville etc. North East of Albany who cut across North Albany to avoid the problems merging onto HWY 20 @ Independence Rd etc.who travel through Albany to the South and East. Resolve much of the traffic by building a bridge over the Willamette at SpringHill and Conser. It would then be a straight shot to Interstate 5. It would ease much of the congestion at the Albany Willamette bridges also. The limited access across the river leaves few reasonable alternatives when the bridges are closed from time to time. This also would allow emergency vehicles from North of Interstate 5 quicker access to the hospital. It would cost much more, but the intersection at Crocker and Gibson Hill is just the beginning. Let’s chop the tree off at the trunk instead of overall greater costs cutting it back branch by branch as related to North Albany traffic issues.


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