The Sunrise Corridor

In the 1980s, ODOT created a new list of highways that would be built to improve access statewide – Access Oregon Highways. One of these highways was to connect the Portland region to eastern Oregon via Mt. Hood: Sunrise Highway from I-205 to Hwy 26 via Damascus/Boring. This roadway is in the beginning phases of being planned. The first segment to be discussed is a northern bypass of the Clackamas Industrial Area from I-205 to Rock Creek where highways 212 and 224 split.

There are several users of this proposed roadway that are discussed: truck traffic from the industrial area, Mt. Hood recreational travelers as well as existing and future Damascus residents.

In the 1980s, ODOT created a new list of highways that would be built to improve access statewide – Access Oregon Highways. One of these highways was to connect the Portland region to eastern Oregon via Mt. Hood: Sunrise Highway from I-205 to Hwy 26 via Damascus/Boring. This roadway is in the beginning phases of being planned. The first segment to be discussed is a northern bypass of the Clackamas Industrial Area from I-205 to Rock Creek where highways 212 and 224 split.

There are several users of this proposed roadway that are discussed: truck traffic from the industrial area, Mt. Hood recreational travelers as well as existing and future Damascus residents.

Clackamas County has been working with consultants, David Evans and Associate, and a Policy Advisory Committee (members from ODOT, Metro, Industrial land owners and Damascus city council) for the last year to update the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from 1998. Currently, alternatives being discussed for the first phase of the Sunrise Corridor can be viewed on the website Currently, there are interchange alternatives under discussion and a proposed 6-lane bypass of the current Hwy 212/224 to the north. There are still many opportunities to get involved in this process.

The County will be making a final recommendation on alternatives in the next couple of months but the public process outlined on the website has not been updated to indicate a specific timeline.

Some of the issues outlined below are summarized from other comments made during the process.

  • Gateway Feature – Project should be an entry for visitors and commuters to Mt. Hood and Damascus.
  • Sustainable Design Principles – minimize noise created by tires and engines, water runoff and the footprint of the project on the landscape. Maximize greenery with low maintenance landscaping including trees. And minimize the impact to Rock Creek with placement of the interchange for Damascus.
  • Design this segment to compliment the Damascus Parkway Idea
  • Cost Effective – Analyze whether the purchase of ROW for 6-lanes but only build 4-lanes in first stage is more cost-effective.
  • Improve freight access by solving existing congestion issues on Hwy 212/224/I-205 interchange.
  • Minimize impacts to existing businesses – Oregon Iron Works (will be manufacturing Portland Streetcars) and others have the potential to expand and should not be forced out by this project.
  • Minimize impacts to Milwaukie and Damascus – a new 6-lane highway feeding into a 4-lane to the west and a 2-lane to the east may have serious livability issues.
  • Consider analyzing a NEW Alternative with a Lower Design Speed – assume a 45-50 mph design speed and compare it against other alternatives in cost and mobility measures.
  • Model alternative ideas for ALL the interchanges using a combination of modern roundabouts, rotaries and ramps to reduce the number of flyovers. And reduced design speeds. Then compare these ideas against other alternatives in cost and mobility measures.
  • Include the Damascus Concept Plan road network for the next round of modeling to better predict demand on Sunrise Project.
  • Do NOT use the 2030 land use forecasts unless they are recommended by MPAC and adopted by Metro Council

25 responses to “The Sunrise Corridor”

  1. I have a much better idea. Take all that money and use it to build a subway under the transit mall. Or use it for the 205 MAX line, or the Lake Oswego streetcar, bikeways or anything else. Haven’t we learned from the first Mt. Hood Freeway? Do we really need another highway in the region sucking maintenance dollars that could go for bike improvements or sidewalk improvements? Don’t we know that it is IMPOSSIBLE to solve congestion with highways? A new highway will create more sprawl and more traffic. The highway will be used for current and FUTURE residents…. Ridiculous.

  2. I definitely agree with the first two comments. With Happy Valley being opened up as a new UGB expansion area, is there a way that the potential for extended LRT from the Clackamas TC terminal could be accommodated in this plan? I definitely agree with NOT making it a freeway — context-sensitive design principle should be applied, 4 lanes should be the maximum, and as much as possible, transit should be built into the original project. Perhaps making it a boulevard with LRT down the middle, paying for the LRT construction with the savings provided by not building interchanges or flyovers?

