Crews have begun a $3 million safety and access improvement project along Gable Road west of Highway 30 in St. Helens.
Sidewalks, bike lanes and new storm and sanitary sewer lines, among other upgrades, will be added to the roadway from Columbia Boulevard to Highway 30. Two flasher units to aid in safety to and from St. Helens High School for the students will also be installed at the west and east ends of the school.
According to Columbia County Public Works Department Assistant Director Tristan Wood, the work will improve pedestrian safety for residents and those using St. Helens High School and businesses along Gable Road.
“This was originally a country area that has grown into a major business, school and residential area,” Wood said. “So, we are filling in the gaps. The goal is to improve pedestrian access. Making it safe for the kids to walk to school and safer for the lower income and retirement folks who can’t get to the store or other services. Many of them walk because public transportation is limited.”
Major construction at the Gable Road site will continue through Labor Day, including most of the work in front of the high school. Paving will continue into November, with final details addressed through April 2020.
Over the past several weeks, contractors have been relocating utilities and have completed staging areas along the work zone. Major detours began after June 13 – the last day of school for students at St. Helens High School.
Gable Road will remain open to two-way traffic from Columbia Boulevard to St. Helens High School. The road was scheduled to close on June 17 to two-way traffic beyond the east high school parking lot through to Columbia Blvd. Drivers heading east on Bachelor Flat Road towards Highway 30 will be detoured to Sykes Road while Gable Road is under construction. Westbound traffic will be able to travel on Gable Road.
Wood said delays on Gable Road, which could be up to 20 minutes, are inevitable.
“Unless you live along Gable Road you should avoid the area completely,” Wood said. “It will be best to use the Sykes Road detour going both ways for the quickest way around the project.”
Wood said drivers should expect difficulty getting through quickly because trucks, workers and equipment will be crossing the roadway.
In the last few years, several apartment complexes and single-family homes have been developed along Gable Road. The road is an important connector to services residents use often, such as grocery stores, restaurants and public health facilities.
Columbia County and the City of St. Helens have been working for more than a decade to acquire funds for the improvements. The project is funded in part by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Enhance It program.
Columbia County has partnered with TFT Construction Inc. of Scappoose for the project.
Wood sad the county is also talking with the City of St. Helens to see what improvements can be made at Columbia Boulevard from Gable Road to Sykes Road.
“The city has grant funding, but right now it is too soon to say what it will the improvements will look like,” he said. “The goal is to make the area safer, but we don’t know if we have enough funding to do what we are doing at Gable Road.”
Wood said the county and city are working side by side with the Gable Road project but are only in the discussion stage for the Columbia Boulevard and Sykes Road work. The grant funding for the improvement projects is supplemented with system development charges, fees charge to developers.
“We have not reached an agreement for the project yet,” he said. “We are focusing on getting the Gable Road project completed. We still have to figure what we can do with Sykes and Columbia. The focus of the improvements will likely be the intersection.
Wood says coupled with the Cornelius Pass, travelers in Columbia County and St. Helens will be challenged this summer.
“This is peoples tax dollars at work,” he said. “Once these projects are completed, it will mean much safer access for the areas.”
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