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July 22, 2014
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Editorial: It's time to put a Northeast Stephens Street crosswalk on sure footing

The city of Roseburg got closer this month to punching the button on action that would bring a pedestrian crosswalk to Northeast Stephens Street. Now it’s up to the City Council to decide whether this project has legs.

A city advisory committee decided unanimously on July 10 to recommend the council plan for the project in the fiscal year that starts in July 2015. This was a good step. It addresses safety concerns raised by Roseburg residents about the mile-long stretch that lacks a place for people to legally cross the five-lane street.

However, Public Works Director Nikki Messenger on the same day announced she will recommend the crosswalk be part of a package that includes pouring asphalt on the street and upgrading sidewalk access ramps. All the components together ring up at $1 million. That step may be in the wrong direction. It’s easy to envision delay on the crosswalk if its installation is tied up on a big, expensive project.

Residents aren’t the only ones who have said the stretch of road presents a hazard. A 2011 study by Portland transportation planners concluded the city should add a midblock pedestrian crossing halfway between Northeast Hewitt and Clover avenues. Pedestrians in this neighborhood aren’t just out for Sunday strolls, after all. The road contains four bus stops, two for each side of the street. Some of those who need to catch buses are in a hurry, and people in a hurry are more likely to jaywalk.

In addition, the street’s 2000 block was the site of a life-threatening injury last October. A Roseburg man attempting to cross it ended up in the hospital in critical condition after being struck by a pickup.

At least one advisory committee member, Noel Groshong, indicated that safety shouldn’t take a back seat to “financial convenience” and cautioned against delay of the project.

Groshong is right. It took years of complaints and a campaign by private citizens to get the Roseburg National Cemetery parking lot paved. The city finally joined the effort, but the foot-dragging that preceded its contribution made the city appear indifferent. It’s unlikely a similar group would take up the banner to find funding for a Northeast Stephens Street crosswalk. The neighborhood lacks residents with clout and homes tony enough to generate momentum for their cause. A higher-income district might have that crosswalk by now.

The committee’s July 10 recommendation could nudge Roseburg toward a move that protects not only pedestrians, but also bicyclists and motorists on a busy city street. Now it’s up to councilors to give the crosswalk a green light by putting it in the budget.

Hitching the crosswalk to other street improvements is fine, as long as it doesn’t hobble the project. Northeast Stephens Street has waited long enough for a basic, lifesaving fixture.

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The News-Review Updated Jul 22, 2014 11:10AM Published Jul 22, 2014 11:10AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.