Neighborhood Issue Story
Like many River Road community residents, Kurt enjoys the relaxed and rural feel that surrounding neighborhoods provide. The natural features and plethora of green space allow many to escape the more urbanized parts of Eugene. However, one main attribute of this seemingly serene community has created quite an inconvenience for the twenty-year resident, Kurt, as well as many others around the area.
“The traffic flow is a little challenging at times,” Kurt said, “and it can be challenging for pedestrians.”
River Road serves as the main thoroughfare for the whole of the community including vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The community consists of many small businesses and one of Eugene’s five public high schools: North Eugene High School. In addition, River Road connects Santa Clara community to the Beltline Highway, which are two popular regions suffering from heavy traffic flow throughout the day.
Cathy Casalegno, recreational director at Emerald Park, does not live in the River Road community but makes the daily commute to work. Her thoughts on the issue parallel Kurt’s and many others in the community.
“I don’t know that there is anything that they can really do,” Casalegno said. “The series of traffic lights at Beltline create a lot of the congestion. The worst part seems to be in the mornings when people are on their way to work and then of course going to North Eugene High School.”
The main cause of River Road traffic is the obstruction during rush hour around Beltline Highway. The majority of this obstruction is caused by the fact that there is only one route to either enter or exit the Beltline. A solution to this issue is difficult to devise because there is only one main road and little room for expansion around the area. Consequently, the residents, employees, students and visitors of River Road continue to struggle with the traffic.
According to Rick Little, Public Information Officer at the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the River Road on-ramp to the Beltline Highway is the second heaviest traveled on-ramp. Most of the 13,830 vehicles that use the ramp use it in the peak morning drive period, and the Beltline traffic volume is pushed to 40,650 Average Daily Trips (ADT) each day. ODOT is now implementing ramp meters, or traffic signals, along River Road and other highly congested areas near the Beltline in an attempt to better regulate the number of cars that enter the highway at one time. In the past, ramp-metering systems having positively increased traffic flow by up to 30 percent. However, a new traffic system means construction, and construction means more traffic—something most River Road residents will not be too thrilled about.
Kurt reiterates the point that congestion near the Beltline negatively affects the community, and some effects go beyond just a daily traffic jam. “Retail and services are kind of centered up near the Beltline which is really congested and if you’re someone who doesn’t have access to a vehicle…that’s a real challenge,” Kurt said. “There’s really an absence of community.”