Highways for Habitats #5: Heppner Highway

HeppnerTransportation planning is tough.  Roads have to serve a number of (sometimes competing) purposes.  Roads whose primary purpose is moving people and goods quickly through a community often have a detrimental effect on the communities they bisect (see: the history of freeways in Detroit).  Take state trunk lines for example, which you can recognize because they’re usually twice as wide to cross as the other roads in a neighborhood, and, of course, highways and interstates.  We’re currently running a series of posts featuring creative solutions from around the globe to make these roads – roads that must run through communities – also work to serve those communities.  Check out more about our inspiration here.

Heppner is a small city (pop 1,400) at the foothills of the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon.  Heppner’s main street is located along Route OR-74, also known as Heppner Highway.  While the downtown is economically stable, with business, retail, recreation and housing, and many beautiful historic buildings, it also suffered from the fact that Heppner Highway cut right through it.

In the ‘90s, residents felt downtown Heppner needed a boost – they called for a more welcoming and attractive main street.  The infrastructure along Heppner Highway was outdated and in need of repair – the roads and sidewalks were cracked and crumbling, and insufficient pedestrian right-of-way signage made for tricky crossings.  As an important regional travel route, many trucks and cars significantly increased traffic and congestion during peak travel times, weekends and holidays.

The City of Heppner and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) worked together to secure funding through various ways to make the needed improvements.  ODOT funded the resurfacing of the road.  Sidewalks were widened and smoothed with transportation enhancement program funding, designed for special additions projects (not customary road projects).  Trees were provided by an Urban Forestry Grant, funding meant to support urban and community forests.

Heppner’s electric company buried overhead utilities, and overhead lighting was added.  Community members donated landscaping and seating, and the city logo was painted on the street at a main intersection.  Heppner residents now have the downtown they envisioned through healthy collaboration between community members, local and state agencies.


Photo from Katherine H on flickr.com