Two cities, two different visions for TV Highway

In this morning’s Oregonian (in the West Metro community news section of the paper’s print edition, which does not yet appear to be posted online), Andrew Theen and Nicole Friedman report on differing visions for Tualatin Valley Highway (OR-8), a major east-west thoroughfare connecting the cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro. The highway–the route of TriMet’s 57 bus, and a high-volume stroad which connects the two cities (and bisects the unincorporated community of Aloha), has been the focus of planning activities for the past two years; as leaders try to determine what to do with it. In its current state, TV Highway is a “stroad” beloved by virtually nobody. It is a high-volume, high-speed arterial arterial and significant freight corridor; but one with numerous adjacent uses (mainly to the north, as railroad tracks run parallel to the highway’s south side) such as businesses and homes, and numerous at-grade crossings. The question faced by planners is: convert it to a more highway-like state, with features like physical medians, greater access control, and grade separation at key intersections? Or tame the road into more of an urban boulevard, with a lower speed limit, on-street parking, improved pedestrian amenities, and more rather than fewer access points?

On this matter, the two cities at either end of the stretch–Beaverton and Hillsboro–have wildly different visions.

Hillsboro: Pour the concrete

The city of Hillsboro seems to favor a more highway-like approach, at least in the vicinity of the South Hillsboro tract; a major undeveloped tract south of the highway and west of SW 209th, which was recently added to the metro area’s Urban Growth Boundary. The city has suggested that the intersection between TV Highway and Cornelius Pass Road, which presently is controlled by a traffic signal, be grade-separated. (Right now, Cornelius Pass ends at TV Highway, but were it extended south it would go right in the middle of the South Hillsboro parcel). Hillsboro is also concerned about north-south movements; as there is a paucity of wide N/S routes between TV Highway and Cornell, particularly west of 185th. (Cornelius Pass and Brockwood Parkway are both high-volume streets north of the MAX line, but two-lane streets south to TV).

The city’s comments did address transit; unfortunately the main suggestion there was bus pullouts along the highway–presumably so cars and more easily whiz by without being delayed by a stopped bus.

The city, which has a large industrial base, particularly in its northern quarters, as well as having quite a bit of nearby agriculture, has expressed concern about freight movements before. Hillsboro mayor Jerry Willey recently raised eyebrows when he suggested that the region should take another look at a “Westside Transportation Corridor”, which was panned by many critics as a replay of the Westside Bypass freeway proposal shot down in the 1980s. While improvements for freight (including trucking) are a Good Thing; the probably with adding general purpose lanes is that it isn’t effective at freeing up room on the road for trucks; instead we know what the road fills up with.

Beaverton: Not so fast

A vastly different point of view comes out of city leaders in Beaverton, who have expressed concern that the proposals will conflict with the city’s Civic Plan, particularly with plans to renovate the city’s downtown core. Beaverton has also expressed concerns that the project “prioritizes cars and trucks at the expense of pedestrians, cyclists and transit users”, according to The Oregonian.

One of the fundamental difficulties with TV Highway is that soon after entering the Beaverton city limits–it turns into Canyon Road, and passes right through Beaverton’s downtown core. While Canyon Road is no walker’s paradise, either–it’s busy, congested at most hours of the day, and dominated by auto-centric land uses (including numerous car lots), disjointed sidewalks, and a generally poor pedestrian environment–it resembles nothing like a highway. And the city’s renovation plans would probably make SW Canyon an even less welcoming route for through-commuters and truck drivers. Many such users use SW Murray to US26 as an alternative to slogging through downtown Beaverton–but Murray isn’t designed to function as a highway (despite superficially resembling one in places)

What to do?

Obviously, we here at Portland Transport are far more sympathetic to Beaverton’s cause than we are to Hillsboro. If Hillsboro wants to expand its road network, it needs to be thinking more N/S rather than E/W; as any expansion of TV Highway will have a negative impact on its neighbor to the east. Of course, widening Cornelius Pass or Brockwood south of Cornell will likely be unpopular among residents, who have already seen expansion projects along both in recent years. This is particularly true south of Baseline, where both streets pass through predominantly residential areas.

