Two projects on the drawing board have the potential to bring some great active transportation improvements to the south side of the Amazon Path system over the next couple of years: a city-planned cycle track on East Amazon Drive and the proposed Amazon Corner mixed-use development.
First, the Amazon Corner development: Planned for a lot at Hilyard and 32nd Avenue, the project is currently in the permitting stage and could bring housing, retail, and even some improvements for cycling and walking.
The former South Hills Assemblies of God church property was purchased last year by a local company owned by the Coughlin family and was torn down this winter to prepare the space for the new five-story project.
Mike Coughlin is a local businessman who has been involved in a number of businesses over the past 35 years and is the owner of Burley Designs, a manufacturer of balance bikes, tag-a-longs, strollers, and of course bike trailers. He says the new project will be a pedestrian and bicycle friendly project with a plaza that is inviting and open to the public, anchored by retail shops that bring life to the corner, some ground floor residential units at the edges that provide active engagement and character along the street frontage, engaging artwork, a bike repair station, quality long-term bike parking for tenants, and accessible bike parking for clients of the retail shops.
Rowell Brokaw Architecture is designing the project. The firm has worked on many civic projects, including schools, university buildings, and transit stations, as well as other mixed-use and commercial buildings including the upcoming “Midtown Creative” project at 12th & Willamette.
There has been pushback from some neighbors, including an appeal of the Traffic Impact Analysis by Southeast Neighbors and Friends of Amazon Creek. A hearings official is set to rule in April.
Beyond the thought going into how people on bike and foot interact with the building itself, the piece that could have the most impact on active transportation in the area, would be a new crossing of Hilyard Street.
The city of Eugene is requiring the developers to build a new pedestrian crossing, along with a few other traffic improvements, in order to obtain a conditional-use permit for the project:
The applicant shall construct an enhanced mid-block pedestrian crossing on Hilyard Street between the intersections of East 31st and East 32nd Avenues. The enhanced crossing shall include a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB), median refuge, striping, signage, street lighting, access ramps and sidewalk to create a direct and continuous connection 8 feet in width from the existing Amazon Path to the existing sidewalk fronting the development site. Improvements shall be in conformance with City of Eugene Privately Engineered Public Improvement (PEPI) standards, to be provided prior to the issuance of any occupancy permit for the proposed development.
Add to this the second project: the Amazon Active Transportation Corridor, which the city has been planning for several years. It includes a two-way cycle track on East Amazon Drive (from Hilyard to Snell), new crossings of Amazon Creek (at 37th and Dillard), improvements to the existing crossing (at 39th), extending the Amazon Path (from 34th south to Tugman Park), and improving the soft-surface “Rexius Trail” running path. The project is called out in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (updated 2016 map) and is funded through the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
Though originally planned to be built this summer it has been delayed until 2018 for permitting and design work. East Amazon will still be repaved this summer as part of the Pavement Preservation Program but temporary striping will go down for the existing street layout.
One difficult piece still being worked out is how to connect the northern end of the new cycle track (where it meets Hilyard) to the Amazon Path on the other side of Hilyard.
Currently the city is looking at adding a crossing to the south side of the intersection (which currently has no marked crossing or pedestrian signal) and then having people to cross 33rd on the West side. If that doesn’t work then the two-stage crossing would happen on the East and North side of the intersection. Because there are many turning cars at this intersection neither option seems especially safe or comfortable.
A third option is a “pedestrian scramble.” This means the traffic signal’s cycle would include a few moments when all automobile traffic would stop, and pedestrians and cyclists could cross the intersection in any direction (including diagonally) to move between the path and cycle track.
The scramble option needs more analysis, and it’s potential impact on vehicle traffic might make it a long shot.
Another option that could integrate with the Amazon Corner development is to move the crossing for both the development and the East Amazon cycle track to the south side of 32nd Avenue. This would require a wide path along the East side of Hilyard and an analysis of what type of crossing would work best for crossing the four lanes of traffic but could be a key active transportation intersection for the area.
While still a “two-stage crossing” there are fewer conflicts with turning cars than there would be at East Amazon and Hilyard and it connects the active transportation network of Amazon Path, the Alder bikeway, and the East Amazon cycle track together at one crossing.
It will be interesting to watch these two projects move forward together, especially as one of the first major active transportation projects for the new Traffic Engineer, Matt Rodrigues and as neighbors push back against the Amazon Corners development because of concerns over traffic and other effects the development might bring to the neighborhood.
Will the city prioritize and encourage more active transportation for the area by creating a safe, easy, and comfortable crossing or will they prioritize the current dominant paradigm of auto-oriented “traffic flow”? We’ll be following these projects with interest and will report more as information becomes available.