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Spring May Bring S-Curve Improvements

MONMOUTH - Construction to enhance a stretch of Highway 51 known as the S-curves may begin this spring.

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The section known as the S-curves on Highway 51 in Monmouth are due for an upgrade.

MONMOUTH - Construction to enhance a stretch of Highway 51 known as the S-curves may begin this spring.

The city of Monmouth and private developer Jack Fox of Salem, who owns land along the route, are mulling a conceptual agreement for road improvements, new sidewalks and bike lanes between Price and Boyd Lanes.

City Manager Scott McClure said the two sides have conceptually agreed to the estimated $1.4 million project.

They must first, however, enter into a formal contract and hold a public hearing in order to receive an exemption from state bid requirements for government-related capital construction.

"Normally ... anybody can submit a bid and you take the lowest qualified bidder," McClure said. "In this case, we're partnering with one person who will be managing the project."

Jack Fox and his son, Mark, will hire the contractor and pay $850,000 of the total work cost; the city will cover the balance.

Pending a formal agreement, right-of-way approval on some properties and the bid exemption, construction could begin in March and would take two months, Mark Fox said.

"The project will provide cyclists and pedestrians with a safer avenue to get around," McClure said. "And for the Foxes, they're hoping it will make their property more desirable for clients."

The Foxes have sought to develop their 13.5 acres just south off the S-curves for the past 10 years.

In the early 2000s, Jack Fox donated four acres to the Monmouth-Independence YMCA for a proposed recreation center, while the remaining land would accommodate office and retail uses, Mark Fox said.

A prerequisite to any work was an Oregon Department of Transportation-required half-street improvement on the south side of the highway.

Street construction seemed likely in 2005 but fell through after potential tenants for the property - one of them a movie theater - backed out, Mark Fox said.

"Having them would have helped with the cost," he said.

Monmouth, meanwhile, was searching for ways to spend a $200,000 bikeway grant from ODOT. A long-term plan has always been to improve the north side of the S-curves - which is city property, Public Works Director Craig Johns said.

Talks began with the Foxes and culminated in a joint project. Johns said cooperating on the project makes sense.

"It's economy of scales," he said. "If we were to bid projects separately, there's no guarantee that both entities would wind up with the same contractor."

Doing both sides at once would also be less disruptive to the public, Johns said.

The project would affect the westernmost legs of the S-curves. Bike lanes, 6-foot-wide sidewalks and gutters would be erected on both sides of the street.

The road itself will not be straightened, but will get an overlay that will slightly alter the grade, Johns said.

City officials will also install new lines to the municipal water system and reconfigure the intersection with Hogan Road.

Two access points onto the Fox property will be located on the north and east legs of the curves.

In addition to the bike grant, Monmouth will use $333,000 in funds it has received through the State Transportation Improvement Program since 2003 and another $140,000 in system development charges to pay for its portion of the project.

Mark Fox said he didn't have a timeline for when any commercial building would happen on the site.

"We don't have any tenants lined up right now," he said. "But we're being proactive and taking a risk to do these improvements and make the land more attractive" to businesses.

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