WENATCHEE — The three-road intersection at Okanogan, Orondo and Methow may be getting a makeover.
The city of Wenatchee is considering improvements to the area as part of its participation in the Complete Streets Leaderships Academy, a state program that helps jurisdictions implement safer and more accessible streets.
The Okanogan, Orondo and Methow intersection — which features a combined seven lanes, marked and unmarked bike lanes, parking lanes and three crosswalks — seemed like a good choice. One thing the city looked at when considering possible improvements was how intuitive the intersection is in its current state.
“With all the different legs and directions and users, there’s kind of some confusion a lot of times, especially for individuals who have never used the intersection or who are from out of town,” said Brooklyn Holton, Wenatchee’s housing and community planner.
One of the biggest changes being considered is closing the northmost part of Methow Street where it meets Okanogan and Orondo avenues and creating a plaza that would be about the same length as the Revival Coffee Bar parking lot to the street’s east. Doing so would eliminate traffic from that point of the intersection and reduce crosswalk length, said Holton. She added such a plaza could include shade trees, landscaping, chairs and tables.
“A kind of space for people to just be active in and socialize together,” Holton said.
The changes could also include connecting bike lanes (right now the lanes stop right before the intersection), merging westbound lanes on Orondo Ave before the crosswalk, a single turning lane on Okanogan Avenue and relocating the Link Transit stop on Orondo Ave to another location.
The city organized a pop-up event last week that used cones to model what the changes would look like, allowing community members and the city to evaluate their effectiveness.
“What’s nice about the pop-up is it lets us try a design, and see how it functions prior to constructing it,” said Holton. “Just because we did the pop-up that way doesn’t mean that’s exactly what we would do if we were to construct it, but it does help inform us.”
For example, the pop-up featured bike lanes on both sides of the streets, but Holton said it’s worth considering parking on at least one side.
The city partnered with Parque Padrinos, a community group that has advocated for Methow Park, to bring in vendors and performers to a closed portion of Methow Street on July 17 and 18. During that time, the city also solicited feedback from residents in English and Spanish.
Holton said the reduced crosswalks had the most support from people who commented and that marked bike lanes and using the north part of Methow as an active space also received positive feedback. Some people suggested having a food truck Friday or other events in the plaza.
Holton said the city’s team hasn’t yet met to debrief and discuss what it wants to do moving forward but that there were some initial takeaways from the pop-up.
Slowing down westbound traffic on Orondo, merging traffic into a single lane on Okanogan before the intersection’s crosswalk, and closing down the northmost part of Methow worked particularly well, she said.
Holton said although there isn’t a firm timeline on when the changes could be made, there will probably be discussion about whether they will happen within the next year. If the city does decide to move forward with any of the changes, it would seek a grant to fund them.