The Warren Way Hemlock intersection has been problematic since the installation of the candlestick barriers, considered eyesores by many.
Public Works Director Karen LaBonte is hoping to provide a remedy that will satisfy residents and help visitors to make safer traffic choices.
After the intersection was redesigned in 2013 by Lancaster Engineering, the City has received a number of complaints. A single point in time assessment by the engineering firm suggested that the intersection was working as designed, but the major complaints are around aesthetics and congestion out of Tolovana Inn.
While the latest crosswalk additions are an improvement, and ample street lighting and low speed limits minimize accidents at the intersection, it’s still an issue from a public safety perspective.
Police Chief Jason Schermerhorn said at the March 12 City Council work session meeting that a lot of the traffic accidents at the intersection are from confusion, “people treat the intersection like it’s a four-way stop, even though it isn’t.”
Those familiar with the intersection know that on peak summer days, the intersection is a problem. In addition to speeding cars exiting the highway, wandering pedestrians trying to navigate poorly placed crosswalks and blocked traffic out of Tolovana Inn make the intersection one of the most dangerous intersections in town.
Public Works asked Lancaster Engineering to reevaluate the situation to determine if the candlestick configuration was the only option for traffic control and engineer Brian Davis brought a few example solutions for the council to consider, including extending the south crosswalk on Hemlock, narrowing the right hand turn off eastbound Warren with paint or planters, and a roundabout or a four-way stop.
“This is a great example of things that keep engineers awake at night. There’s a lot of asphalt and not a lot of guidance,” said Davis.
According to Davis, the intersection currently is considered functional by engineering standards, even though a 2016 evaluation gave it only a passing grade.
“There is slight congestion at peak hours and volume to capacity is about half full,” Davis said.
But traffic volumes at this intersection have grown over the past two years, largely thanks to economic growth, and if that trend continues Cannon Beach will have six years at most before major changes will have to be made.
There was general council support for a four way intersection, as it would require the fewest resources to solve one of the major safety concerns, but Davis believes that a four way stop has the potential to cause more traffic on Hemlock making operations worse, adding that safety concerns were an overriding factor.
Doug Neely of the Tolovana Inn weighed in and suggested that extending the southern crosswalk would help people cross more confidently. He also offered to extend irrigation into the triangle in between the Inn’s driveway and Hemlock should the city decide to remove the asphalt and plant the strip with landscaping.
LaBonte will get estimates for the proposed work and bring the project back to the council for consideration sometime in the near future.