CHELAN - It took awhile for Mayor Mike Cooney to come around on the one-way idea for the Old Bridge on Woodin Ave.
“I was totally against it at first, and then I remember when Mayor Bob Goedde was there and we talked about either the one way, two way or adding another deck, and I just kept looking at the third option as a council member, but the light went on when I was standing with traffic consultants watching people struggle.” Cooney opened with at the meeting with residents on Thursday, March 2.
Built in 1927, the old bridge was constructed to withstand the size of cars in that era i.e. the Model T. Now almost a century old the Woodin Avenue Bridge, although solid, needs repairs.
“Within the next couple years it has to be restored,” Cooney admitted. “We know there is a fair amount of concrete swallowing underneath, one of the sections is leaning toward the river and the electrical system needs upgrading, so the restoration needs to be addressed whether we do one way, two way or whatever way.”
In addition to the restoration, both sides are needed for trails in the future including a park-to-park trail that is currently being planned section-by-section.
On the sidewalk up lakeside the city is proposing extending the width of the path from four to eight feet and down lakeside from four to five feet in order to further service the Riverwalk Trail.
Aside from the restoration, why even do it though?
“It is in the mayor’s handbook,” Cooney said. “Safety is first and then everything else comes after that. It also increases the pedestrian experience for example by allowing them more room to take pictures of the sunsets up lake. Although we are proposing a bike lane on the bridge, it is not a for sure thing, if we want to widen both sidewalks or allow bike traffic in the lane of traffic, that still will be talked about.”
What’s the cost?
“There is still work to be done to get it fully funded, but we have $540,000 into the 2017 budget and we got a grant for $270,000 that is waiting to be spent on the repair of the bridge,” Cooney said. “We met with state legislators last week and made a pitch for a certain amount of money to help us complete the one way and mitigating intersections. We also have $75,000 from the HIstoric Downtown Chelan Association (HDCA) gateway project that will go along the walkway on the Campbells side and down the PUD dock.”
Mayor Cooney then brought up Public Works Director Dwayne Van Epps to give a background on some of the things that brought them to this point.
“I have heard consistently that pedestrian safety is a primary issue and I was asked on a quite frequent basis that we need to find a solution to this, well at the time Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC) were the go-to people for bridge funding,” Van Epps began. “We were bugging them for money and they finally offered $10,000 in 2003 to do some analysis.”
The two things that came out of the analysis were that, if you are going to handle safety you either have to one-way the bridge or widen the bridge deck. The second thing was that in the superstructure and understructure, the underpinnings were still in good shape, so it was classified as functionally obsolete instead of structurally deficient.
“About that same time a bridge back east fell into a river and all of that national attention came onto those bridges that are structurally deficient. So all of the money goes toward those bridges and ours does not compete well, they will flat out tell you that you don’t qualify,” Van Epps stated. “Later in 2010, we had KPFF Consulting Engineers look at doing an even greater in depth study and we came up with options ranging from just putting up railings to a separate pedestrian bridge. Council settled on sidewalk sections, and the consideration for the one way is more an opportunity and chance to provide both sufficient vehicle traffic with additional pedestrian safety.”
After Dwayne finished, Cooney ushered up Engineer Manager Dan Ireland from SCJ Alliance to go over the rest of the project.
“There are multiple things we are factoring, and this is a balanced solution,” Ireland said in his opening remark. “Walkability is a huge factor why we are here today and what can get people walking safely across the bridge.”
In the proposal, SCJ uses visual aspects including a necked down road leading up to the bridge, a balance of vegetation, trees and landscaping items.
“When you create bigger shoulders and make the road straighter, we all tend to speed up a little bit more, but when we constrict it down from a visual standpoint, it makes the driver slow down,” Ireland insisted.
Once you get into town, one of the bigger changes will be on Colombia. The turn lane onto the bridge will be repurposed for a wider sidewalk capable of having six people walking side-by-side, a dedicated bike lane that connects to the bridge and room for more streetscaping and landscaping elements downtown.
“Now all of these elements don’t have to be done, these are just big picture opportunities to help things stand out,” Ireland said. “In order to figure out how we are affecting the bigger picture, we do modeling scenarios.”
By using growth rates, economic factors and other developments growing in the area, SCJ can model the traffic configuration 20 years in the future. As a result, the intersections that became pertinent are at Sanders and Johnson and Sanders and Woodin, so SJC came up with four possible solutions.
• A new signal at Johnson and Sanders that is interconnected with the preceding light at Sanders and Woodin.
• Two right turn lanes from Johnson onto Sanders and a full separate turn lane going east on Woodin.
• Combination of right turn movements on Johnson with two through lanes down Sanders.
• Getting rid of through lane on Johnson toward school district.
As to the reason for having the one way come into town, Cooney said, “you want people coming in your front door, and you want them to leave out on Dan Gordon Bridge,” before opening it up for comments or questions from residents or downtown business owners.
After the meeting Jessie Simmons, the Executive Director from the HDCA said, “the HDCA feels that reviewing the one-way proposal and the consequences of this change will take time and cannot be solely based on the opinions of a small group. Given that we do not know how this could affect business, HDCA requested that a test of the one-way concept be conducted before we endorse making structural changes to the historical landmark. Either way we are pleased these discussion are happening and that downtown businesses and the wider community are being invited into the conversation.”
“The only thing I see as a problem is that I think you’re foregoing the locals for bicycles,” Bob Goedde said. “So I think you should forego the bicycles or give the same amount of freedom of movement to the south side. I was not a supporter of the one way, but we are never going to have the money to have wider sidewalks.”
More information on the project including the renditions and traffic study can be found at cityofchelan.us/woodin-avenue-bridge-one-way-concept/.
Note: the City has stated that their insurance pool, Washington Cities Insurance Authority, strongly advises against a test, saying the liability exposure to the City and the risk pool is enormous. The City was told if they decide to conduct a test, WCIA would require a police officer stationed at both ends of the bridge for the entire duration (24/7) and pedestrians would be prohibited from accessing the bridge. Having just received this information, HDCA will be talking to members to determine if this new information changes our official stance.
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