Vernonia Sidewalk

N. Vernonia Road, showing an absence of sidewalks and many trees bordering the road.

The city is moving ahead with plans to install sidewalks on N. Vernonia Road and improve the intersection at 1st Street and St. Helens Street.

Over the years, many St. Helens residents have complained to city council about lack of sidewalks on N. Vernonia Road, especially on the L-shaped part where Vernonia Road turns into MacArthur Street.

Now, the city is moving forward with plans to install sidewalks on both sides of that road, as well as a crosswalk that will get people over to Campbell Park.

St. Helens City Council has authorized Public Works to use State Transportation Program funds and System Development funds to install the sidewalks.

The estimated cost for the project is $400,000, although the budget is not finalized, according to Sue Nelson, Interim Public Works Director.

Because of the way city sidewalks are supposed to be situated, away from the street and with a landscape strip, installing the sidewalks would involve removing up to 54 mature trees, Nelson explained to city councilors at an August 7 work session.

Nelson asked the council for permission to swap the landscape strip with the sidewalk, moving the sidewalk closer to the road and away from the property line in order to keep the trees. Removing some trees and planting others would also be problematic because of the natural gas, storm drains, sewer and water lines in the area, Nelson explained.

The council gave their permission to save some of the trees, as well as find areas to plant new ones.

“Another option is meander the sidewalk a little bit, so take the sidewalk back to the appropriate alignment,” Nelson said.

Nelson also said crews have not yet identified areas to plant new trees, because it will take a while to finalize plans. They also do not know how many trees will be taken down, although some will have to be cut down.

Another action city council recently took was to give funds for improvements coming to the 1st Street and St. Helens Street intersection.

In March of this year, city councilors looked at options to improve sight line distance and pedestrian crossing at the intersection of 1st St. and St. Helens Street. At that meeting, Caleb Cox, a representative from Kittelson and Associates gave an estimate of $300,000 for the overall improvement project. City councilors did not give funds at that time.

At the most recent work session, city councilors gave funds through both the Service Transportation Program and through Timber Revenue from the city’s timber harvest.

Nelson said she had up to $150,000 available from the Service Transportation Program, for an expected $350,000 construction cost for the project.

“I think it’s a good thing to get ahead on as much as we possibly can. We’re doing something, and we’ve got a start,” Councilor President Doug Morten said.

Councilors also briefly discussed putting in a stop sign as a temporary solution, but Nelson said it would be difficult to find the correct placing of the stop sign.

Councilor Keith Locke asked what the timeframe of the project would be if funds were approved that day. Nelson answered the intersection would be under construction next year if they approved the funds immediately.

“I agree with the Mayor and I’d like to see us move forward now. We know where funds are coming from, we’ve got a city engineer saying the staff is ready to move forward on that,” Morten said.

Scholl approved taking $250,000 out of Timber Revenue to move forward on the intersection project at the meeting.

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