The widening of Riverside Drive to create bicycle lanes has been a back-burner project for decades. But by June, according to Linn County Engineer Chuck Knoll, the long-awaited project should be a reality.

“This project was in the Linn County Transportation System Plan in the 1990s,” he said. “We finally got some time to get it done. It is a project that was difficult to design, to get the right-of-way signed off on and to get permitted.”

Knoll said increasing public safety is at the backbone of the $1.9 million project contracted with Knife River. The engineering estimate was $2.5 million.

According to Knoll, 37 accidents were recorded on a 2.4-mile section of the road from Oakville Road to Meadow Drive from 2005 to 2015. And, on a 1.3-mile section west of the intersection with Oakville Road, there were 16 during the same period.

The new bike lanes will also allow bicyclists to ride more safely between Albany and Corvallis. Riders will be able to connect with the bike lanes on the north side of Highway 34.

Bill Myers, a retired Oregon State University network engineer who lives along Riverside Drive, was out talking with project workers on Tuesday. He said, "I wish it had been done 30 years ago," saying he would have commuted to OSU on his bike had the work been done sooner.

Knoll said the roadway will be widened to a uniform 32 feet. He said some portions of the road are now only 22-feet wide.

Knoll said that in 2015, letters were sent to every landowner in the area outlining the proposed project.

“We followed up again after we had a preliminary design and we held a public meeting at the Riverside Community Center,” he said.

The county purchased two acres of wetlands mitigation for $120,000 as part of the project. Knife River submitted the low bid out of seven in August 2017, and Knoll said the company began preliminary work in the fall.

“When the weather allowed, Knife River replaced a number of larger cross culverts,” he said. “The goal is to improve drainage. With this nice weather expected this week, Knife River will excavate ditches and begin widening the roadway.”

Project manager Daineal Malone said homeowners are concerned that improving the road will lead to more speeding vehicles.

“A primary concern for people who live in the area is that improving the roadway will lead to increased speeding,” Malone said. “We are going to install four solar-powered radar speed signs along the route.”

Malone said the signs will cost about $8,000 each. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour.

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According to Knoll, the project will:

• realign the roadway to provide for better visibility.

• improve access to driveways to provide for safer entry to properties.

• improve drainage for safer road conditions during winter months.

• widen the paved surface to 32 feet to provide 4-foot-wide paved shoulders that can be used by bicyclists. Currently, some portions of the roadway are just 22 feet wide and have no shoulder areas for riders.

For more information, call Knoll at 541-967-3919.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.