A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Riverfront project includes work on crossings

Written November 20th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

This spot on Water Avenue at Montgomery is one where the city plans to open a crossing on the railroad tracks.

Plans for Albany’s riverfront call for improving crossings on the Water Avenue rail line, opening new ones and closing others. But the new or improved crossings won’t have to be protected with automatic arms.

That’s the main new thing I got out of this week’s city council discussion of the latest update on the Waterfront Project of the Central Albany Revitalization Area (CARA), the urban renewal district.  I missed the Wednesday meeting but listened to the nearly two-hour audio recording and studied the graphics on the agenda from Walker Macy, the design firm contracted for the project.

Over the past couple of years or so the council, acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency, and the CARA advisory board several times affirmed their decision to spend most of the urban renewal district’s remaining borrowing authority on improving the riverfront and two other projects, the former Wells Fargo bank and former St. Francis Hotel.

On Wednesday the council (as the ARA) voted 5-2 to approve the staff recommendation to do the riverfront work in two phases, over two years, and to borrow the costs of both phases at once, paying them off with tax increment financing over the remaining years of CARA’s existence.

Councilors Dick Olsen and Matilda Novak objected. They wanted the entire CARA board, not just the council as the ARA, to review details of the proposal before the city goes ahead. Other council members and the city staff insisted that the project had been reviewed by the CARA board before, the decision to go ahead had already been made, and now it was just a matter of carrying it out.

Not all details have been reviewed, though. For example, Olsen did not like the idea of expensive crossing arms on a dozen new rail crossings on Water Avenue. That’s when it came out that actually, ODOT no longer demands gates on the Water Avenue line, which carries only one or two trains a day at 10 miles an hour or less.

Chelsea McCann, the chief consultant on the project, explained that “improving” the crossings meant to make them easier to use, but she didn’t say how.

The council did not go into the crossing issue further. If it had, it might have questioned the staff or the consultant on oddities in the graphics included with the agenda.

One graphic shows proposed work at crossings with a “total of 11” at an estimated cost of about $2 million.  Then it says nine crossings are to be improved and three “existing pedestrian crossings” are to be closed, presumably making a total of 12.

A different graphics says eight crossings are to be improved.

A map of the track shows where work is to be done, but not which crossings are to be improved and which ones closed.

The plan now is to start construction in 2022 on Water Avenue, including raised brick intersections like at Jackson and Hill, and to work on changes in Monteith Riverpark the summer after that.

The cost estimates are about $7.3 million for Water Avenue from Washington to Main, about $160,000 for the Dave Clark Trail, and just under $7 million for changes at Monteith Riverpark.

The Water Avenue project also includes one block of Broadalbin, evidently to extend the Broadalbin Promenade treatment from First to Water. That’s something else the council didn’t ask about. (hh)

The crossing at Thurston Street is one of those to be improved.

13 responses to “Riverfront project includes work on crossings”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Tax Increment Financing is dependent on having some idea of what the anticipated increase in property tax revenue will be generated by this project.

    Has anyone in the city provided a believable estimate of how much future tax revenue to expect?

    If not, the ARA/CARA has failed to perform a basic responsibility of their due diligence responsibility.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      I’ve not seen or heard of it.

      And why is my city services bill so HIGH and ERRATIC?
      Pulsing and fluctuating every month but always too high!

      Beginning to think you are right “No Shade”, things are amiss here in “A-town” USA.

  2. Jeff Senders says:

    What of the Parking Structure, supposedly coupled to the St. Francis transfer?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      There is no “Parking Structure” being considered for the St. Francis project.

      • Jeff Senders says:

        thank you. How about the proposed Lepman site Apartment complex?

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          That doesn’t ring a bell. However, he does have a vision for a multi-story hotel across the street from the Senior Center. He has plans to move his current office from there to the old City Hall building he would like to renovate…

          • Jeff Senders says:

            “ding dong”
            Hasso Herring Blog 21 October 2021: A new Plan to save the St. Francis, and then some:
            “As I understand it, the hotel idea is tentative and depends on the city building a PARKING STRUCTURE, perhaps on the city owned parking lot on the north side of Water Avenue.”

            Albany Democrat Herald 26 October 2021: A new rescue plan: “The timeline for starting the project is short. Lepman needs the city to transfer its option to buy the St. Francis to him before it expires at year’s end. He said his purchasing the building would be contingent on a commitment from CARA. He’s also asking for the city to build a three-story PARKING STRUCTURE garage. In order for the hotel to be successful, it needs to have parking.”

          • Hasso Hering says:

            The parking structure was mentioned in connection with Lepman’s notion of building a new hotel/apartment building on the site of his present headquarters, the former Sears warehouse on Water and Ferry, not the St. Francis. The St. Francis development is intended to rely for parking on part of the former Wells Fargo lot, across Ferry from the St. Francis.

    • Dick Olsen says:

      You’re right Jeff in that the original CALUTS plan called for a parking structure or two. These would serve a downtown that was repaired and restored to the point where most all the buildings and hopefully some new buildings would become desirable spaces to live, work in, and enjoy a vibrant downtown.

      A restored St. Francis, a rebuilt Wells Fargo and a Lepman hotel require a parking structure.
      CARA should slowdown, downgrade the park-Water Ave. project, and help finance a parking structure.

  3. James Engel says:

    Aawww Geez. A concrete riverfront. For what purpose??? A great wave of riverboat traffic is anticipated!! That damned CARA bunch is hell bent to spend every cent it has control over.

  4. CHEZZ says:

    They paved paradise and didn’t put up a parking lot…..


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