Tribal Government & News

Transportation, transit input sought from community

12.13.2018 Danielle Frost Federal government, Tribal employees, Public safety

Anyone who walks, bikes or runs along Grand Ronde Road has seen their share of semi and log truck traffic.

“It’s only a matter of time until there is a tragedy because of it,” Tribal Public Works Coordinator John Mercier said.

He said that most large semitrucks cannot navigate a narrow curve on Highway 22 (Hebo Road) near Kissing Rock because it doesn’t have a shoulder, so most choose to use Grand Ronde Road and connect to Highway 18 from there.

That’s why realigning Highway 22 at Kissing Rock is one of the mid-range proposed projects for the upcoming Tribal Transportation Plan, with completion projected in seven to 12 years.  

Mercier spoke to 24 Tribal, community and staff members, as well as transit planners at the Tribe’s transportation program public involvement meeting held at the Tribal gym on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to gauge public input on the Tribe’s future transportation priorities. Tribal Council Vice Chair Chris Mercier also was in attendance.

Employees from various transit agencies and Tribal departments were available to answer questions. Copies of the proposed local roads safety plan and long-range transportation plan were available for review and comment.

The Tribe receives federal transportation funding of which a percentage must be used for transportation planning. Two of the biggest projects completed with these funds have included adding a sidewalk to Grand Ronde Road and the reconstruction of eight miles of Agency Creek and Yoncalla Creek roads.

Transportation program funds have increased from $589.755 in 2012 to $1.12 million in 2018.

“We have to plan out how to use these funds by having a Transportation Improvement Plan,” Mercier said. “We update this on an annual basis.”

The final plan will be complete by January. Once adopted by Tribal Council, the Tribe will prepare a Transportation Improvement Program for implementing high-priority projects.

The Tribe is working with the Native American-owned professional services firm Akana, which is based in Portland. It has been developing Tribal transportation plans since the mid-1990s.

“Access to Tribal facilities, services and housing is always a big part of any plan,” Vice President Dennis Petrequin said. “Transit, traffic safety and road maintenance are other issues. We also wanted to update the 190 miles of roads and trails that make up the Tribal system.”

Based on discussions with the Tribe, short-term proposed projects over the next six years include phase three of Elder Housing roadways and various traffic safety improvements, such as lighted crosswalks and speed feedback signs on Grand Ronde Road, and school bus warning signs on Highway 22.

Other short-term projects include creating a wetlands trail, forest trails and Eade Subdivision Loop Road, upgrading the Railroad Station access road, upgrading Murphy Road and continuing transportation planning and maintenance.

Mid-range projects include a Grand Ronde Road overlay, Highway 22 realignment at Kissing Rock, extending Tyee Road east, upgrading Hubert Road, and creating new Spirit Mountain Casino access roads and an RV park road.

Long-range projects include extending Andy Riggs Road and McPherson Road West, upgrading North and South streets, and widening Coast Creek Road.

Mercier said that he continues reaching out to different Tribal programs and Tribal Council to see what projects are in the works so that adequate transportation can be provided.

“We are coming up with an agreement and recommendations for the best way to make improvements,” he said. “We want to support a safe community and provide equitable access. … We try to establish those relationships.”

The Tribal Transit Plan also is up for review. Transit goals include providing increased access through adding local routes and stops, as well as growing partnerships with area transit agencies to provide increased services.

A transit rider survey indicated that a majority use public transit for employment purposes, followed by recreation and leisure trips, shopping and medical appointments.

Survey respondents indicated that they desire improved bus frequency and longer service spans, as well as service into Dallas.

Proposed short-term recommendations for future transit services include adding Dallas as a stop on existing service from Grand Ronde to Salem, adding a local circulator through Grand Ronde, introducing Dial-A-Ride within the community for seniors and people with disabilities, and working with Spirit Mountain Casino to allow employee access to its shuttle, as well as revise transit arrival and departure times from the casino to correlate with employee shifts.

To give final input on the transportation or transit plans, contact Mercier at 503-879-2117 or