John Day leaders label local highway sections

This section of Highway 26 in west John Day illustrates how zoning designations can help planners with community development. The Eagle/TIM ADAMS

JOHN DAY - In cooperation with the Oregon Department of Transportation, city officials approved a proposal presented at the Tuesday, Sept. 23, John Day City Council meeting to amend the Oregon Highway Plan and designate certain portions of state highways within the city limits as Special Transportation and Urban Business areas.

Under the proposal, the area between Canyon Creek Bridge and Dayton Street (highways 26 and 395) and Main Street, and Third Street (Highway 395), would be designated as a Special Transportation Area.

The state listed these areas as traditional "Main Streets," the term applying to areas of existing or planned downtown, business district or community centers generally located on both sides of a state highway.

Also approved was an area between the West City Limits and the Canyon Creek Bridge (highways 26 and 395), Dayton Street and Gunther Street on Main Street (Highway 26) and Third Avenue and the South City Limits on Canyon Boulevard (Highway 395) to be designated as an Urban Business Area.

This designation recognizes existing areas of commercially zoned lands where automobiles play an important role in economic activity.

"Every city in the area including Mt. Vernon, Canyon City and Prairie City is working with ODOT to implement highway segment designations," John Day City Manager Peggy Carey said.

Under the plans, the Oregon Transportation Commission will be working with local communities to manage state highways in a manner that reflects both community development plans and the Oregon Highway Plan. The commission is seeking to designate certain highway segments so that local governments, the development community and ODOT will be able to have an increased understanding of and certainty about community development as it relates to highway management.

"These designations will allow us more flexibility in highway access to promote community development," Carey said.

Highway Segment Designations were adopted as part of the Land Use and Transportation Policy 1B of the 1999 Oregon Highway Plan. They were developed with the objective of working with local governments to support planning for more livable community development patterns as well as continued mobility.

The object of a Special Transportation Area is to balance through traffic with the need for local access and circulation. The segment works from many points of view including: safety, pedestrian activity, smooth traffic flow and economic strength.

Special Transportation Areas have some, if not all of the following characteristics: buildings spaced close together and located adjacent to the street with little or no setbacks; sidewalks with ample width located adjacent to the highway; a well-developed parallel and interconnected local roadway network; on-street parking or shared, general purpose parking lots which are located behind or to the side of buildings; streets designed for ease of crossing by pedestrians; public road connections that correspond to the existing city block - private driveways are discouraged; adjacent land uses that provide for compact, mixed-use development; infill and redevelopment; well-developed transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, including street amenities that support these modes; and posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less.

Urban Business areas, traditionally referred to as "strip development", offer planning opportunities for development and redevelopment in a more compact manner which support safety, transit and vehicular, along with pedestrian access. These areas are where most new development occurs and are an important transportation and planning tool for both ODOT and local governments.

The city recently received a grant of up to $45,000 from the state to begin development plans as part of the local Main Street Enhancement project.

In other development-related issues, the city has received a Transportation Growth Management grant from the state for assistance in updating the city code.

Carey said an advisory committee is in the process of being formed to update the code, and she will send letters to members of the business community and to local residents asking them if they would be interested in serving on the committee.

"The committee will review the state consultant's documents at a series of meetings and make recommendations to the city council," she said.

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