But if one operates under the assumption that freight movement is important–and we agree it is–then reducing SOV travel is a great way to accomplish that. Hillsboro, in particular, doesn’t have particularly good transit connections (and like its road network, is especially poor N/S). The 57, the 48, and MAX are all major and important E/W corridors, but between Willow Creek and Hillsboro TC, north-south services are missing. Both the 57 and the 48 (which runs along Cornell) are excellent transit corridors (or should be); the 57 has been frequently mentioned as a possibility for BRT treatments in the future. Development of South Hillsboro should include transit connections between it and the MAX, as higher-density developments like what is envisioned there by the city will make things worse for freight if everyone drives and further clogs up TV Highway.

After all–if money is available to build overpasses and pay for maintenance on new roadworks; surely there is money available to put into an endowment to pay for transit operations in a corridor?

The TV Highway policy group meets next Monday.

28 Comments

28 Responses to Two cities, two different visions for TV Highway

  1. al m
    February 3, 2013 at 7:31 pm Link

    Interesting read.

  2. chrisw443
    February 4, 2013 at 2:55 am Link

    I live on canyon road by the honda dealership and have had to walk/ take a bus down towards hillsboro a few times and it is really unnerving the closer you get to hillsboro. At the 217 intersection I am a little worried about getting run over, but over by the kamrt Im petrified of moving while waiting for the 57

  3. Andrew S
    February 4, 2013 at 5:48 am Link

    Amazing how under the radar the TV highway process has been compared with the SW corridor. If it really is all about increasing freight movement could a combined freight and bus lane actually work for BRT?

    Also, do you know if Beaverton has ever considered turning Canyon/Farmington into a couplet through downtown? Seems like a good way to shrink both those fast unpleasant roads into something easier to cross or walk along.

  4. Chris I
    February 4, 2013 at 8:48 am Link

    Sidewalks, a separated cycle track on the south side, and signal jumping lanes for the 57. Turning TV Highway into another Milwaukie Expressway would be bad for the region’s future.

  5. EngineerScotty
    February 4, 2013 at 9:11 am Link

    Turning Farmington/Canyon into a couplet is unlikely. For one thing, wide one-way streets are not pleasant places for pedestrians either; for another, ODOT likely wouldn’t approve (these are state highways, after all), and for a third; the two streets are separated by the P&W tracks.

    Adding BRT treatments on certain streets in downtown Beaverton, near Beaverton TC, would likely help with reliability quite a bit. About a dozen bus lines, including several long and important ones, end at BTC; and traffic through Beaverton can make these unreliable.

  6. Chris
    February 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm Link

    Brookwood, not Brockwood.

    BTW, did anyone else that pull-outs are being installed along Cornelius Pass road (construction just south of Baseline right now)? My guess is that TriMet is planning something…

  7. EngineerScotty
    February 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm Link

    One interesting comment in the 2012 Transit Improvement Plan (page 87):

    The Westside has been the focus of significant residential and employment growth, and there is interest in improving transit options to respond to this growth, particularly in the Evergreen Corridor, South Hillsboro and Progress Ridge. The area has not had a comprehensive review of service since before Westside MAX opened in 1998. Potential improvements on the Westside include expanding
    service for employers, more North-South service, and improved frequency along Cornell and Baseline Roads, as well as along 185th Avenue on weekends. More frequent North-South service could connect with East-West service and serve Hillsboro’s employment areas and neighborhoods. Hillsboro would need to develop road connections and pedestrian improvements to facilitate North-
    South service. The only continuous North-South arterial is Cornelius Pass Road, but that road does not have a rail station and has some
    stretches with relatively few people living and working nearby with difficult or missing sidewalks and crossings and so is not a good
    candidate for new service. The proposed 231st Avenue corridor between US 26 and TV Highway appears to offer the most potential.

    One option might be to run a bus from South Hillsboro north up Cornelius Pass, then west on Baseline, North on 231st past Orenco Station, Intel’s Ronier Acres campus, and Hillsboro Stadium, possibly also serving West Union north of US26 and ending at PCC Rock Creek. (Since this would then duplicate much of the current route of the 47, TriMet then could then combine the 47 west of Tanasbourne with the 46, getting rid of the wasteful doubling-back of that line; and extending the 59 to serve Baseline west of 185th).

