By Don Nelson

Winthrop’s mobility plan is gaining momentum, the Town Council learned at its meeting last week.

The council got an update on the “Winthrop In Motion” project, a planning effort supported by a state grant to come up with ways to make it easier for pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists and mobility-impaired people to negotiation downtown Winthrop’s streets and sidewalks.

Recently, about 25 people toured the streets of Winthrop in a “mobility audit” and offered observations about what they encountered while trying to get around town. The walking tour was followed by an ideas workshop.

Hannah McIntosh, one of the consultants hired by the town to help develop the mobility plan, offered a preliminary summary of the findings from the mobility audit and ideas generated by the exercise.

Priorities identified by participants included improving routes for pedestrians, providing safer street crossings, improving bicycle routes, and “traffic calming” devices or street designs.

McIntosh said participants indicated they would like to separate paths for bicyclists and pedestrians. “But nobody is living in a fantasy land about the space restrictions [on Riverside Avenue],” McIntosh said. “We’re between a bluff and a river.”

Some of the challenges identified were:

• uneven surfaces and walking widths on the boardwalks, including structural posts and driveway crossings.

• the absence of a pedestrian route between the end of the boardwalk at Rocking Horse Bakery and the Spring Creek pedestrian bridge, which often forces pedestrians and bicyclists into the street.

• a lack of safe crossings, clearly marked routes and connections to recreational trails.

• safety concerns about angle-in parking.

• complying with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for access.

Opportunities identified were:

• creation of more off-site parking to cut down on vehicle traffic.

• widening the boardwalks where possible.

• providing more “respite spaces” such as Confluence Park.

• reducing the speed limit in town from 25 mph to 20 mph.

• completing the Riverwalk trail.

• developing a better “wayfinding” plan so people know how to navigate to where they want to go.

• improving boardwalk/driveway connections.

McIntosh said the planning team will provide some “preliminary concepts” for the mobility plan to town officials soon.

The council also discussed the deteriorating condition of the bandshell in Mack Lloyd Park. Mayor Rick Northcott urged the council to include repairs to the bandshell in the 2018 town budget.

Northcott said the bandshell’s stage is deteriorating and although it has been patched in places it could be hazardous. There are some other potential problems with the joists supporting the bandshell, he said. Northcott estimated that repair materials might cost $2,000 to $5,000, not including labor. Some of the work probably could be done by the town’s public works staff, he said.

The bandshell originally was at the Shafer Museum on Castle Avenue but was moved to the park many years ago.

Council member Mike Strulic said the bandshell might get more use for events if it is in better repair. Funds for repairs could possibly come from a portion of the lodging fees the town collects.

In other business:

• The council approved a 1 percent increase in the town’s property taxes and the tax levied to support emergency medical services. Under state law, 1 percent is the most a municipality can raise property taxes in a single year without a vote of residents. For the 2018 budget year, the 1 percent increase amounts to a total of $1,760 for property taxes and $511 for the emergency services levy.

• Northcott reported that there has been little progress since June in determining how to make the new pedestrian ramps at the four-way stop safer. Pedestrians have stumbled or fallen on the ramps, particularly those in front of the Tenderfoot and Three Fingered Jack’s. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been reviewing the problem, Northcott said, but the solutions may be challenging.

At the Three Fingered Jack’s corner, Northcott said, water coming down Pool Hall Hill (Bridge Street) doesn’t go into the drains at the intersection but instead puddles in the pedestrian ramp.

“There is no easy fix” for that problem, said Northcott, who has been consulting with WSDOT engineers. “They may have to do some construction work.”

Northcott said water also pools in front of Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe at times.

At the Tenderfoot, Northcott said, “people trip coming out of the store and there is no real good fix for it.” WSDOT is considering a railing that would prevent people from stepping off the abrupt curb at the corner.

“I think a simple rail would suffice,” Northcott said, adding that it could be wood or metal.

• Northcott also noted that the town has hired a contractor to remove trees that fell or were damaged during the recent windstorm, and that may be hazardous to motorists or pedestrians.