    Especially if the new streetcar production facility will be along the alignment, wouldn’t it make sense to run an electrified stub track straight into the factory, allowing the streetcars to roll directly into service off the production line?

  3. I remember reading somewhere last year (Metro or Clackamas website meeting notes I think) that additional right of way is factored into the Sunrise Corridor already for future LR, busway and/or multi-purpose trail. If I remember correctly the meeting notes were about leaving design/engineering room for these purposes, but did note that actual purchasing of ROW was budget dependant. I also would love to see the Green Line and a boring to 205 trail connector run along the corridor. As a person who once lived along 224 I am actually very much for this highway. A modern highway with proper environmental and noise protection will greatly help the area. Also, the people and congestion that people fear this highway will bring are already coming with the inclusion into the UGB. Also, the Mt. Hood freeway went right through existing neighborhoods much like I-5 did to NoPo, which is why that one was rejected. A better connection to Mt. Hood would be welcome along this stretch of soon to be urbanized land rather than cut through the existing neighborhoods of Gresham like many HW 26 to I-84 proponents want. If you want to complain about this corridor, complain that this beautiful country land was designated by Metro to become more tacky rowhouses and McMansions.

  4. Funny, a 6-lane freeway would be the same # of lanes as I-5 at its widest in Oregon. Truly bizarre for such an insignificant highway in the grand scheme of things… and would go quite a ways in promoting additional automobile useage and increasing congestion on I-5 itself.

    I am definitely in favor of a 4-lane tolled parkway + lightrail that breaks down into a couplet in the Damascus city center + transit stops.

    Please see the 1000 friends of Oregon Damascus charette plan that was developed:

  5. Lynn,

    Do we want to significantly reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled in North Clackamas County? Save time for Clackamas to Washington County commutes? Reduce traffic on Hwy. 99E between Oregon City and Portland? Reduce traffic on Hwy 43 between West Linn and Portland? Improve commerce in Oak Grove? Reduce fuel consumption and pollution?

    Put a bridge at Lake Oswego.

  6. Funny, a 6-lane freeway would be the same # of lanes as I-5 at its widest in Oregon.

    Odd indeed. Since I-205 is also 3-lanes through much of this area, the plan seems to assume that 1/2 of the northbound I-205 traffic and 1/2 of the southbound I-205 traffic will divert to this highway. If not, then what do you need 3 lanes for?

    The main bottleneck for most highways is not overall lane capacity, but the capabilities of junctions. What is the junction going to look like where this 6-lane highway ends? How will it place traffic onto the other existing highways and local streets?

    If traffic backs up at the interchanges/junctions, it won’t matter very much how many lanes there are.

    – Bob R.

  7. Ron –

    As someone who grew up in Oak Grove near where such a bridge would pass over, I suspect you’d run into a lot of local opposition.

    But politics aside, Oak Grove Blvd. does line up quite nicely with Lake Oswego. Has anyone put forward a serious proposal for such a bridge?

    Going all the way, it would be interesting to extend a Lake Oswego streetcar across to Oak Grove. There is an existing ROW that gets you most of the way S. to Oregon City and most of the way N. to Milwaukie.

    This ROW may be used by a future MAX to Oregon City line, but could also be developed initially (or permanently) as an Oregon City to Milwaukie streetcar, with easy transfers to a Lake Oswego streetcar terminus in Oak Grove.

    The downside? Most of the N/S ROW goes through low density residential neighborhoods. You’d have to walk a quarter mile or so from stations to get to businesses on 99E.

    – Bob R.

  8. Bob R.,

    I think there is a very simple way to span the river and it could be, with an attractive design, inoffensive to all the but the most severe people, and could improve business between the two communities.

    I would go from Oak Grove BV. to Foothills BV with a two lane bridge and no new highway, except an additional tunnel under A Ave in Lake Oswego for about two-thirds mile. There are collector throughfares in Oak Grove, and Hwy 43 in LO connects some other routes. Traffic to these routes has to come on Hwy 43 so I would not see increased traffic from them. East-West thru traffic could go underground. Not really all that expensive, and a big savings for the Metro area.

