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Independence Decides Against Bike Lanes

INDEPENDENCE -- City officials will not extend bike lanes on a five-block stretch of Monmouth Street, which would have eliminated almost all on-street parking.

INDEPENDENCE -- City officials will not extend bike lanes on a five-block stretch of Monmouth Street, which would have eliminated almost all on-street parking.

The decision comes after a flood of concerns by residents who feared the proposal would hinder their parking options and create other hardships.

The Independence City Council considered the issue at its July 10 meeting. In the end, it voted to extend a no-parking zone from crosswalks at 4th, 5th and 7th streets from the current 20 feet to 40 feet in each direction.

The council also included a parking prohibition on Monmouth Street from 3rd to 8th streets during early morning hours to accommodate street sweepers.

When the ban goes into effect -- and on what days and times -- has not yet been decided. Cost to create and post signs could total $3,000.

The decision came as a relief to opponents such as Beth Niquette.

"I'm really happy about it," she said. "The feelings and needs of the people who live along the street have been considered."

The project was seen as a potential solution to two separate dilemmas that have been discussed by the city's Traffic Safety Commission for the past several months.

The commission examined parking restrictions as a way to deal with vehicles left along Monmouth Street for days at a time, which obstructs street-cleaning access.

Improving visibility for motorists at the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth street crossings was another issue.

Representatives of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in April suggested bike lanes as a means of accomplishing both goals and said they would stripe the street at no cost to Independence.

Complaints surfaced after the city sent letters to homeowners about the project in May. But information in a city mailer and a published newspaper article before that drew little response, said Police Chief Vern Wells, traffic commission liaison.

"For the longest time, there weren't many negative comments," Wells said. "It seemed like nobody cared."

In June, however, residents stepped forward with several criticisms of the plan and gathered signatures in opposition.

Some said the property values of their homes would drop because of reduced parking space; others said it simply moved parking to side streets and would create problems for homeowners there.

James Munoz, who operates a trucking business out of his home, said bike lanes would have severely hindered the deliveries to his office.

Reaction to the plan among city staff and government was mixed as well. "If ODOT says this is the easiest way to address parking and safety issues," said Councilor Jerry Hoffman, "that doesn't respond well to the people who live here."

Mayor John McCardle, who lives on Monmouth Street, said he opposed the project and added that the need for bike routes can be fully met through the Ash Creek Recreation Trail project.

The police department and Polk County Fire District No. 1 endorsed the plan, while the city's planning director opposed it.

The traffic commission issued a recommendation. During last week's meeting, however, Wells noted that the option for the buffer and restrictions would yield the results officials originally sought.

The council agreed, and also asked staff to extend the no-parking prohibition to overlap morning foot traffic to schools.

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