At a meeting Thursday, the Pendleton Planning Commission will take another look at a plan that could significantly change how Pendleton drivers navigate the area surrounding the Southgate exit on Interstate 84.

In 2010, the commission approved an interchange area management plan that is meant to ease congestion along the off-ramp and on-ramp at exit 209.

The plan calls for the four-way intersection of Southwest Emigrant Avenue and Southwest 20th Street to be moved west, where some homes and retail spaces are now.

Instituting such a change would require realigning 20th Street and building a new road to access the Exit 209 entrance and exit, among other changes.

The plan broke the project into three phases with an estimated total cost of $18.5 million.

The commission is meeting with the Oregon Department of Transportation on Thursday to discuss whether the area surrounding exit 209 has met a traffic benchmark that would trigger the implementation process for the first phase of the project, which would realign parts of the intersection, widen southwest 20th Street to a five-lane cross section between southwest Emigrant Avenue and southwest Court Street and widen the southwest-bound Court to accommodate dual left-turn lanes at the 20th Street intersection.

To trigger the first phase, the traffic queue on the northbound lane at the existing intersection must consistently back up past the I-84/Southgate terminal.

Even if the commission decides that the traffic meets the trigger, ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg said Pendleton residents probably won’t see designs or construction in the near future because neither the city or state has committed money to it.

“It would be kind of a shelf project — we could have it ready to go once the funds are found and take it off the shelf,” he said.

Although the action at the commission meeting is mostly procedural, the management plan warns that the interchange area could pose a safety hazard to motorists and pedestrians if the issues aren’t addressed within 20 years.

At a larger level, the plan states that an unsafe interchange could cause I-84 travelers to avoid stopping in Pendleton or force the city to declare a development moratorium on the south side of town.

The commission will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Pendleton City Hall, 500 S.W. Dorion Ave.

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