ODOT looks at solutions to Corvallis congestion

Traffic coming in and out of Corvallis is notoriously congested during rush hour, backing up cars for many blocks and causing some potentially serious risks. To respond to the growing concern about traffic, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been looking into potential solutions.

Jerry Wolcott, Corvallis River Crossing project leader for Area 4 in Corvallis with ODOT, will be giving a project update to the community on Dec. 9, noon to 1 p.m., in the Memorial Union room 109. His presentation will include information on several projects slated for the coming years that are aimed at reducing the backup and increasing safety along the routes in and out of town.

The problem

ODOT is looking at reducing congestion in and around east Corvallis. It is here that three highways (US 20, OR 34, and OR 99W) converge, and create a bottleneck in downtown Corvallis. Vehicles from the large commuter shed vie for limited space with freight and local traffic, and congestion backs up in all directions.

The South Bypass intersection is in the top 10 percent of all crash sites in the region. In the last three years, 23 crashes were reported at the intersection. Most of the crashes in this area are the rear-end variety. The intersection of Highway 34 and Peoria Road is a top 5 percent site. Over the past five years, there have been 71 crashes reported at the Peoria Road intersection, 87 percent of which were rear-end type of crashes.

Bike and pedestrian access eastbound across the river happens on the Van Buren Bridge and westbound on the Harrison bridge. There is a loop under the Van Buren and Harrison bridges that connects to the OSU crew docks road. Many students and employees travel and commute along the shoulder of a high speed expressway during all weather conditions.

The magnitude of the problem

Since the Van Buren Bridge is single lane, conventional wisdom assumed that the narrow bridge was the source of the problem, and a wider bridge the only needed solution. So an ODOT planning project was developed to find a bridge solution. The project initially focused on the structural and functional integrity of the bridge.

A traffic study evaluated eleven intersections in downtown, and the South Bypass intersection, simultaneously, and looked at current traffic, and what traffic would look like in 2030 under each of eight scenarios. Included in the scenarios were a new North Bypass Bridge, a two and three lane Van Buren Bridge, and a two and three lane Harrison Bridge. The study also looked at the bypass intersection as currently signalized, and as a full interchange. Perhaps most importantly, the study also reviewed the impact of reduced demand through the use of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) and Transportation Systems Management (TSM) concepts.

The traffic study showed that 20 years from now, if nothing is done, congestion will extend for more than a mile away from the Willamette River in all directions, with cars idling for 30 minutes or more. Traffic will back up from the river to the Peoria Road intersection, and beyond. Congestion in the downtown area will extend south past downtown, over the Marys River and into south Corvallis.

The Long-Term Solution
The long-term solution is to move the confluence of three major highways to the east side of the Willamette River. The approach combines infrastructure with expanded transit, Park and Rides, and multi-use paths. Using this approach, the congestion in east Corvallis will move to the east side of the river, and it will eliminate the need to add another bridge along side the historic Van Buren Bridge.

Improvements will include a North Bypass bridge and a full interchange at the South Bypass intersection. The North Bypass Bridge will serve as a connection around downtown Corvallis, allowing OR 99W to be realigned outside of the downtown area. This is part of long-term plans adopted by Corvallis and Linn County.

At the South Bypass intersection, an interchange will be needed. This interchange is the cornerstone for any future facility improvement. The interchange will couple with frontage roads on the north and south sides of the highway, extending east to Peoria Road. These frontage roads will control access, and reduce the conflicting traffic movements that come from local residents and commercial trucks entering the highway. Instead, these vehicles will use the controlled, signalized intersection at Peoria Road. Peoria Road on the south side of the highway will be realigned with Wolcott Road on the north side of the highway. This will increase the capacity and illumination of the intersection, providing better east-west “green time” at the signal.

Expanded Transit and Park and Rides
An expanded transit system is a vital part of the long-term solution. This can be achieved by purchasing two buses for the Linn-Benton Loop. The buses will double the existing service between Albany and Corvallis, and create new commuter service from Lebanon to Corvallis.

The solution also includes expanding Park and Ride facilities at OR 34 and I-5, Lebanon and Albany. A likely next step is at the new sports complex that is planned at the Seven Mile Lane intersection.

Improving system operations on existing roads
There are many operational improvements that can be made to improve the efficiency of the system. Two major initiatives can be taken to do this. First, upgrade the detection and signal timing system in the downtown area around the bridge. Second, modify lane configurations to allow better circulation.

The signal detection upgrade will tie into the existing system, and install advanced detection equipment to recognize when the traffic loads are high. The computer then chooses an appropriate timing model from a list of options and changes automatically.

Circulation and operations can be improved by making modifications to lane configurations, including extending storage lanes, dedicating turn lanes, and making temporary changes to parking spaces during peak time hours.

Current Projects
OR34/US20: Roche-Wolcott
This project improves the safety of the corridor by realigning the Peoria/Wolcott Road intersection, adding a north side frontage road from Wolcott Road to the OSU/ODFW compound, and adding a Multi-Use Path from the OSU/ODFW compound to the south bypass intersection.
Total estimated cost: $6.385 million.
Current funding Fully funded
Status: Bid let scheduled for February 2011

Corvallis ITS
This project will improve peak time traffic by installing an intelligent detection and signal timing program in downtown Corvallis. The system will improve operations and safety in the downtown area.
Total estimated cost: $585,000.
Current funding: Fully funded
Status: Construction is scheduled for spring of 2011

OR34/US20: South Bypass – Groves Lane
This project will create a ‘slip lane’ (a lane of traffic that slips past the intersection) for northbound to eastbound traffic at the bypass intersection, and construct a frontage road from Ireland Road to Graves Lane.
Total estimated cost: $5,700,000.
Current funding: Fully funded
Status: Under development. Scheduled for construction in 2013

One Response to “ODOT looks at solutions to Corvallis congestion”

  1. Carey Hilbert says:

    PLEASE add the intersection at 26th and Western as a major source of risk and potential serious accident – especially around 5 pm or after any OSU event that does not provide traffic control. I typically have to wait 7-10 minutes to turn left from 26th to Western, and often people don’t pay attention to or lose track of who arrived at the intersection first, so there are many near misses as people try to make that hurried cross or left turn on or at Western. It is a serious accident just waiting to happen, and as campus enrollment goes up it is getting even worse.