    The major obstacle is Rohr park, but perhaps it could go above it and only affect the SW corner. This is a hurdle under federal statute but not impossible.

  9. Comments by Justin need to be addressed:

    Justin Says:

    Funny, a 6-lane freeway would be the same # of lanes as I-5 at its widest in Oregon. Truly bizarre for such an insignificant highway in the grand scheme of things… and would go quite a ways in promoting additional automobile useage and increasing congestion on I-5 itself.
    (The Sunrise Corridor is critical to Portlands’ future. 100,000 new individuals are being planned for in the Damascus/Boring/Pleasant Valley/Springwater areas. What does this important employment area have to do with I5?)

    I am definitely in favor of a 4-lane tolled parkway + lightrail that breaks down into a couplet in the Damascus city center + transit stops.
    (Agreed, tolling the freeway/parkway is the way to go and hopefully there is enough funds for ROW to be used for LRT or other high capacity transit.)

    Please see the 1000 friends of Oregon Damascus charette plan that was developed:

    (This corridor is critical to bringing jobs to Gresham/Damascus. Why do you want people to drive across town to the jobs in Hillsboro, Wilsonville, and Beaverton? I have family, church, and a quality of life in Gresham that isn’t available anywhere else. I’m not leaving it. Bringing jobs to the Eastside is part of the solution to our oil consumption and traffic issues. Bringing transportation projects to Damascus and Gresham is part of the process of bringing the jobs.)

    Look at the Big Picture please.


  10. Ray, I think you kind of misunderstood my viewpoint. I do not want people to have to drive far to access jobs in other parts of Portland – in fact, I do not believe the Damascus area should be turned into a commuter suburb where people live there and work elsewhere in the metro area (Hillsboro, for instance). I believe constructing a 6-lane freeway in the area will in fact promote long-distance commuters – and is inappropriate in scale to a new town development that is supposed to be in some ways self-sustaining for the SE metro area.

    There was much planning done by 1000 Friends of Oregon and so on regarding the scale of development, mix of uses, and kinds of transportation connections it would have. Thus, it really irks me when ODOT decides to plunk down a freeway of the same capacity as I-5 to a brand new area.

    Direct quotes from the Damascus concept:

    “More arterial and collector streets:
    -three additional major east-west routes, including an extension of Sunnyside Road east to 222nd Avenue and a new limited-access road for through traffic and freight trucks.
    -Widening existing key arterial routes (such as 190th/Tillstrom roads, 172nd and 242nd avenues and sections of Highway 212) to four lanes with sidewalks, bikeways and turn pockets at intersections.
    -New collector streets throughout the area that include sidewalks and bikeways.

    A limited-access PARKWAY [my emphasis] located mostly south of Highway 212 for through traffic and freight trucks to use instead of Highway 212. This would reduce travel time between I-205 and US 26 by 10-12 minutes and better support community goals for the Damascus and Boring downtowns. The parkway would also provide a ‘green’ transition from the urban area to the Clackamas River bluffs and highlight outstanding scenic points of interest. Planning of the specific design and implementation of the parkway concept would occur in a future study.”

    So now ODOT – sorry, the Oregon Highway Department – wants to build a 6-lane freeway to the area. Because land use and transportation are intricately linked and influence each other, this represents a shift of what Damascus is meant to be:

    In the initial concepts and design charettes held by groups such as 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Damascus area is meant to be a satellite city of Portland – connected by good transportation systems, yet also hosting a wide range of industrial and commercial companies to provide employment for people in the SE region of the metro area.

    By plunking down a 6-lane freeway – which is AS MANY LANES AS I-5 – it would allow area residents to pour onto I-5, which is already saturated by traffic – in an attempt to commute to any place in the metro area. Note that I-5 is by far the most important highway in the west coast of the united states; building another highway of equal capacity makes no sense for such a small part of the metro area.

    The point of Damascus was to create a community, not another residential suburb for workers throughout the Portland area… there is absolutely no way people are going to be able to commute around the metro area in a reasonable amount of time. For instance: Damascus to Hillsboro. Considering how bad traffic is already on I-205, I-5, and highway 26, it would probably take you a couple of hours to get all the way over there, while increasing congestion and pollution in every highway the commuters will be traveling upon.

