The North Coast Citizen was made aware recently of a burgeoning issue sprouting on the sides of Highway 101 in Wheeler, so we went in to investigate a little further and a potential growing problem may be propagating.
By Brian Cameron
A concerned Wheeler citizen, who wishes to remain anonymous, has voiced their dismay over a lack of verge control near the intersection of Hall Street and Highway 101.
“It’s just terrible, someone is going to get hurt,” said the citizen. “If someone gets hurt on the highway because City Hall didn’t trim their bushes then that’s on them.”
The complaint was focusing on a specific bramble of shrubbery located just south of Hall Street. The shrubs in question; a steadfast cypress hedge, some ornamental flowers and a pruned perennial have taken on a mind of their own according to some.
“Most of the grounds at City Hall are managed by hard working, unpaid volunteers,” said City Manager Geoff Wullschlager. “So the matter isn’t simply can we just cut these shrubs, but instead what are the regulations regarding city ordinances and ODOT setback requirements pertaining to this topic?”
After checking out the particular plants for ourselves, and driving around the block to determine if the citizen’s concerns were valid, while actually sitting at the stop sign on Hall Street it is slightly difficult to see south along the Highway in order to safely make the turn.
Who determines the outcome?
Currently ODOT Setback requirements for properties along highways and roads suggest there needs to be enough room to see down the highway in both directions to judge travel speed and find an acceptable gap in the traffic before turning into traffic.
The topic is known as Intersection Sight Distance or ISD and its determined through some pretty basic math. According to ODOT’s online resource regarding setback requirements the ISD measures a line of sight form the driver’s eye (3-5 feet high), seated 15 feet back from the white fog-line of the highway. Both left and right directions from the intersection need to be free of any obstructions in order for motorists to make a safe turn into the right-of-way.
After driving the route its safe to determine that nothing actually is out of line as far as plants being too large, however that doesn’t mean the conversation needs to stop.
“We are more than happy to trim the bushes,” said Mayor Stevie Burden. “But we just want to make sure we do things by the books because its easy for the public perception to focus on a wide variety of issues, if we didn’t do it by the books we might be vulnerable somehow down the line.”
What’s ODOT’s perspective?
When speaking with the ODOT with regards to their access management program, according to Access Management Manager Larry McKinley the job eventually lies in the hands of the property itself, so in this case the Wheeler City Hall is who’s responsible for trimming the verge.
“Yes, if this was a tree that fell into the visual sight distance then it would definitely be within ODOT’s responsibility,” said McKinley. “But because this is more of a maintenance issue its well within the property owner’s ability.”
McKinley also suggested that if anyone wanted to know without a shred of doubt then to call the local ODOT branch in Tillamook to come check it out.
What’s the city say?
As of the date of publishing it is happily reported that the powers that be in Wheeler have taken upon the burden of trimming the verge, all’s well that ends well.