A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Use those dual lanes while you can

Written October 15th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Second turn lane beckons at Spring Hill and 20, but not for long.

Second turn lane still beckons at Spring Hill and 20, but not for long.

Better enjoy it while you can, North Albany drivers, pulling into this extra left-turn lane on Spring Hill Drive at Highway 20. This little traffic feature has been a boon to drivers, but that doesn’t count as much as ODOT regulations and concerns.

Albany officials would like to keep the dual lanes, installed as temporary measures last spring for the North Albany Road project because they would ease drive-time congestion on Spring Hill. But the city says ODOT won’t allow making the arrangemet permanent without further studies and possibly expensive signal upgrades. ODOT is worried about trucks turning on the banked highway and tipping on any cars to their right. So this week, the city council reluctantly voted 4-2 to go back to the one-lane pattern, with Dick Olsen and Rich Kellum voting no.

Farther north on Spring Hill, the temporary traffic oval at Quarry Road will come out too after both the council (on Monday) and the Benton County Board of Commissioners (on Wednesday) agreed with a staff recommendation that a permanent roundabout of the proper size is not feasible there. Benton public works chief Josh Wheeler says the county will study the intersection to see about other ways of slowing Spring Hill traffic, as the city council had asked.

The council also urged ODOT to look at upgrading the Spring Hill/Highway 20 intersection — designed in the early 1970s when the Lyon Street Bridge was built — to allow dual left-turn lanes on Spring Hill to be put back in.

Meanwhile, the city’s North Albany Road contractor has until Dec. 8 to complete the contract, which includes the work at both of the Spring Hill intersections. So you may have a little time left, but not much, to enjoy the ease of two lanes at the turn into town. (hh)

9 responses to “Use those dual lanes while you can”

  1. Corie B says:

    I’ll help them demolish the traffic oval…

  2. James Carrick says:

    Another bureaucratic SNAFU. The time to “study” was this past summer when the 2 lane pattern worked perfectly and saved commuters a hell of a lot of time during peak hours. Trucks CAN be routed right at Hickory to N. Albany Road and/or forced to use the right lane at least. Most local truck traffic already does this. National Frozen Foods transports much of their bean, corn, and squash from the field via the Hickory route as a requirement of their drivers and we have just now passed the time with the most truck traffic with the potential to tip or spill at that intersection. Adequate signage between the golf club and Hickory could be more than adequate to get trucks to take the right at Hickory. I have sat through two traffic light cycles at times there when it’s busy, or someone ahead is “asleep at the wheel”, not an uncommon occurrence.

    However, the bureaucrats need that job/budget preservation, so up to $100k must be doled out to cover their butts. The double lanes allowed almost twice as many cars through that intersection at busy times and the only way to change the slope in that intersection will require massive grade changes and cost millions of $$$. But then again……isn’t this what we’ve come to expect from ODOT and bureaucracy in general. A lot of money spent without a corresponding amount of COMMON SENSE.

  3. NA Resident says:

    As someone who lives off of Springhill I am glad they are going back to 1 left turn lane. There is simply not enough traffic to justify 2 turn lanes now that NA Rd. is open again. When traffic is backed up on Springhill it is most always a result of traffic being backed up on HWY20 and the bridge, two turn lanes doesn’t solve that. Also having a right turn only lane allows someone to make a right hand turn on red there and not be stuck behind a single car that prefers to make a left turn out of the right lane despite the fact no one is in the left lane. I don’t see why the city feels the need to encourage ODOT to look at changes after only listening to the vocal minority that is wrong on this one.

    • James Carrick says:

      How about the best of both options……

      For a relatively small amount of money, it looks like there would be room for a dedicated right turn lane AND two left turn lanes if the sidewalk on the right was moved over closer to the signal pole. I agree that during off peak hours the 2nd left turn lane isn’t that helpful, but I disagree during peak hours…and I have been familiar with that intersection since before the second Albany bridge created the current configuration and sloped intersection. There used to be a burger joint (The Patio drive-in) where that intersection is now.

      I have been backed up to Hickory more times than I care to remember. Perhaps you’re more patient than I am, especially when it only takes one inattentive driver to make the traffic sensors think there is no more traffic wanting to make that left turn. If cars don’t move through there quickly, the signal changes before it would without the extra gap created by driver inattention. That’s been my experience.

      • NA Resident says:

        When the back ups occur it is typically because there is traffic backup up all through downtown and on the bridge. An extra turn lane isn’t going to help with that problem. Perhaps the problem could be solved with an additional loop detector?

        • James Carrick says:

          Well, since I no longer live out that way, my current experience there is more limited than yours. As I understand it, the traffic engineers can make adjustments to the signal detection timing to allow a little more time which would allow more time for those drivers that don’t follow quickly through quickly enough. That signal and a couple of others in town are very unforgiving of longer than usual gaps between cars as they pass through the intersection. The Geary St southbound signal at Pacific is also notorious for a quick change after 2 cars if the third one doesn’t follow quickly, for example. Perhaps a simple adjustment would/could improve things of that nature, there and at Springhill Rd./Hwy 20.

          Also, I remember when there was a right turn lane at the bottom of the Ellsworth St. bridge, Sometimes drivers turning right onto First must wait for pedestrians and that can be an impediment to traffic flow through town, at times.

          It just seems to me that if ODOT, the city and county deemed the 2 left turn scenario safe during the construction period, why is it now deemed “not safe” and in need of a study? There were no accidents of the type they “fear” during the construction period I am aware of, so their current logic escapes me. Logic suggests if it’s a risk now, it was a risk then as well. I find no consistency in their “thinking.”

  4. GregB says:

    And, a comment on the oval. I came within a couple of feet of getting smacked on my motorcycle as I was going north and trying to turn left onto Quarry. I had my left signal on and was proceeding at a legal speed. Some guy in a dodge pickup pulling a utility trailer came barreling from the north and did not even think about yielding the right of way. I had to completely stop as he drove in front of me. Lucky I watch out for guys like that while on my motorcycle. That oval can not be removed fast enough, as far as I am concerned. The longer it is in, the more chance of someone getting really hurt and then of course a major lawsuit against the parties that installed it. It served its use during N Albany Rd construction. It should not be there another day.

  5. RichardL says:

    Why not look into a bridge over the Willamette at Springhill/Conser? Traffic from 99 would go down Spring Hill North of North Albany and traffic from Hwy 20 would go North on Spring Hill by the golf course. That would be a more direct path to Interstate 5 and eliminate some of the downtown bridge congestion to North Albany. When those bridges ice over there would also be a different alternative. I am getting claustrophobic as the population of North Albany grows.(just heard an announcement about a new 50 home subdivision).
    Just a thought.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Richard, a few years ago when Albany was updating its transportation system plan, a Willamette River bridge linking to Conser Road was considered. The idea was barred from being included in the plan because the location is outside the city’s urban growth boundary, and Oregon planning law prohibits the making of such plans. There was to be further consideration with ODOT and so forth, but when I checked recently, no substantive steps had been taken. (hh)


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