The St. Helens City Council is expected to finalize and adopt the Riverfront Connector Plan framework for roadway designs leading to the city’s waterfront following the second and final public hearing for the plan on Wednesday evening, June 5.

The Plan

The Riverfront Connector Plan is a transportation study the city of St. Helens initiated in January of 2018, set to be completed by end of 2020. The purpose of the plan is to draw more vehicle, foot, and bike traffic from Highway 30 to the Riverfront District and the waterfront.

Kittelson and Associates, an engineering consulting company assisting the City with the project, provided estimates for the different parts of the plan. Rather than provide a total project cost, Kittelson and Associates divided the project into its constituent intersections and road segments, with each estimate also provided with a 30 percent contingency column, contributing to the segment’s overall total estimate.

City Administrator John Walsh said determining an overall project estimate based on these figures would be a large overestimate when taking contingency into account. Therefore, the most accurate way to portray the project’s total cost is to provide a range for each of the segments or intersections. There are 16 different line items with individual construction cost estimates, ranging from approximately $300,000 to approximately $5 million.

Walsh said the project will be funded through three different sources, the Development Activity fund, Urban Renewal, and various transportation grants. 

The project is part of the broader Waterfront Redevelopment Project, initiated in 2015 when the city purchased the former Boise Veneer Mill and White Paper sites.

The plan, available online as part of the public hearing packet, outlines several changes to take place on a loop of roads that begins on 1st Street and extends all the way down Old Portland Road, looping around McNulty Way. Some of the most significant changes include transformations of key intersections.

For example, the intersection of Plymouth Street and Old Portland Road, a tricky intersection that Graichen said may have even been the catalyst for the project, will transition to a three-armed roundabout, with Old Portland Road branching out on either side, and Plymouth Street branching off of one side.

Another roundabout is coming to the intersection of Old Portland Road and Kaster Road/18th Street, which now features a stoplight.

The intersections involving Old Portland Road, Gable Road, and Port Avenue, which intersect near the railroad tracks, will also see changes, featuring realignment to distance them from the railroad tracks. The city will also look at options at the Old Portland Road and Port Avenue intersection to incorporate protected intersection treatment options, according to the document.

At the intersection of Gabe Road and Highway 30, the plan indicates a new westbound right-turn lane from Gable Road onto Highway 30. The plan states this may require coordination with ODOT rail, which may not be receptive to the additional lane.

Another key change is the addition of one street, connecting the existing 1st Street to Plymouth Road, thereby extending Plymouth Road.

Selected Streets

Other changes are coming as well. Selected streets will see better pedestrian and bicycle accessibility, such as wider sidewalks and "sharrows," which are indicators in the street that bicycles and vehicles share the road.

On the Veneer Property, where the existing South 1st Street leads to the Lagoon Dam, a traffic calming circle might be placed at that location. There will also be parallel, rather than diagonal, parking to reduce safety issues associated with bicycles and vehicles.

On Old Portland Road, on the segment that runs from Plymouth Street to Gable Road, changes are suggested, such as protected one-lane bike lanes on either side of the street, which would be separated by a landscaping strip. These will also appear on Gable Road, on the segment that runs from Old Portland Road to U.S. 30.

The adoption of the plan is more than just a roadmap for city staff, but also a tool to move the project forward in other ways, according to Jacob Graichen, City Planner for St. Helens.

“Now that we have an adopted plan, we know our direction for some of these improvements and that can be used to apply for grants to implement the project,” Graichen said. “So it's a tool in our toolbox to know what the heck we want to do and to be able to apply for monies.”

Public Engagement

The transportation changes are a result of a long chain of meetings that have taken place since 2018, including a public hearing which took place on May 14 before the St Helens Planning Commission.

Other meetings that included public engagement took place on behalf of the Committee Overseeing Overt Long-range Passsageway Planning (COOLPPL), which met five times, starting in 2018. There were also three neighborhood meetings in conjunction with COOLPPL and the planning commission.

Funding for research for the project has come from a $208,550 grant from the Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) Program.

For more details, call 503-397-6272, and follow this developing story at and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.


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