Camas officials mull Sierra-Lake intersection improvements

City Council will hear results of public outreach during July 15 workshop

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A rendering shows possible intersection improvements, including a traffic signal (top) and mini roundabout (bottom) at the corner of Northwest Sierra Street and Northwest Lake Road in Camas. (Illustration courtesy of the city of Camas)

Camas officials will soon discuss options to improve the intersection at Northwest Lake Road and Northwest Sierra Street in a bid to decrease traffic wait times on Sierra and make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The City’s engineering manager, James Carothers, told Camas City Council members in June that the intersection has a history of garnering complaints from users.

“In 2019, we had … complaints coming in about this intersection,” Carothers told Council members during their June 17 workshop. “We heard it was hard to get onto Lake Road from Sierra.”

City staff added the intersection to Camas’ transportation improvement plan in 2019, and set its priority at No. 40.

“In 2022, we had more complaints, and it moved up to No. 8 priority and was included in the 2023-24 budget for intersection improvement as a capital decision package,” Carothers said.

One year ago, in July 2023, the Council approved a $94,000 alternatives analysis contract with MackKay Sposito consultants.

Those consultants returned to the Council in January 2024, and received an additional $64,000 to gather public input on the intersection improvements, Carothers said.

In June, the Council held a public hearing on the City’s six-year transportation improvement plan, and moved the Lake-Sierra intersection improvement project to the No. 3 priority spot.

Carothers said City staff and consultants gathered public input between January and June of this year, and have found that the intersection is difficult to navigate for vehicles turning left from Northwest Sierra Street onto Northwest Lake Road due to limited sight distance, a lack of gaps between vehicles and higher speeds of around 39 miles per hour (MPH) on the 35-MPH-posted Lake Road.

“As the gaps get shorter and less frequent, folks pull out and take greater risks,” Carothers told officials in June. “Current traffic delays on Sierra Street do not meet city … standards.”

According to Carothers, the existing conditions show Northwest Sierra Street has a 40-second average peak hour delay at the Northwest Lake Road intersection, which gives the street an “E” grade for level of service, which is lower than the City’s standard level of service.

Without improvements, Carothers said, by 2045, Sierra Street would have an average peak hour delay greater than 100 seconds and a level of service rating of “F,” the lowest rating possible.

“These are average delays,” Carothers added, “not a maximum. At one point in 2019, we went out during the afternoon peak and the Sierra delays were about two minutes.”

Carothers added that the roundabout at Lake Road and Everett Street, which was completed in 2019, had likely provided some relief for drivers waiting to turn onto Northwest Lake Road from Northwest Sierra Street.

In February, Carothers told Council members that the goal of the intersection improvement project is “to improve safety for all and decrease wait times.”

He added that the consultants’ findings showed the intersection could be improved using either a traffic signal or a mini-roundabout, and that both options came with their own pros and cons.

“The option for the roundabout will (serve the intersection’s needs for longer than) our traditional 20-year option, but it costs more,” Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall told city officials in February, during a Council workshop. “On the flip side, you have a traffic signal that likely costs less but doesn’t serve us in the long-run and likely doesn’t even get us to the 20-year timeframe much less anywhere beyond that … If we continue forward, (the question is) ‘How much money do we want to spend and how far down the road do we want this to get us?’”

The public has had a chance to weigh in on the intersection improvements, Carothers said, adding that the City and its consultants have mailed postcards to 13,000 Camas households; had 200 responses to five social media posts; held three meetings with property owners and four interviews with other stakeholders; garnered 188 responses to an online survey; held an open house that attracted more than 60 attendees; and had 677 site visits with 137 people signing up for more information on the City’s Engage Camas website at

“We also talked to fire and emergency services,” Carothers added.

The consultants and Carothers plan to discuss the intersection improvements in more detail during the Council’s workshop on Monday, July 15, which begins at 4:30 p.m. at Camas City Hall and online via Zoom and the City’s livestream.

Carothers said he and consultants will discuss what they learned during their six months of public engagement, and will touch on questions they’ve had from city officials and community members, including: a cost comparison of the traffic signal versus the roundabout; private property impacts if the City opts for the roundabout option; the safety of bicycle and other users in a mini-roundabout; additional information about how staff determined the two preferred alternatives of a traffic signal or roundabout; where future growth is happening and why the City might not want to wait to improve the intersection until that growth occurs; the possibility and cost of conducting a noise study and possibly installing a sound barrier for property owners living near the intersection; and information about the City’s budget process and six-year street plan.

“We will want to discuss (at the July 15 workshop) moving ahead with the project and discuss a funding strategy,” Carothers told Council members June 17. “The design and additional things you’d want to see … is wide open. We’re here to listen and hear what you have to say.”

For more information, visit tersection-improvements/