News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Concerns about traffic

In the City of Sisters Comprehensive Plan, Transportation System Plan, and the Parks Master Plan are goals and policies addressing traffic, pedestrians, and bicycles. These goals and policies emphasize reduction in traffic in downtown Sisters and ensuring livability for residents.

I want to focus on one particular section of our town. The triangle that is comprised of Highway 242, McKinney Butte Road, and Highway 20 from Rail Way to Pine Street.

Currently there are five churches, two schools, a grocery store, two discount stores, two hotels, two gas stations, two banks, three restaurants, seven small businesses, and a medical clinic. These intersections get congested during peak hours. Flow is usually slow but somewhat steady. There are, however, only two ways west.

In addition to the present traffic-generating facilities, the following will be added in the next one to five years (car numbers calculated by average unit types x parking codes):

Sunset Meadows (294 cars); Heavenly Acres (60 cars); Habitat (18 cars); Oxbow Flats (75 cars); Sisters Woodlands, added because of impact on the roundabout (540 cars); a new elementary school (no traffic study found); three proposed new businesses (no traffic study yet).

The East Portal, which will serve as a centralized service location for community Connector transit service, vanpools, car sharing, secure short- and long-term parking, and park-and-ride services.

A new gas station. If you can believe the numbers given in the application, peak hours could generate 1,200 trips of which around 50 percent will be heading west, so 600 cars.

We just added 987+ cars to this area without counting the traffic from the new elementary school, the East Portal, 3 new businesses, and a new gas station. Once again, there are only two ways west.

I have tried to keep emotions out of this and focus on data as that’s what you base your decisions on. Traffic studies give you data for a point in time. It should be part of the decision-making process but just as important are observations. I live in this area. I walk this area two to three times daily, at different times of the day and evening. You need to have feet on the ground to get a complete picture. Driving by or an occasional use is not the same as navigating this area by foot, bicycle, wheelchair, skateboard, or even in a car, on a daily basis. This area has a problem.

There is currently no safe place to cross Highway 20 to the proposed Woodland Park. There is mention of a crossing near the East Portal but no definite timeline. Even so, a safe crossing near the roundabout is needed for children, the elderly, and the handicapped wanting to access the park and Woodland residents to access businesses.

City plans and Council’s goals address Locust/Barclay and connecting streets but neglect the area with the immediate high development. Brooks Camp Road’s designation has been upgraded from local to neighborhood street, but in reality it will become a collector street. I would also like to point out that both the gated communities of Brooks Camp and Trout Creek’s only entrance is on McKinney Butte, which will become problematic with the additional traffic. Not only that, Brooks Camp is a 55+ community. Within this community there are a half dozen 85+ year olds, and walking to the area businesses is their means of transportation. The inability to continue this healthy lifestyle should not be an unintentional consequence due to the City’s lack of planning.

Not only does the new gas station not meet the Western theme for downtown, it actually encourages traffic through downtown. This negates resources invested in the alternate route and also counters goals and policies. In addition, it will contribute not only cars to this congested area but will add RVs which by their lengths will cause more congestion. A good compromise would be to allow for a true remodel comparable to already existing gas stations in the area.

This area of town needs immediate attention to provide livability to current and future residents as well as visitors. It would be beneficial for the City to invest in their own traffic study of this area that includes all the new developments, in order to figure out how these seriously adverse impacts can be mitigated.


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