    You don’t want that to happen, as we aren’t going to widen I-5, and widening any other freeway is very expensive as well. Oregon doesn’t have the money, nor should we be trying to accomplish the goal of Los-Angelizing the Portland metro area.

    The fact is that people who live in this new city should work in the same area they live in, to keep this region’s transportation as efficient as possible.

    Now, this ‘limited access parkway’ was originally envisioned to provide access to freight. 4 lanes is most likely sufficient. In my opinion, they should toll the snot out of passenger vehicles to discourage their usage of the road, as it was never intended for long-distance commuters.

    For additional notes that one of the design teams came up with regarding the Damascus plan, see this appendix:

    The most efficient system is the street grid. Arterial and collector streets are doomed to congestion and the promotion of single-passenger vehicles (cars) for commuting due to their design… compare commuter access by Beaverton commuters to eastside Portland commuters heading to downtown Portland.

    Damascus should be connected to the surrounding communities, including Gresham, SE Portland, Happy Valley, and West Linn, by a multitude of slower, 2 and 4 lane roads/highways to give the best possible local access to area residents. Multiple paths provide a level of redundancy and alternate routes if any of the other roads/highways are saturated with traffic or have a major accident.
    Freeway/arterial systems by their nature leave no options to those who rely upon them. There are generally few – if any – alternate routes between two points, so once they are socked in with traffic, that’s it. If you want to promote long-distance, high speed commuting, then let a corporation drop in toll lanes for those willing to pay. Larger freeways do not promote livable communities, but harm them. The best transportation mobility and access is one provided by a dense network of roads that shorten trip lengths, promoting alternative forms of transportation (walking, bicycling), and transit usage.

  11. Justin said “Damascus should be connected to the surrounding communities, including Gresham, SE Portland, Happy Valley, and West Linn….”
    West Linn? You mean Clackamas, Boring & Gladstone :-) Everything else you said is exactly right.

  12. Metro did a study for the replacement of the Sellwood Bridge and looked at alternative road bridges between the Sellwood and I-205 to increase capacity for crossing the river. None of the proposals relieved congestion on Sellwood or I-205. And the political opposition was too strong on both sides of the river. The final recommendation was to replace the Sellwood Bridge with a 2 vehicle lanes and much wider pedestrian/bike sidewalks.

    For transit, I believe that one of the options for study in Metro’s Willamette Shore study beside extending streetcar in the existing ROW is extending lt rl to LO through Milwaukie using or paralelling the freight train trestle called the “forgotten bridge”.

  13. Justin, I have been going to the Damascus/Boring Open Houses (2 to this point) and giving input. 1000 Friends of Oregon (Great group of people, I’ve given them money before.) were not at these open houses. I am sure they have given input to the Damascus/Boring Concept Plan.

    Now, we come to the issue (being dealt with in Springwater too by the way). If we want major employment centers on the east side (which we do) and major employers are not going to develop new campuses in areas without good transportation and telecommunication facilities. Wouldn’t it be wise to understand what types of businesses would come to our area or expand into the eastside (Gresham has done the research, by the way).

    Transportation is the biggest issue holding back large new employment campuses on the eastside. Sunrise Corridor has been talked about for 20-30 years to help with the truck traffic and the need for improvement to a highway designed for the 1960s. I’m sorry that you were not aware of it. Currently, there are alot of trucking companies (Fred Meyer Distribution Center, etc..) looking for help with Hwy 212/224 and I205.

    Damascus will be designed for land stewardship, high density residential, and three/four employment centers. Without modern truck routes, we might as will stop spending the money on planning for new employment centers.


  14. Ray-

    Yea, but building a 6-lane freeway is going to encourage extraneous commuter and other trips via single occupancy vehicle, which will likely saturate the new road – reducing its benefit to trucking/freight – as well as massively increase congestion on I-205, I-5 and other major highways.

    Some of you may already be aware of the following, so I apologize if I’m talking down to anybody…

    Building major freeways creates an effect called ‘induced traffic.’ A good way of looking at traffic is if a road is a pipe, a bigger pipe should allow more stuff to flow through it. However, traffic acts more like a gas than a liquid – the bigger the pipe gets, traffic will continuously increase to keep up with the new capacity created.