    Actually, I could think of lots of other changes to service west of 185th that might be useful…

  8. Erik H.
    February 4, 2013 at 8:30 pm Link

    Best thing that could happen for T.V. Highway is to admit it’s a limited access freeway, and turn it into one. Just like SR 500.

    There are already multiple west-east arterials (Farmington, Jenkins, Walker, Baseline, Cornell, Evergreen) that have excess capacity AND are designed to connect residential neighborhoods with commercial areas.

    The Sunset Highway is too far north (and west of Cornelius Pass, is still largely rural farmland).

    Turning TV Highway into a freeway would acknowledge that TV Highway already does not support local traffic (largely in part due to the P&W Railroad blocking off all access to the south), and would encourage local traffic to the local streets that would be more pedestrian friendly and slower-speed while keeping TV Highway as a higher speed limited access route to connect two population centers (Beaverton and Hillsboro).

    Not to mention, the Sunset Highway is now being used as a reliever for T.V. It’s bad enough that MAX-fueled development has created urban sprawl in Orenco…turning T.V. Highway into a freeway would require ZERO additional traffic lanes, and only the construction of grade-separate interchanges at major streets. (And think, eliminating those grade crossings would even potentially allow an expansion of WES to Hillsboro to make it a little more useful as a true express route between Beaverton and Hillsboro and even to Forest Grove.)

  9. EngineerScotty
    February 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm Link

    Erik,

    None of the streets you mention is a viable alternate route for TV Highway, particularly west of 185th. And none of them have excess capacity–I’ll assume you actually haven’t spent much time in Beaverton/Hillsboro traffic.

    At any rate, comparing TV Highway to SR500 is ridiculous. SR500 was built as a bypass to Fourth Plain Road; a better comparison to it would be OR217, which was essentially built as a high-volume replacement to Hall Boulevard. Both highways were originally built as limited-access expressways (no driveways or other conflicts, other than at specific intersections). Originally, 217 had traffic lights, all of which have now been removed (except at I-5; and there you only encounter them on a south-to-north movement). SR500, likewise, was built as a limited access highway–no driveways, access only at a few limited intersections–and it too is being turned into a freeway. A new interchange at St. John road was just completed, and there are two traffic lights left; both of which are slated for removal.

    OR224 between Milwaukie and Clackamas is a similar highway, one that retains most of its traffic lights however.

    TV Highway is a different animal; it more resembles SE McLoughlin than an expressway. While it is bordered by the tracks, it also has regular side streets (once every block in some places) and many adjacent homes and businesses. And none of the arterials you mention is an adequate replacement, particularly in Hillsboro. Cornell and Evergreen are too far north; Walker essentially ends at 185th, and Baseline in Hillsboro has limited capacity. And no, the Sunset is not used as a reliever for TV; it’s too far north.

    As far as WES goes–the issue there is operating revenues, and agreement from the railroad. The P&W line between the two has infrequent grade crossings, and all of them are protected by gates–there’s no legal reason that WES couldn’t operate on those tracks today.

    Hmm. Maybe we should turn OR99W into a freeway. They’ve got that nice viaduct over the tracks in downtown Tigard, and it’s practically a freeway anyway from Bull Mountain all the way to Newberg. Local traffic can use Walnut and Macdonald; and it would make your 94 run faster if it didn’t have to wait for all those traffic lights…

  10. Jason McHuff
    February 4, 2013 at 10:54 pm Link

    I don’t see how making TV Highway has any effect on whether WES could go to Hillsboro or not

  11. Andrew S
    February 5, 2013 at 12:39 am Link

    Any chance P&W would agree to a WES expansion? We did spend all that money to upgrade their tracks. WES with stops in Aloha and Hillsboro would definitely be the easiest/cheapest way of expanding capacity on the TV Highway corridor. It’d also make the journey from downtown Portland to Hillsboro time competitive with cars.

    A separated bike path alongside the tracks springwater style would be ideal too. TV highways is pretty darn flat and it’s a pretty quick rideg from Beaverton to Hillsboro if you don’t mind the terror.

