ELGIN - Representatives of ODOT's Region 5 office met with Elgin residents last week to lay out plans for a $2.4 million project that would revamp Oregon Highway 204 (Tollgate Highway) as it heads west out of the city.

The comments ranged from "What are you doing with our money?" to "I've wanted a sidewalk for 50-years."

About 40 residents showed up for the Sept. 22 meeting at Stella Mayfield Elementary School.

The ODOT Project Leader, Chuck Howe, came prepared with a 10-foot long map detailing how the highway, parking space and sidewalks would impact local residences. Construction is tentatively scheduled to run from spring to fall of 2005.

The highway reconstruction will run from the intersection of Highway 204 and Highway 82 in the center of downtown Elgin to the ODOT maintenance yard just west of the residential area of the city.

Howe listed the benefits to the city:

•Bulb-outs that are designed to narrow the visual roadway and slow traffic.

•New street trees chosen not to cut into sidewalks or interfere with utility lines.

•Street lights at each corner and staggered along both sides of each block.

•Improved storm water capacity.

•The reconstruction of the city's water supply.

Howe said streetlights would be an expense the city would have to meet. Garlitz said there was little money available for this, and it would have to be done as cheaply as possible.

The audience voted unanimously to install an older, traditional style of lighting. Linda Boone took names of volunteers who would work on the project.

The ODOT plans include both curbs and sidewalks, which are missing from most of the highway to be reconstructed. The sidewalks will be paid for by ODOT, not by residents.

Rainwater now accumulates and runs westward on the south side of the highway. After completion, a trunk line will carry the rainwater out of the city to the east.

Business activities were a concern of several residents.

"I need someone to call in case I can't get to my place of business," said Rick Smith, manager of the downtown Elgin Auto.

"We try to anticipate if there are going to be impacts on a business," Howe told the audience.

Howe said the project should be ready to let out for bidding within two months. The date of groundbreaking and completion could not be completely determined, as these depend on next year's weather and on the contractor chosen. Construction is scheduled for one year, but might have to be extended to 2006 if there are delays.

Several benchmark conditions must be met, Howe said. Construction must be scheduled for the summer so it will not interfere with the functioning of the grade school.

The highway must also be available for the Elgin Stampeders parade scheduled for July.

It must also be available for use during the winter. "You won't be driving on a bumpy gravel road during the winter," Howe said.

If existing electrical and gas lines have to be moved, Howe said, the responsibility and expense would be borne by the companies involved.

ODOT's Brian Kelly said that relatively few trees would have to be removed along the construction route. The 7-foot sidewalk has been designed to include some cutouts for existing trees.

Howe said temporary and permanent easements along the route complicate the issue of who will pay for moving shrubs and smaller trees. These questions will have to be negotiated individually, Howe said.

Traffic flow is to be maintained by keeping one lane open or providing a nearby detour. A detour for trucks and RVs will be established north of the city.

The project is scheduled to begin in spring 2005 with the removal and replacement of up to 2-feet of the existing road base by the Union County Road Department.

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