Anyone native to Oakdale knows the perils of crossing any of the high-traffic areas in town — but with the recent 5-0 approval of the Oakdale Accessibility Master Plan at the Monday, Dec. 4 council meeting, city officials are moving toward creating a safer environment for pedestrian traffic.
The City received $165,404 from the 2015/16 Caltrans Sustainable Communities Transportation Planning Grant for the purpose of drafting an Accessibility Master Plan, addressing deficiencies in the pedestrian infrastructure.
Kendra Bridges, of Alta Planning and Design, delivered the Plan to Council after a year’s worth of fieldwork, community outreach, and research that resulted in a 70-page document detailing challenges and possible solutions.
“Crossing roadways is a great challenge,” Bridges stated, drawing attention to what most people in Oakdale have already discovered. “There are corridors for biking but many of us don’t choose to bicycle in high traffic roadways. Oakdale is very ‘bikeable’ but getting across the main highway is a challenge.”
A collision analysis revealed 2013 with the highest number of bicycle and pedestrian collisions at 26, with the lowest number being 11 in 2015.
Bridges detailed for Council areas within the city that would benefit from “traffic calming” measures, such as raised speed humps, colorful paint for pedestrian crossings, and curb extensions.
According to the Plan, the downtown area of Oakdale has crosswalks at almost every intersection, however, the number of crosswalks decline as distance increases from the city center, with peripheral areas having fewer crosswalks as neighborhoods become more residential.
While marked crosswalks are present at approximately 19.5 percent of intersections, many roadways are wide with high-volume traffic, creating a dangerous crossing situation for pedestrians.
For people riding bicycles, few marked routes exist in Oakdale. Fast moving vehicle traffic on the two state highways bisecting Oakdale create significant barriers to bicycling. On residential streets, generous width creates room for marked bicycle facilities, though few currently exist.
The current network of off-road bikeways are limited and lack connectivity across the major roadways.
In other words, a leisurely bike ride through the Cowboy Capital is currently a risky venture.
An added point of interest was the inclusion of equestrian pathways in addition to bicycle and pedestrian corridors.
“An equestrian network with decomposed granite corridors where people can ride their horses through town would feed into the Cowboy Capital theme,” Bridges said.
The equestrian angle of the Plan would include wide path shoulders, equestrian push buttons at the crosswalk intersections, and the need to maintain trees and overhead landscaping at a higher level to accommodate a horse and rider.
City Councilmember Richard Murdoch expressed concerns about the impact some of the suggested changes would have on larger vehicles that still need to use the main thoroughfare.
For example, some of the round-about implementations would make it near to impossible for large-haul trucks to navigate.
However, Bridges said the Plan is open to revisions and moving forward with an approval would not lock in any of the proposed implementations.
The application cycle to apply for grant money to implement the Plan starts in March. With the approval of the Accessibility Master Plan, city planners can move to the next step in the process — grant application.
With all the suggested improvements and changes, Mayor Pat Paul stated it would be important at some point to provide public education as to how to navigate the new implementations.
Case in point, Mayor Paul made quick reference to the recently installed pedestrian crossing light at West F Street and Lee Avenue, stating that many don’t understand how it works and often hold up traffic because they are unsure how to navigate the light structure.
In other business at the Monday night session, council members approved Mayor Pat Paul’s nomination of Tom Dunlop to continue on as the Mayor Pro Tem as well as all current City Council appointments to boards, commissions and committees, as well as regional boards for the 2018 calendar year.
The next City Council meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 18 in the City Council Chambers.