    Conversely, when you reduce capacity – such as the various freeways San Fran has bulldozed – you don’t necessarily get increased congestion, as many people learn to get around more efficiently.

    Freight, on the other hand, has very specific needs and – as you have pointed out, industry is in need of better trucking routes. Therefore, we should add a modest truck capacity while trying to keep a massive increase in SOV traffic to a minimum. Thus – tolls. Toll all the SOV’s and not the freight (or freight less). That way you can get by without needing such a large road, as well as reducing the amount of money you need for the project. You won’t need as large as a road, and it’ll help pay for itself.

    If we run around keep building major roads like this, of course we’re going to get congestion. If you keep doing it, you’ll get a runaway effect and up like LA.

    The communities in the area should be designed so that people won’t have to go very far to get to their jobs, the store, the movies, shopping, etc. This is pretty common in Portland right now, see also ‘smart growth,’ ‘new urbanism,’ etc. Don’t let the pod-developers plop in tract housing and turn the area into a commuter ville.

    While I do agree highways are necessary – there needs to be a balance so as to keep a lid on highway/freeway usage so it doesn’t get out of hand and let us end up like LA. This whole thing just reeks of a ploy for ODOT to build them freeways like the good ‘ol days!

  15. Garlynn – that was genious. I was just thinking the same thing. Knock out several birds with one stone throw. Instead of building a huge environment and business/residential wrecking interstate/highway build a smaller road, but run a street car track (or LRT Tracks) parallel to it straight to the factory. Purchase 2-4 streetcars to run on this line and whallaaa… You’ve assisted a local business to really get into the streetcar business AND you’ve created a more environmentally sound plan AND you’ve created a MUCH more attractive residential, business, and probably a better industrial area.

  16. From what I could gather a few days ago when I went out to look at the proposed route: It looks like it would have to go on the southside of the hillside-Mt. Talbert I believe- but there are already industrial buildings located there. A lot of them almost touch the slope: I suppose they tried to maximize all of the flat land available. I don’t see enough room for a highway. What do they propose–the busnesses ceding some of their land for improved access?
    There are a lot of businesses, shops, yards, etc. What is wrong with accessing them from the present Hwy. 212?

    Let’s spend money on something more generally beneficial. For example, park and ride lots are going to be obsolete; increasing density, and land scarcity, is going to require parking structures, instead. If we are closely observing Vancouver, BC as an example that should be utterly clear. Up there, even places analogous to Clackamas TC would have a dozen towers. Damascus would have multilevel condos and perhaps some highrises.

    By the way, with the increasing population for No. Clackamas County an additional Willamette River Crossing will be needed. I know there are people, within about a half square mile area who would kick and scream and threaten. There are about fifty times as many people who would applaud the improvement. METRO’s 1999 study was rather insufficient. We need to realize–I’m sure many do–that we have entered a time of complicated and stressful decisions, as this area embarks on a significant growth period. If these challenges are thoughfully handled we can avoid redoing them (at great expense) in ten or fifteen years.

  17. It is interesting that Justin thinks trucking produces benefits but
    commuting is “extraneous.” I wonder what gives him the authority to
    decide whether someone else’s trip is beneficial or extraneous.

    The data I have examined do not support the notion of “induced
    demand” (see ). But even if induced
    demand were real, why is that a problem? What business would not love
    the idea that any investment it makes in infrastructure leads to more
    business? Only the government would think it should curtail
    investment and create congestion in order to reduce demand.

    Every automobile you see on the road has someone in it going
    somewhere that is important to them. That is more than you can say
    for every transit vehicle.

  18. Randal wrote: “Every automobile you see on the road has someone in it going
    somewhere that is important to them. That is more than you can say
    for every transit vehicle.”

    I just love the sweeping generalizations you make… so easy to poke holes in. :-)

    Are you saying transit riders are not going somewhere important to them? If so, it sounds like an elitist statement.

    If you are trying to point out that transit vehicles are empty some of the time, and therefore you don’t see people in them, well, I see LOTS of empty automobiles on the road. It’s called parking… Parking is a necessary component of automobile use and is not indicative of under-utilization, just a thing that goes along with the system. Occasional empty transit vehicles are likewise a necessary component of transit operation, especially on routes with highly directional peak demand.

