Changing street design standards sparks debate


• Chair Mike DeBlasi attempted to get a discussion off the ground regarding the standards Keizer uses when designing streets – it met with resistance from City Councilor Dan Kohler, the council’s liaison to the committee. 

DeBlasi and past members of the committee have championed a different blueprint than the ones the city currently uses. Keizer’s roads generally are designed according to standards issued National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO), a set of guidelines that focuses on rural road and highway safety. DeBlasi and others would like the city to consider alternative standards, issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), that considers multimodal and pedestrian safety to a higher degree. 

“AASHTO would be more bike and pedestrian friendly and a lot of it is in traffic-calming design,” DeBlasi said. 

DeBlasi noted that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been open to experimentation with the guidelines in other cities, but that it requires local leaders to sign off on the proposals before advancing. 

Kohler said there didn’t appear to be much political will when it comes to changing the standards at all. 

“When I ask city or county (officials) about the standards, I haven’t found a whole lot of interest in changing the standards,” Kohler said. 

DeBlasi countered, “I understand that there is some inertia, but we can come up with a plan and figure out how to compromise.”

Kohler said emergency service officials contend changing the standards would make it harder for emergency response. DeBlasi cited a recent example of the city council going against the wishes of the Keizer Fire District when it approved a gas station development in the parking lot of Safeway. 

The Keizer Fire District chief spoke out against the development on multiple occasions. 

“These kinds of designs are used in lots of larger cities, like Portland, and the emergency vehicles still get around,” DeBlasi said. 

Committee members moved on to other agenda items without pursuing the issue further. 

• DeBlasi suggested looking into applying for a community program called Tree City USA, which offers grants and other funding for planting trees in urban communities.

“We’ve all been driving down the streets in the blinding sun, and this program offers money to put in a canopy,” DeBlasi said. 

• Committee member Wayne Frey reported on his investigation into the Oregon Community Paths Program, a new ODOT program offering funding to connect Oregon communities with pathways. The committee would need to identify a project and submit a letter of interest by Oct. 31 to be eligible for the first round of grants.