Ontario-Fruitland overpass discussion continues

City Manager Adam Brown drew on top of a Google Map during the work session on April 8 to show how it would look if Southwest 18th Avenue extended over into Fruitland, including what an off-ramp might look like.


We may not have to worry about a stuck cargo ship on the Snake River blocking trade traffic locally and to our region, but it was that recent situation in the Suez Canal that got Mayor Riley Hill thinking outside the box about access into Ontario. And after mulling it over as a group, the council decided to have Ontario Community Development Director Dan Cummings look into the transportation master plan to see what it would take to get another route into Ontario.

This and other infrastructure projects topped a long list of discussion and action items at the Ontario City Council’s work session on April 8.

An overpass for S.W. 18th Ave?

Currently the main access into Ontario from Fruitland is along Idaho Avenue and Hill got to thinking about the railroad underpass and the potential of a traffic accident at intersections in the nearby proximity and how it could block up traffic routes, including delaying first responders.

Noting that the “traffic pickup on Idaho Avenue is significant in the last year,” Hill said, “we need another route,” and suggested extending Southwest 18th Avenue all the way over to Fruitland, by way of an interstate overpass.

The city’s planning and zoning commission was set to look at the transportation master plan on Monday and Paul Wood, city engineer with Jacobs, along with Cummings suggested that the city look at adding the route at another time.

However, Hill pressed on saying that Fruitland City Council was going to be taking up a similar conversation at its next meeting, additionally noting that he had spoken with Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, who encouraged him to bring it up at to the City Council, and noted that there is bipartisan support for another local route from Idaho to Fruitland at this time, with Idaho’s U.S. Senators.

“If we don’t think big, nothing big happens,” Hill said.

There was discussion about whether to have it just be an overpass, or if it could have exits, and Cummings noted that it would not likely meet the required distance for a clover-leaf style exit, saying the city’s two interchanges “barely meet” the distance required by Oregon Department of Transportation. The reason for distance is to avoid a bottleneck in traffic flowing off and onto Interstate 84.

“ODOT is in the business to move traffic,” Cummings said.

However it could possible to include an off-ramp, as suggested by Councilor Eddie Melendrez, to provide access to business in that area of town.

Cummings said extending 18th would be a good way to “relieve traffic pressure on Idaho Avenue. It would be a plus-plus,” he said.

Councilor Freddy Rodriguez also noted it would create more traffic in another area of town, promoting growth.

Cummings will report back to the council at a future meeting about whether this could be done by an amendment to the current transportation master plan.

Rescue Plan projects for Oregon’s billions

City Manager Adam Brown included a number of documents for the council to look at in regards to how the city might get part of the state’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act, with the state of Oregon set to receive more than $4 Billion, and Gov. Kate Brown prioritizing a large chunk of that toward making communities more resilient.

As such, communities are urged to submit one to three ideas for “shovel-ready” projects.

Adam Brown suggested that the Southeast Second Street extension was an “imminent” project that could be done in time, with the city currently waiting for a grant on its second $1.8 million match, and Rescue Plan funds paying for that match.

Additionally, Brown mentioned that there was the need to increase capacity at the water plant by adding an extra cassette. The council agreed to have Brown apply for funds for both of those projects.

Brown in a phone interview on Friday explained more about the “cassette,” describing it as a big tank inside the water plant that is about 40-feet by 15-feet wide and 10-feet deep. He said the plant was already built with a concrete pad next to the sole existing cassette for that eventual addition.

Brown said this would add “another million gallons per day of capacity,” explaining that currently, when Heinz is in production “we are bumping up into reliable capacity.”

The difference between reliable and full capacity, Brown said was like a speedometer in a car, saying that while it can go up to 140 mph, it’s not a good idea.

With the current situation, there isn’t “a lot of room if businesses come and we need to expand,” he said, adding that it was already budgeted to be built this year, but would be done by financing, unless other funds became available.

State officials are asking cities to be patient in getting awarded for funding, saying there may be a lot of “crossover” pools of money, and they want to ensure municipalities apply for the right batch of funds, so if another one comes along the opportunity to access it is still there.

Another message that came out of that meeting, Brown said, was mental health with law enforcement, with the Rescue Plan funds possibly becoming a source for some of that, too, along with the Ballot Measure 110 funding.

“Their message was like, ‘Be prepared, get yourself in order.’” the city manager said said.

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