Nan King and Brad Youngs are opposed to widening Medford's Woodlawn Drive and connecting it through the dead end section to the other end of Woodlawn. pennell photo - Bob Pennell

Widening Woodlawn

MEDFORD — Brad Youngs worries a plan to widen and connect two dead-end sections of an east Medford street will destroy a tranquil tree-lined road that draws foot traffic from blocks away.

"It's a pretty nice, walkable street," he said, adding that there's no reason to alter the out-of-the-way four-block portion that stops at Holmes Park on one end and a foot path leading to Barneburg Road on the other. "Nobody would benefit as far as traffic flow."

Youngs and Nan King have collected 30 signatures on a petition asking the city to consider alternatives to the proposed street plan. The project would transform a street that's as narrow as 20 feet wide in places to 62 feet wide including sidewalks and landscape strips. It would also connect two dead-end sections of Woodlawn, and pave the two gravel portions of the street.

With complaints from residents, the Medford City Council decided Thursday to hold a study session in the next few weeks to review the proposal. City Manager Mike Dyal said he would like input from the council before public works and planning staff work out the details of the plan.

"We don't want to put staff time into something that's not going to go forward," he said.

Following the meeting, Councilman Bob Strosser said the project came up because of two blocks paved with gravel, which causes air quality problems when particulates are kicked up into the air. The project would likely be eligible for federal funds.

"Mitigation of dust ... drove this project," said Strosser, who has recently met with neighbors and walked the neighborhood. He said city staff follows city codes, and to vary from the standards requires a vote by the council. City standards are a guide but "there's no one-size-fits-all," he said. "Any time you retrofit old existing neighborhoods ... there are going to be legitimate concerns."

The plan calls for the city to claim the public right-of-way, which means Youngs and King would lose 35 feet of what they've landscaped as their front yard. Youngs said in the 10 years he's lived in the house he's known that much of his front yard is city-owned, but hopes a compromise can be found to preserve many of the big trees in the neighborhood.

Lynn Kirms, who lives on Ardmore Avenue, said she signed the petition because she walks on Woodlawn regularly on her way to Westminster Presbyterian Church. The change would not just affect Woodlawn Drive residents, she said.

"The people who have been signing the petition are people who walk the neighborhood," she said.

Youngs said he's been talking with neighbors to try to create a uniform message to present to the council. He said he and King would prefer nothing be done, but some neighbors have told him they want the dust problem eliminated. He said he hopes the neighbors can come up with a scaled-down version that is more fitting to the neighborhood.

King, who just earned a degree in landscape architecture, said she wants creative solutions, such as turning the current open ditch into a bioswale (storm water retention area) rather than a storm drain, so rainwater flows into the ground rather than getting channeled straight into Bear Creek. She said cars should not be the primary consideration in transportation, and some areas should be preserved for those who walk.

"It's a pedestrian zone. We don't want to be just relegated to sidewalks," she said.

Top on her list of concerns is a large oak tree at the corner of Groveland Avenue and Woodlawn Drive, which likely has tree roots in the right of way.

Strosser said he would like to see that tree protected, too, and wonders if the project is the best use of the city's money.

"The question has to weigh in at some point as to what the cost-effective benefit is," he said.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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