A Salem-Keizer Transit bus leaves the Keizer Transit Center on Tuesday. Currently vehicles can only turn right to leave, but a traffic signal allowing vehicles to turn left is coming. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

A Salem-Keizer Transit bus leaves the Keizer Transit Center on Tuesday. Currently vehicles can only turn right to leave, but a traffic signal allowing vehicles to turn left is coming. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Plans are moving forward for the Keizer Transit Center to look the way it was originally designed to.

Steve Dickey, director of Transportation Development for Salem-Keizer Transit, said a new signal leaving the transit center in Keizer Station’s Area B should be done within the next year or so.

Since the Keizer Transit Center opened in the summer of 2013, the only way to enter has been via a right turn off Keizer Station Boulevard, just north of the intersection of Lockhaven Drive NE and Chemawa Road NE. Similarly, the only exit is a right-hand turn onto Keizer Station Boulevard.

That wasn’t the original idea.

“This was included in the original master plan for Area B,” Dickey said of the signal.

“It will also be an asset for businesses on the other side of Area B (bordering McLeod Lane) once that is developed. When (the city) did the Area B master plan a few years ago, a fully functioning intersection with a signal was part of that plan. It was just a question of when it would be done.

“When the first construction estimates came in from the design team, they came in higher than the actual cost,” he added. “But since the estimates came in higher, we had to look at things to trim. That was one of the items we initially had to trim. The way it worked out, we had remaining money. That is the money that we will be using to construct it.”

Sam Litke, senior planner for Keizer, confirmed a signal was part of the plan from the start.

“The Area B master plan was approved in 2010 and had a condition that a signal at the driveway to the transit district would be required unless the applicant can provide information that it was not necessary, which they did,” Litke said. “But now they are finding that it is in fact needed for the operation of the transit buses entering and exiting the site.”

Dickey said that indeed played a key role in the transit district’s decision to do the signal, which will also include a pedestrian crossing.

“We are just starting the planning phase for the design work,” Dickey said. “The biggest reason for that is right now you can only enter one direction. To exit, you have to go right, go into the shopping center and wind your way back out. Not only is that an inconvenience, but for a bus that chews five to seven minutes that could be spent on routes. We’re looking to do it to improve the functionality of our system.”

The hope is for the improvements to come this year.

“Our goal is to have it designed and hopefully have it constructed by the end of 2015, if not early 2016,” Dickey said.

While adding a signal may seem relatively simple, there are a couple of complications related to the existing signal at Lockhaven and Chemawa.

“The City of Keizer and the City of Salem are involved,” Dickey said. “Salem is in control of the traffic controls. Keizer contracts with Salem. That’s why Salem is involved. This would have to be tied into the overall network of signals. We need to ensure good traffic flow and to make sure it doesn’t create a backup. For most of the time, the light would stay green on Keizer Station Boulevard. The only time it would not be is when you have a vehicle there (at the transit center exit), which would trip the signal in sequence with the other lights.”

The divider in the middle of Keizer Station Boulevard will be removed and a new signal opposite the transit center’s entrance put up, but not activated until development takes place.

Dickey said the district would pay for those future improvements up front, with the city paying back the district within the next few years. Those details are expected to be worked on next week.

“The costs are to be shared by the other areas of the Area B, as the signal will benefit the remaining areas to be developed (which the city owns),” said Nate Brown, director of Community Development for Keizer. “Because the cost was so significant, the council allowed the signal to be phased since the transit district was willing to operate without it.”

The cost for the improvements is unclear, but federal funds will be utilized.

“We are still in the process of working through cost estimates,” Dickey said. “We have to do independent cost estimates. We have to contact other agencies like cities and counties and have them provide project costs for similar projects. Before we go forward with design and construction, we have to look at what those other costs are and put together a ballpark estimate.”