  12. Chris I
    February 5, 2013 at 8:36 am Link

    Using the term “MAX-fueled sprawl” when referring to Orenco on this blog is the definition of trolling. Erik, just out of curiosity, if you had to attribute a percentage of the sprawl in Orenco to roads, and a percentage to MAX, what would it be?

    And if the sprawl is “MAX-fueled”, why does it have any bearing on the discussion of a highway that carries cars?

  13. EngineerScotty
    February 5, 2013 at 10:15 am Link


    Using the term “MAX-fueled sprawl” when referring to Orenco on this blog is the definition of trolling. Erik, just out of curiosity, if you had to attribute a percentage of the sprawl in Orenco to roads, and a percentage to MAX, what would it be?

    And if the sprawl is “MAX-fueled”, why does it have any bearing on the discussion of a highway that carries cars?

    In fairness to Erik, the majority of folks living in Orenco have and use cars, in addition to taking transit. Much of the high-tech industry in Hillsboro is not on the MAX line, or well-served by transit at all; there’s a big difference between a place like Orenco or Villebois and an inner-city neighborhood where a comfortable car-free lifestyle is practical.

    On the other hand–it’s better thousands of Intel engineers and their families living in Orenco–a place where many amenities are within walking (or biking) distance, MAX is readily available, jobs are five-ten minutes away, and many families thus can get by with one car insteaad of two, then living in a subdivision in Sherwood or Tualatin or Happy Valley, where you need to get in the car and drive to fetch a gallon of milk, and the only amenity within walking distance is the mailbox.

    Not all sprawl is created equal.

  14. Oregon Observer
    February 5, 2013 at 10:48 am Link

    You might look at the cost of “grade separated crossings”. Where you would put them have businesses today which would be destroyed by condemning land and cutting off access. It seems highly unlikely Cornelius Pass Road, with a school, would become a throughway. And devoting a 5 lane road in the undeveloped parcel to the South would cost developers quite a bit of land. As state taxpayers, spending money on making TV Highway into a highway is far from a priority.

  15. Allan
    February 5, 2013 at 11:04 am Link

    It would seem to me that “state taxpayers” have little interest in most projects in the state. However local folks have quite an interest. Its too bad that our funding mechanisms don’t let local folks make all the decisions

  16. Tim Walsh
    February 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm Link

    It’s not just P&W that would have to agree to a WES extension to Hilllsboro: Union Pacific would as well. As part of the WES project, TriMet actually had to purchase the right of way between Greton and Beaverton from UP (Greton to Wilsonville was already owned by the state). UP is notorious for playing hardball when it comes to passenger rail, and I can’t imagine this would be any different.

  17. EngineerScotty
    February 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm Link

    UP is notorious for playing hardball when it comes to passenger rail, and I can’t imagine this would be any different.

    One of the more interesting tidbits of federal rail regulations is that only the federal government may condemn railroad rights-of-way; local governments cannot use the power of eminent domain to take railroad tracks for other purposes.

    There’s generally good reason for this–to prevent some unfriendly local government from engaging in hostage-taking by threatening to condemn a small section of track (and shut down all services thereon); but it also gives railroads a lot of leverage in preventing sharing or re-use of their tracks.

  18. dan w
    February 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm Link

    Turning TV Highway into a limited access facility would go over like the proverbial lead balloon, at least where central Beaverton is concerned. I know the Beaverton Civic Plan calls for enhancing the neighborhood street grid (which includes extending Millikan, Crescent, etc.) in order to take some pressure off TV/Canyon; maybe this “filling in the gaps” approach should be considered for other segments of this highway further west.

    Grade separated interchanges might help ease choke points at Murray, 185th, etc. I’m not sure what the prevailing opinion is on jughandles around these parts (the only one I’m aware of in this area is at NE 102nd & Glisan), but these could serve as lower-cost alternatives to grade separations (I’m thinking the vacant lot on the northeast corner of TV & Murray would be a perfect spot for a jughandle).