    – Bob R.

  19. Hello all, I just ran across this website after googling “Sunrise Corridor”. I live in the Clackamas area and suffer from congestion. I plan my trips to avoid peak am/pm conditions. My concern is that calling US 26 a corridor ranking high for “statewide freight mobility” over Mt. Hood is reaching a bit. We already have an East-west freight corridor between Portland and points east via I-84 (which also has all the rail). Forget tolling here in Oregon unless it is a needed bridge (like over the Columbia River or Willamette River, where people value their time–so they don’t have to go around). Freeway tolling is dead in Oregon. The public will not put up for it, unlike the midwest or east coast.

    As for building a six lane freeway from I-205 to Damascus, we are a very wasteful society. The jobs/employment opportunities staring us in the face are located around the existing regional center. Trust me, global corporations will realize that their big box developments on either side of I-205 are not economically viable and there are greater profits to cull from mixed use development (including residential). Check out the density of our single story office and retail developments along the SE 82nd Avenue corridor and our single use focused Clackamas Town Center. From about Johnson Creek Blvd south to the Milwaukie Expressway there are about 4,000 acres of under-developed property (the 82nd-I-205 “corridor”). There is only a handful of high quality intensive industries. Look at the industrial “intensity” of the present Industrial Sanctuary on the east side of I-205….single story buildings, many metal and a lot of outside storage.

    Rather than subsidizing the industry with a new freeway, let the marketplace realize the value of the the existing “centers” of employment and business. Demand will increase and property owners/investors will realize an ability to effect urban infill. This is where Metro has failed us considerably over the last 8 years. However, now the update to the RTP really begs the question of how to pay for all these grandios highway projects. Some of our Metro Councilors are asking the right question. If we can’t pay for these irrational exuberant roads in the foreseeable future, what are we doing in the meantime. Some county commissioners want to think big. Dream on. Money talks.

    As to the existing congestion in the Clackamas area (which is the excuse for building a new freeway, along with our new city of 80,000–whose ultimate build out projection seems to shrink every year)–peal off the layer of the Milwaukie Expressway and I-205 and you will see that the area sorely lacks “connectivity”. It is fraught with a fragmented grid system, coupled with some radial networks. We are using expressways and freeways as local streets.

    One of my other picky issues is why not enhance the capacity of the McLoughlin corridor to absorb a bit more peak hour congestion. Why can’t (for example) the state and region spend money to bridge the Holgate/McLoughlin intersection….it doesn’t have to be a freeway, but a 35 mph bridge. This would eliminate an unnecessary traffic stop and help the blue collar commuters (now becoming more white collar drivers). Same for SE 11th or 13th. If we can’t improve some modest efficiencies in our existing urban fabric, why add more headache….this is where our MTIP funds should be focused. Another one is elimination of the rail conflict with street crossings in Milwaukie and Clackamas….this r/r is our intrastate lifeblood…its time to protect it from congestion and increase safety hazard. And no, we don’t need to build the bridges like freeways.

  20. Pat, the original author of this post is now your newest County Commissioner, and I suspect she will help lead some different thinking about livability and transportation in your County.

  21. some of these comments from car-haters are classic — if you remove freeways, people will learn how to move around without cars.

    Only problem is: 99% of us drive or use the bus system — you 1% are trying to screw everybody.

    Even the people who bike to work — want to have a quick trip to mt hood to hike and ski.

    Why do you ‘environmentalists’ who never leave the inner city hate the environmentalists who want to experience nature?

    • You should visit Vancouver, BC some time. You don’t need freeways in the middle of your city to have a functioning city.

      And yes, removing freeways will increase congestion and result in fewer people driving. More will take the bus, walk, or bike. This is coming from an “environmentalist” that rides his bike to work and drives up to the mountain to ski, backpack, and experience nature in other ways. I want a balanced transportation system. One where I can ride my bike around the city safely and drive when I need to carry large loads or get out of the city. Right now, it is very easy to drive, but not so easy to ride in all parts of the city. Spending billions on new freeways is the wrong direction.

      Oh, and here are the current modal breakdowns for Portland. We are not the 1%:

      Drive alone: 68%
      Transit: 13%
      Bicycle: 7%
      Walk: 5%

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