Citizens raise concerns over proposed road in Battle Ground

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A proposed road to connect state Route 503 to North Parkway Avenue in Battle Ground faces backlash from residents who feel the road would cause a host of issues.

During a public hearing for the city’s update of its transportation system plan on Nov. 15, conversation turned toward one project in particular. The plan features a proposed Northwest Fifth Street connection between the two roads north of Battle Ground Public Schools’ Lewisville campus. A project description from the city states the road would provide alternate access to state Route 503 for Battle Ground High School students and others heading north on the road to avoid the Main Street and state Route 503 intersection.

During the hearing, the council received more than two dozen written public comments expressing a host of concerns about the street’s impact on the area.

Commenters expressed concerns over the increase of through-traffic near several Battle Ground Public Schools buildings, a lack of sidewalks on existing streets in the area, and the effect on nearby athletics fields that some said would be removed if the road is constructed.

Councilor Shauna Walters moved to remove the Northwest Fifth Street project from the plan, which is scheduled for a vote by council on Dec. 6.

“That’s our job as councilmembers to lobby on behalf of the citizens, and when the citizens are this vocal about not wanting something, we need to take a step back and listen to what the citizens have to say,” Walters said.

Walters was joined by councilors Brian Munson and Tricia Davis in voting to remove the project. Councilor Shane Bowman, who voted against the removal, mentioned the project will receive money from state funds, which according to current project information from the city would be about $1.3 million of the $3.8 million total cost.

“There’s 21,000 people in this city. There was 27 comments,” Bowman said about the hearing testimony. “Some of them have already designed the road. Some of them have told us where we should put other roads. Some of them have said we’re tearing out ball fields, which we haven’t even designed.”

Battle Ground Public Works Director Mark Herceg said the impacts on athletics fields wouldn’t be known until the design is complete. Also up to design is which dead ends from the neighborhood north of the proposed road would have connections. He explained in some cases the intersection spacing might not be enough for a connection.

Herceg said the road would be classified as a neighborhood collector which is typically 50 feet across, including sidewalks and planter strips.

Regarding concerns of safety for students using the proposed street before and after school, Bowman asked about the last time there was a fatality of a child on streets in the city with higher traffic counts like Main Street, Onsdorff Boulevard and Parkway Avenue, to which Battle Ground Police Chief Mike Fort could not recall any.

Bowman likened the backlash to an incident several years ago when a vocal group pushed the city council to build the Battle Ground Skate Park.

“We spent millions of dollars on a skate park, ripped out two baseball fields, built a community center, because 30 people showed up for a skate park. Did that represent the community? Absolutely not,” Bowman said.

Bowman added the school district has discussed the possibility of moving CAM Academy to the Lewisville Campus in the vicinity of the proposed road.

“We already know what CAM (Academy) does on Onsdorff and we haven’t had any fatalities that we know of, so add that traffic to (the area),” Bowman said.

Bowman was joined by Mayor Adrian Cortes, Deputy Mayor Philip Johnson and Councilor Cherish DesRochers in voting to keep the project in the transportation plan. DesRochers said she lives on a busy street herself, but could see the importance the road could have in alleviating traffic in the city.

“As much as I … empathize with the people who submitted comments, I also feel for all of the people that are stuck on Main Street, stuck at the post office, stuck at the school, trying to get out of Safeway,” DesRochers said.

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