  19. EngineerScotty
    February 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm Link

    There is one (partial) jughandle in Beaverton, at 185th and Baseline, just south of Willow Creek TC/MAX station. Eastbound traffic on Baseline (including the 88 bus) which wants to turn north on 185th may not turn left; instead it proceeds through the intersection, turns right on a jughandle road, goes ’round the block, and then turns right again on 185th. (All other left turns are permitted at the light).

    Oh, and in the middle of the jughandle are apartments.

    You can see it in all its glory here:

    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=185th+and+baseline&hl=en&ll=45.51514,-122.867365&spn=0.003203,0.007907&sll=45.526412,-122.558236&sspn=0.0004,0.000988&gl=us&hnear=W+Baseline+Rd+%26+SW+185th+Ave,+Triple+Creek,+Washington,+Oregon+97006&t=h&z=18

  20. EngineerScotty
    February 5, 2013 at 10:05 pm Link

    I’ve long thought that parallel street improvements along the MAX line in Beaverton would be useful, including a connection between Merlo and 153rd (preferably south of the MAX tracks), as well as a connection between 153rd and Terman–possibly something as simple as connecting a crossing from the Beaverton Creek station across the tracks to Terman (Terman is the street that crosses under Murray just north of the MAX tracks, and runs along the southern boundary of the Tek campus).

  21. dan w
    February 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm Link

    Can’t believe I forgot the 185th/Baseline jughandle. Yeah, the first time I saw those apartments was a true “WTH?” moment.

  22. Douglas K
    February 6, 2013 at 8:43 am Link

    I’m not sure what the prevailing opinion is on jughandles around these parts (the only one I’m aware of in this area is at NE 102nd & Glisan)

    I think you meant to say NE 102nd and Weidler.

  23. dan w
    February 6, 2013 at 12:55 pm Link

    D’oh, I did mean Weidler. Thanks.

    Looks like an early phase of the Beaverton Civic Plan is already imminent:
    New bike lanes on Millikan and Broadway

  24. Allan
    February 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm Link

    Why can’t it be both? If Hillsboro wants to make a highway on the west end and Beaverton wants a boulevard, can’t the road be different in each locale?

  25. EngineerScotty
    February 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm Link

    Why can’t it be both? If Hillsboro wants to make a highway on the west end and Beaverton wants a boulevard, can’t the road be different in each locale?

    Generally, highways that turn into surface streets aren’t very effective at being highways, particularly if they are designed for through traffic. Either Canyon Road becomes jammed even worse, other streets (like Murray) take the load, or the traffic that the highway was intended for don’t use it–in which case, what was the point of the highway in the first place?

  26. Allan
    February 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm Link

    I could see Broadway/Canyon becoming 2 1-way streets in Downtown Beaverton and carrying the same load in a lower- stress fashion than what is presently TV Highway. The highway would speed folks between the endpoints, not need to ram through downtowns. Or maybe my idea of traffic is slightly flawed

  27. dan w
    February 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm Link

    Broadway is probably too narrow to handle even half of TV/Canyon’s traffic. Plus it would probably ruin the character of Old Town Beaverton (all 2-3 blocks of it, anyway).

  28. Dave H
    February 10, 2013 at 2:47 am Link

    I’ve never seen it done, but what about just making an underpass for one lane each way, and allowing some through traffic to wait for a light? It seems like there could be a way to make the center lanes for BRT and “express” traffic (like freight or commuters) but separate it from the constraints of a typical city street.

    By only allowing one lane in each direction free movement you avoid cars getting up to freeway speeds because of merging (basically a traffic calmed freeway), but you still allow them to move at a more rapid pace while separating them from turning vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, etc but still allow for higher volumes of vehicles.

    It would be expensive, but a lot cheaper than turning TV Highway into a freeway and would help a BRT type system work along it while helping commuters as well.

    There might be some cases where it would be easier to just change a N/S road to having the over/underpass to avoid the railroad tracks. Any grade separation reduces signal times. It seems like incremental upgrades could be done to make TV Highway work without needing to make it a freeway.

    Maybe it’s just the insomnia, but it seems like it could be a way to implement a phased incremental plan that could be a cost effective way to at least slowly add throughput to the road without necessarily turning it into a freeway, and have the added benefit of helping form the basis for a BRT type corridor.

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