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Costs For S-Curves Improvements Rise

MONMOUTH -- Officials are mulling whether the city can afford to enhance a portion of Highway 51 known as the S-curves.

MONMOUTH -- Officials are mulling whether the city can afford to enhance a portion of Highway 51 known as the S-curves.

Town leaders have been working with White Oak Development of Salem since spring 2007 on a conceptual agreement for joint road improvements, new sidewalks and bike lanes between Price and Boyd Lanes.

The two sides had agreed to each foot a part of the project, originally estimated at about $1.5 million, and sought to enter into a contract to receive an exemption from state bid requirements for government-related capital construction.

Some stipulations recently revealed by the Oregon Department of Transportation, however, could increase Monmouth's cost responsibility by almost $120,000, Public Works Director Craig Johns said.

Committing to the original project would nearly drain Monmouth's transportation fund for the year, Monmouth Mayor John Oberst said. City Council recommended to staff earlier this month to explore other options.

"We could choose to spend every street dollar we've got to do street improvements or we can dial back our portion," Oberst said.

Jack and Mark Fox of White Oak 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 was an ODOT-required half-street improvement on the south side of the highway. Meanwhile, Monmouth has had a long-term plan to improve the north side of the S-curves -- which is city property, Johns said.

Negotiations with the Foxes began in spring 2007 for a joint project. Benefits included lower costs through economy of scales and less disruption to the public, Johns said.

The Foxes would have paid $850,000 while the city would cover the balance, using a $200,000 ODOT bikeway grant, $433,000 received through the State Transportation Improvement Program since 2003, and system development charges.

ODOT, however, recently pointed out that as a condition of the agency's bike grant, Monmouth would have to install sidewalks 6 feet in width, instead of an originally planned 5 feet, Johns said.

Doing so means Monmouth must purchase right-of-ways and easements on the north side of the curves -- excluding the municipally-owned portion that runs from Hogan Road to the edge of the skate park. That could cost between $90,000 and $120,000 and could drive up the city's share to $830,000.

Committing to the full project means nearly depleting the city's 2008-09 transportation fund, leaving no possibility to address other priorities, like paving some gravel street intersections, Oberst said.

Doing only improvements off the highway fronting city property is one option being looked at, Johns said.

Officials will try to settle on a direction soon; White Oak can technically begin its improvements at anytime, but is waiting to see how the city proceeds, Johns said.

City Manager Scott McClure said the highway enhancement issue wouldn't impede any efforts by Fox to develop his property, nor would it have a bearing on the efforts of some community members to get a recreation center erected near the S-curves.

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