Feb. 22, 2022 -- The City of Florence Transportation Committee met virtually on Feb. 10. The meeting was chaired by member Terry Tomeny, who recognized the passing of one of the committee’s members.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a meeting and since we’ve had a meeting, we lost Bob Steele,” Tomeny said. “It kind of blew me away because I knew Bob from Rotary and the Transportation Committee. I flew with Bob; he was trying to get his pilot’s license. It’s hard to find somebody who was as full of energy and such a nice person. … So, I would like to formally recognize him and remember all the things he has done for the city.”
As the meeting progressed, the next agenda item was the nomination and appointment of chairperson and vice chairperson of the committee. Tomeny withdrew his name from consideration as he will be unable to attend many meetings in the future, as he plans to spend time in Italy.
There were no other members initially nominated for the positions and Roxanne Johnstone, staff ex-officio, reminded members that the chair and vice chair served for only a year at a time. This information and the lack candidates was then discussed.
Meanwhile, there are currently two vacant positions on the committee.
Tomeny felt a proactive approach to filling those vacancies might be required.
“I think we do need to go out and kind of recruit some more people for the committee. I know in the past the city has sent emails looking for people to volunteer on the committee,” he said. Florence Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell then clarified the timeline for filling vacancies. She also suggested absent member Larry Farnsworth, as one of the longest serving members on the Transportation Committee, might be persuaded to chair the committee.
Tomeny agreed to continue as facilitator until his next trip to Italy.
The schedule of upcoming committee meetings was then approved. FarleyCampbell then updated the group on the soon-to-be-finalized contract with an organization that will be working on the new Transportation Systems Plan (TSP) update.
“The TSP update is getting close,” she said. “We are so close and we expect to be in receipt of our notice to proceed by the first of March. The consultant that has been selected for this project is Kittleson.”
FarleyCampbell will give a full presentation in March to the committee.
Members then discussed some of the topics of which they have oversight responsibility, starting with public transportation.
Member Josh Haring, owner and operator of the Rhody Express, told his fellow members ridership was still down, not having yet returned to pre-COVID levels.
On a positive note, Haring said his company had been able to find two drivers to fill driver vacancies on the Rhody Express line.
Another public transportation issue was reviewed by Johnstone regarding the ongoing flooding on Highway 126 in Cushman, several miles east of Florence.
She shared information that Oregon Department of Transportation, (ODOT) had repaired a stormwater drainage system that wasn’t operating properly in Cushman. However, the
unofficial report she had received stated the area needed much more extensive work. This work would include raising the level of that section of Highway 101. The cost for this renovation would be in the millions of dollars and was not currently funded or expected to be funded for many years.
As the meeting continued, Public Works Director Mike Miller reviewed progress on ODOT’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) upgrades being undertaken as part of the overall improvements along Highway 101 and leading to Historic Old Town Florence.
His review included improvements on Rhododendron Drive and 35th Street.
Miller said that stage of the Rhododendron upgrade will ultimately cost approximately $6.5 million, although recent cost increases for materials may change the end figure.
FarleyCampbell wrapped up the meeting by reporting on a panel discussion she had attended with Miller and representatives from the Lane Transit District that focused on a project for the establishment of a mobility strategy plan.
Learn more about the Transportation Committee at www.ci.florence.or.us/bc-tc.