Lockhaven turn lane should ease congestion

Bids were due this week to construct a new, dedicated turn lane on Lockhaven Drive Northeast, meant to service drivers turning onto 14th Avenue Northeast. 

Keizer Public Works Director Bill Lawyer said the city will enter into contract talks and establish a timeframe for the improvements in the coming weeks. The new turn lane will begin to take shape just west of the intersection with Kalmia Drive Northeast and extend to 14th Avenue. 

The plans for the improvements, already approved by the Salem-Keizer School District Board of Directors, calls for the addition of a turn lane and placing the bike lane between the new turn lane and the through-lane. 

While the change is expected to ease congestion during the busiest times of the day, there are no new changes planned for pedestrian controls at the intersection of 14th and Lockhaven, an intersection that sees heavy use from Whiteaker Middle School and Gubser Elementary School students. 

“I know it’s a problem but there’s nothing we can do [for pedestrians] with this improvement without moving the driveways at Whiteaker,” Lawyer said. 

The existing crosswalks, however, will be improved and brought into full alignment with ADA standards. Adding elements like flashing pedestrian lights are reserved for stand-alone crosswalks where no other traffic controls are in place, Lawyer said. 

While pedestrian controls will remain unchanged, the westbound lanes will be narrowed by one foot, from 12.5 feet to a little less than 11.5 feet, in the area where the turn lane is installed. Studies worldwide have proven narrowing lanes of travel has a calming effect on traffic, particularly as a tool to decrease travel speed without detracting from the ability to move high volumes of traffic. In fact, researchers found no decrease in traffic volume until lanes fell under 10 feet in width. The slower speeds benefited pedestrians and drivers by decreasing the seriousness of accidents when they occurred. 

“We experienced it here in Keizer with several streets that were narrowed during road work,” said Lawyer. He cited Sunset Avenue North as one space where speeds decreased after lanes of travel were narrowed.