Clark County wants to compete for Complete Streets money

Adoption of a Complete Streets ordinance would make the county eligible for grant money from the state

CLARK COUNTY — What’s in a name? For Clark County, it could be up to half a million dollars.

At a Wednesday morning council work session, planning department staffers explained why the council should adopt a Complete Streets ordinance, essentially to qualify for grant money from the state that can be used for local transportation initiatives.

County planners explain to council members the need for a Complete Streets ordinance at a work session this week. Photo by Chris Brown
County planners explain to council members the need for a Complete Streets ordinance at a work session this week. Photo by Chris Brown

The Complete Streets program was introduced by the state legislature nearly seven years ago as a way of setting down into law the concept that streets should be for everyone, from cars to bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages.

According to County Planner Gary Albrecht, the current codes the county uses for road projects already meet the Complete Streets requirements, but the county has never formally adopted the concept.

“We have street standards already that we’re using that meet the concept of Complete Streets,” Albrecht told the council members. “The arterials, the collectors, have designations in them that already accommodate for sidewalks for pedestrians, already accommodate for bicyclists and travel lanes.”

 

County planner Gary Albrecht (center) explains a point about the Complete Streets ordinance to county commissioners at a Wednesday work session. Photo by Chris Brown
County planner Gary Albrecht (center) explains a point about the Complete Streets ordinance to county commissioners at a Wednesday work session. Photo by Chris Brown

 

The county must adopt a Complete Streets ordinance in order to be eligible for Washington State Transportation Improvement Board grants, which range from $115,000 to $500,000 annually. The funds are designated as flexible, meaning the county could use them for a range of transportation projects, so long as they fall within the Complete Streets umbrella. That might mean adding sidewalks to existing streets, new crosswalks, and other improvements.

One thing you’re not likely to see though are road diets, at least in unincorporated Clark County. Council member Eileen Quiring made it a point to say she won’t vote for a Complete Streets ordinance if it means taking away room for cars on some streets.

“I watched the city of Portland, and Multnomah County, change four-lane streets to two-lane car streets,” she says, “and put in bike paths. And there were already sidewalks, but they took out actual travel lanes for cars and they put bike paths. And I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see us transforming what we already have difficulty getting around in this county with our transportation plan, eliminating general purpose lanes for cars.”

This slide explains the concept of Complete Streets. Photo courtesy Clark County Planning Commission
This slide explains the concept of Complete Streets. Photo courtesy Clark County Planning Commission

Quiring was told that road diets are something happening more in urban environments, rather than “the fringe,” which is what most of Clark County’s roads would be considered. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerney-Ogle, at a transportation forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clark County last month, mentioned that road diets could soon be a reality in her city.

“Pedestrian safety is a huge problem right now,” McEnerny-Ogle told the group. “What’s causing that? Is it distracted drivers? Probably. We may be looking at a road diet, and it’s not going to be an easy thing of taking four lanes down to three – one in each direction and a center turn, but as we look at it we are rebuilding and building new roads with this idea of Complete Streets.”

This slide outlines the reasons Clark County should pass a Complete Streets ordinance, along with a cutout view of Padden Parkway as an example. Photo courtesy Clark County Planning Commission
This slide outlines the reasons Clark County should pass a Complete Streets ordinance, along with a cutout view of Padden Parkway as an example. Photo courtesy Clark County Planning Commission

For now, at least, there are no plans within Clark County’s transportation system to remove any vehicle lanes, but future new roads will certainly include more safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. The planning commission staffers also assured the council that a Complete Streets ordinance likely would not add to the cost of projects in the pipeline, since current codes match up to mandates in the state program.

The discussion over Complete Streets will pop up again for a Planning Commission hearing that the public can weigh in on May 17, before heading to the full council for a vote by this Fall.

This slide outlines what a Complete Streets ordinance would add to existing transportation codes. Photo courtesy Clark County Planning Commission
This slide outlines what a Complete Streets ordinance would add to existing transportation codes. Photo courtesy Clark County Planning Commission
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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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