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S-Curves Project Closer To Reality

MONMOUTH -- The city of Monmouth has received key property easements that will allow it to move forward on an enhancement of the S-curves portion of Highway 51.

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The S-curves in Monmouth

MONMOUTH -- The city of Monmouth has received key property easements that will allow it to move forward on an enhancement of the S-curves portion of Highway 51.

Town officials and White Oak Development of Salem have been mulling since spring 2007 a cooperative proposal for joint road improvements, new sidewalks and bike lanes between Price and Boyd lanes.

The city will foot $700,000 of the $1.55 million project, with White Oak paying the balance. The Monmouth City Council must still reach final agreements with the company and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), which has allotted grant money to the improvements.

Pending those approvals, work could begin late this year or early next, Public Works Director Craig Johns said.

Father and son developers Jack and Mark Fox of White Oak have sought to develop their 13.5 acres just south off the S-curves for more than a decade.

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 highway's south side. Meanwhile, Monmouth has had a long-term plan to improve the north side of the S-curves -- which is city property, Johns said.

The sides discussed a public-private partnership, which would allow design continuity, economy of scales and less disruption to commuters by doing all improvements at once, Johns said.

The city's funds would come from a $200,000 ODOT bikeway grant, $426,000 received through the State Transportation Improvement Program since 2003, and $50,000 in system development charges (SDCs).

Monmouth has already spent $25,000 for engineering.

ODOT revealed stipulations on its grant that required the installation of sidewalks 6 feet in width, instead of an originally planned 5 feet.

The city feared having to spend up to $120,000 to secure right of ways on eight properties between Boyd Lane and Price Lane, which would have depleted transportation funds.

"That could have been a dealbreaker," Johns said. "With building slowing down, we're not getting any SDCs."

But last week, Fox and Johns approached land owners along the highway about donating a foot of easement for the project.

"All agreed," Johns said. "They're getting full (sidewalk) improvements on their property at no cost."

To work with White Oak, City Council will have to receive from the state an exemption from the normal competitive bid process.

This includes a public hearing and "finding of facts" that allows the Salem developer to manage the project and act as Monmouth's agent in procuring a contractor.

City Council must also finalize formal agreements with ODOT to spend the bike grant and fund exchange monies.

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