A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Six ways to ease congestion on Hwy. 20

Written February 7th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

One day in February 2019: Congestion on Hwy. 20 heading into Albany.

If you’re stuck in the occasional afternoon traffic jams on Highway 20 before crossing the Willamette River, you’ll be interested in ideas for increasing the road’s capacity in the next few years.

But first, of course, there has to be a study. During its work session Monday, the Albany City Council will be asked to authorize the city staff to solicit proposals for a “refinement plan” for Highway 20 from North Albany Road across the river and through downtown to Ninth Avenue.

The plan would be evaluating measures to allow the highway, including the downtown couplet of Lyon and Ellsworth Streets, to handle more traffic. The idea is to study measures that could be carried over within five to 10 years.

What are some possible measures to accomplish that? A staff memo to the council lists six:

♦ Update the controllers of traffic signals.

♦ Connect all the signals along the route.

♦ Improvements to allow the use of adaptive signal timing. Presumably that allows the signals’ phases to respond to traffic flow.

♦ Add a second right-turn lane from First on to the Lyon Street Bridge. This would shorten the backups on First during peak traffic periods.

♦ Add a second left-turn lane from Spring Hill Drive on to Highway 20. (This worked well during the North Albany Road reconstruction a few years ago, but ODOT would not allow it to remain when the construction was finished.)

♦ Add turn lanes from Lyon and Ellsworth to some of the side streets.

The memo doesn’t say how long it would take for a consultant to evaluate these ideas, let alone to carry them out if they show promise, or what they would cost. But as for the proposed study to check this out, the staff says the city has enough money from transportation systems development charges to pay for the planning. (hh)

22 responses to “Six ways to ease congestion on Hwy. 20”

  1. Doug heddleson says:

    What makes it illegal to turn onto the bridge from 1st Street out of the right side traffic lane on to the left side of the traffic lane on the bridge
    One way street to one way street

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      You aren’t supposed to cross lanes when turning. You turn right onto the right lane and then change lanes to the left.
      Read the manual-

  2. Grace says:

    How about build another bridge. This is the only long term solution.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      Get that old bridge from Corvallis…the one that ODOT wants to scrap. Float that ancient, rusting iron over to Albany and lift it into place. A single-lane bridge for a town expected to reach 90-thousand residents should fit the bill. Plus, there’s the added benefit of repurposing the iron instead of simply scrapping it.

  3. Richard Smith says:

    Occasional traffic jams?… How about everyday, ie Monday thru Friday? It is not an “occasional” thing…it is a nightmare that should have been corrected at least twenty years ago! …but then again, this is Albany!

  4. Richard Vannice says:

    All of the proposals involve a State Highway. Therefore, no matter what the City would recommend, it still would have to get approval and $$$$ from the State. What do you think the chances are of that happening very fast?

  5. patti cardwell says:

    to ease traffic accidents between corvallis and albany on hwy 20. I have the perfect soluation. Speed 45 mph. all the way. no passing ever. cameras to moniter. you go over 45 mph . you get a $1000. fine.

    people can just leave 10 min. earlier to go to work. everyone would be so much safer

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “””people can just leave 10 min. earlier”””

      Two 55 mph parts plus a short 50 mph part total less than 6.5 miles; everything else is already 45 or less (source: Google’s Street View and distance measuring tool). At 55 those parts take 7.1 minutes. At 45 it’s 8.67 minutes.

      Therefore, at 45 mph, you only need to leave 95 seconds earlier. That’s all. 95 seconds. Just barely over 1 and a half minutes, not 10 minutes. I’m undecided about your implementation details, but I really like the idea of 45 max.

    • Rachel La Brasseur says:

      I left 1hr early to go from South albany to WinCo, I arrive on average 15 min early. Lol on leaving 10 min early. I was transferred to our commercial st store in Salem and it takes me 18 min on a good day. Never has it taken me 45 min to get there like it did to get to Corvallis. Corvallis is half the distance and twice the time.

    • Jon says:

      That’s great. Then, we can see what happens when you slow down all those packed-in vehicles during commute times. What happens is, they get closer together. Then there’s less opportunity for all those people from the intersecting streets to get onto 20. Then those people get impatient and pull out in front of traffic and cause accidents. Then everyone gets to stop, again.

  6. Cap says:

    Hasso: Right on, your saying, “But, first, of course, there has to be a study!”

    Right on, Richard Smith, for saying, “….but then again, this is Albany!”

  7. centrist says:

    Such angst over a short inconvenience.
    The problem is NOT with a bridge, but with a narrow, lowspeed grid complicated by pedestrian cross-traffic.
    The grand solution would be another entry across the River. Acquiring the right-of-way would be a monumental task. (Heck, building a simple bike path isn’t going well). Besides, it’s not free. Funding would likely be next to impossible.
    So, yes there are going to be studies to figure out what smaller-scale items can achieve.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “The problem is NOT with a bridge …” makes perfect sense.

      In Corvallis a revolt seems to be brewing against the loony idea of constructing a temporary “detour bridge” to accommodate traffic from the time the Van Buren bridge is removed until the new bridge is ready. There are 5 bridge lanes now, 4 lanes after removal, 6 lanes when the new bridge is finished. With little effort or disruption, the Harrison bridge could become 2-way like the south bypass. Eastbound toward Albany, you would still have 2 bridge lanes feeding the 2 eastbound lanes of Hwy 34. Same thing westbound.

      The bridges are not the choke point in either city. I predict the new Corvallis bridge will not solve eastbound congestion.

  8. John Klock says:

    Bicycles?? Finish the HW 20 bike lane. Incentives for riding bikes.

  9. HowlingCicada says:

    Here’s why having more bikes will help.

    “””… traffic delays are non-linear, which means that when traffic rises to certain levels it becomes unstable. Add just a few too many cars at the wrong time and fast-moving traffic suddenly slows to a crawl; take just a few cars off of the road at the right time and traffic speeds and throughput can both increase dramatically. If we can find a way to keep some cars from crowding onto already congested roads at certain times and places, many more people will get through the system overall, and at higher speeds to boot.”””

    From “Traffic Congestion Is Counter-Intuitive, and Fixable,” a short, excellent overview of all the ways of dealing with congestion — including the “six ways” and many more.

  10. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    Seriously, is no one questioning why the heck our traffic lights are not already synced together?!!? Hello! Corvallis’s light system is literally light years ahead of albany’s. I over work being done downtown. Especially right after a major upgrade that should have already included this. Albany is much larger than the historic district. The rest of Albany deserves to have nice streets and attention too. I love this town but dang, our city government is not growing at the speed of the population. It’s becoming embarrassingly that most members of our city council and our mayor is in over their head and they don’t know what they are doing. It’s time for growth and knowledgeable leadership. The city deserves to be fined/sued from the riverkeepers, our prehistoric river that is the heart of our city needs better care from us.

  11. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “It’s becoming embarrassingly that most members of our city council and our mayor is in over their head and they don’t know what they are doing.”

    If you honestly believe that to be true (and you are unable to or unwilling to run for office), then it’s incumbent upon you help elect a more qualified candidate…

  12. Mike quinn says:

    Kick the can down the road. That’s how you solve the problem. OR. You elect people with the common sense to get the job done not just have a round table to have chitty chat sessions that ends up kicking the can down the road—- traffic– affordable housing— and making it work.


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