Citizens ask HR City Council to reopen May St. crossing

August 10, 2011

After nearly 90 minutes of testimony and discussion regarding the city of Hood River's Transportation System Plan and Interstate Access Management Plan one thing was clear: May Street residents would like their crosswalk back.

While some speakers raised concerns about potential changes to exits from I-84, the bulk of the conversation focused on a crosswalk at May and 12th which was recently closed after the opening of Providence Hood River's three-story parking structure.

"This is a perfect example of poor planning and wasteful spending, said Morgan Graves, a seventh-grader at Hood River Middle School. "It's hard to envision why city planners would want citizens to cross a busy street three times instead of once."

At the intersection of 12th and May, to get across May Street from the north side, a pedestrian must cross to the south, cross 12th Street, and then cross May again to get back to the north side.

Many of the speakers said that the reason given for closing the crosswalk - pedestrian safety - made no sense in that it then forced them to cross the street several times.

Kateri Osborne Lohr, Hood River County School District board member for the area, said many parents of children at May Street School had approached her about the crosswalk situation.

"I've had numerous residents and members of the school come to ask me what I could do," she said.

She said one major example of why the crosswalk needed to be reopened was in the May Street swimming program, where children walk from the school to the Hood River pool several blocks away.

Instead of following the north side of May Street to Hood River Middle School and crossing there, they must now cross back and forth several times.

Lohr said she was acting in a personal capacity by coming to the meeting, but Mayor Arthur Babitz encouraged her to seek out feedback from the school board on the matter.

Omar Sankari, a May Street resident, said that the city's TSP data showed people continued to cross at both the intersection at 12th and May and a closed intersection farther up May Street, and that the area would be more safe and livable if the crosswalk were reopened.

"People will cross where they think it is reasonable and safe to cross, regardless if it is closed or not," he said.

He encouraged the council to act soon to reopen the crosswalk.

"I would like to see the crosswalk reopened as soon as possible; preferably before school starts," he said.

The meeting was filled with transportation issues.

The council approved an exemption to the competitive bidding process for Key Development for a realignment of Country Club Road. Mike Caldwell, owner of Stonehedge restaurant, testified before the council and asked them to proceed carefully with the project.

"This is literally opening up a scab ... we had such a nasty experience with how things get developed and right-of-ways get used," he said.

He said he was supportive of the overall concept of the plan and believed it would encourage growth, but stated he was concerned that the plan would cut 150-200 feet into the tree line surrounding the Stonehedge restaurant property and that construction would be occurring during the middle of wedding season.

"We are in support of this much-needed growth, he said. "But we are just barely recovering from the last development project during an economic downturn."

City Manager Bob Francis said that before the project began construction there would be numerous planning meetings and pre-construction meetings and that Caldwell was welcome to attend as many as he would like.

The council also voted to approve an exemption from competitive building for Moore Excavation to work on a sewer line for a future sanitary sewer pump station to be placed on the north side of the Highway 35 and Marina Drive intersection early next year.

An annexation request from KIHR and Columbia Gorge Broadcasters to connect the station to the city's sewer system was approved unanimously.

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