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New freeway lane will crowd bike path.

Byline: Diane Dietz The Register-Guard

The freeway already skirts uncomfortably close to Eugene's North Bank Path - so close that it gives the willies to a square-jawed Army staff sergeant who pounds through on training runs three days a week.

But soon, the freeway will come even closer to Eugene's beloved bikeway.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is adding a lane to Interstate 105. The shoulder will come as close as a foot away from the bike path; the fog line will pass within 25 feet when the highway is done.

"It kind of scares me, actually," 34-year-old Army recruiter Terry Lyons said during his run on Tuesday. He said he worries he'll be clipped by an errant car.

The new lane is part of a $17 million recon- struction project meant to ease the flow of traffic on I-105 from Interstate 5 to Delta Highway. Construction on the new lane is under way and is due for completion on Aug. 1.

The small section of the Willamette River Bike Path is part of the otherwise serene Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System, which is nationally known and lauded for giving cyclists a 12-mile loop of riparian recreation. Auto free.

But ODOT officials say the highway construction might even improve the aesthetics and safety of the trail. The new lane will be built on a retaining wall.

The foundation is 3-foot-square mesh baskets filled with gray rock. Next comes a foot-thick layer of asphalt road surface. On top of all that comes a 2 1/2 -foot-tall concrete traffic barrier, like those erected between opposing lanes on a highway.

The top of the barrier will ride 5 feet to 6 1/2 feet above the bike path, depending on the undulations of the ground - so the traffic will speed along just overhead of the hikers and bikers on the path.

Pedestrians are likely to feel safer with the new configuration, said Don McLane, the ODOT assistant project manager. Before the start of construction, all that stood between them and the hurling traffic was a saggy barbed-wire fence and a few blackberry brambles.

The new concrete guard rail - known in engineering parlance as a "jersey" barrier - is 100 percent effective in blocking errant cars, McLane said. "They work for trucks, too, but trucks have different turnover issues."

Even though the traffic is closer, the feel of being close may be diminished, he said.

As it is now - especially since road crews cut the brush and trees - pedestrians on the bike path are near enough to play license plate bingo. Exhaust stings the nose and rests on the tongue. Tire treads sing their varied tunes on roadway and brain pan.

It's so unpleasant that architecture student Patrick Loftus, 24, rides the North Bank Path only once for the four times he cruises the South Bank Path.

"The only reason I put up with it is, it's short," he said. "But with the highway 3 feet away, I don't imagine I'll be on this side anymore."

But McLane said the raised highway could be quieter based on the lesser known out-of-sight, out-of-ears theory.

"It will block the line of sight, and if you can't see it, you can't hear it as well, either," he said.

Several bike path enthusiasts called Eugene's bicycle coordinator asking that the road builders erect a sound wall to make the path more tolerable.

McLane says there isn't room for a sound wall.

Aesthetically, it may take an engineer to appreciate the elevated retaining wall.

McLane promises that the embankment will have smooth, clean lines.

"I don't think it will be unattractive," he said, then added philosophically: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Alison Dekar, 45, said the construction won't deter her from her appointed riverside rounds, in any case: "I'll try to walk as fast as I can and look the other way and ignore it."


I-105 information page:

Eugene bicycle coordinator: 682-5471


Terry Lyons watches workers bringing I-105 closer to the North Bank Path. The Army staff sergeant said he worries he'll be clipped by an errant car. Stephanie Barrow / The Register-Guard T r a f f i c
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Title Annotation:Transportation; I-105 traffic will be even closer, but ODOT engineers say North Bank Path users may feel safer and find it quieter
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 30, 2005
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