Possibilities for jurisdictional transfers of highways

In a recent article on 82nd Avenue, the subject of jurisdictional transfers came up. Many streets and highways in the Portland area are managed and operated by ODOT, and in some cases this is inappropriate. (There are several other locally-managed roads for which ODOT ownership might be more appropriate). This article takes a look at some possibilities.

First, a few preliminaries. Unlike many states, which have a single numbering system for their state highways (posted route numbers); the state of Oregon has two numbering systems.

  • Route numbers are the numbers posted on highway shields. Three types exist in Oregon (at the state level; some counties and the US Forest Service also assign numeric route numbers to their roads; these are not relevant to this article)–Interstate highways (I-5, I-84), US Highways (US26, US101), and Oregon highways (OR217, OR99E). While the first two are planned according to nationwide strategies and assigned numbers by various federal agencies, the actual pavement is owned and maintained by ODOT.
  • ODOT Highway numbers. These are rarely noticed by motorists (they are part of the small print on some mile markers). All ODOT-maintained roads are assigned an ODOT highway number, which is generally only used internally, and not published prominently on signs or on maps. (A few exceptions exist). The ODOT highway numbers are frequently different than the route numbers, though in some cases they are the same.

An important point: Many roads which are assigned route numbers are NOT ODOT-maintained highways, and there are a few ODOT highways without visible route numbers. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway is signed OR10, but the portions of it in Multnomah County are no longer maintained by the state. On the other hand, Hall Boulevard and Boones Ferry Road south of Washington Square down to Wilsonville, are actually a state highway (#141) even though you won’t see any route signs for this. In the past ten years, ODOT has been assigning route numbers to unsigned state highways at the direction of the Legislature; a local example of this occurring is the Wilsonville-Hubbard Highway, which used to be unsigned and is now OR-551.

With that in mind, when it is suggested below that a highway is transferred from ODOT to local jurisdiction, it is not being proposed that the route number be dropped; these are useful for wayfinding. That said, many obsolete former highways have lost their route numbers as they transformed into local streets. Borland Road and Willamette Drive between Tualatin and West Linn used to be part of OR212, but the road was transferred to Clackamas County and the designation dropped after the construction of I-205 made it obsolete as a highway.

In general, it is my belief that the following types of roads should be kept (or placed) in ODOT jurisdiction:

  • Freeways and expressways
  • Other highways, particularly of regional importance.
  • Important freight corridors

Roads that function primarily as local arterials, in general, should be under local jurisdiction. A particular class of route that I believe should be transferred is highways obsoleted by freeways. Borland Road, Sandy Boulevard, and Interstate Avenue are examples of such which have already been converted to local jurisdiction and now function as local arterials. However, many other freeway-adjacent highways still are highways.

With that in mind…

Roads to transfer to local jurisdiction.

In no particular order…

  • Hall/Boones Ferry. As mentioned above, SW Boones Ferry between Wilsonville and Durham, and SW Hall through Tigard, ending at Progress, is technically a state highway. Out of all the freeway-adjacent highways, this is by far the most anachronistic, as it doesn’t function as a highway at all. There is no advantage to keeping this route on ODOT’s rolls.
  • Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. As noted above, this is only a state highway between OR217 and the Portland city limits, at which point it becomes a city street. The rest of OR10 east of OR217 should likewise be transferred off the state rolls, with Washington County the likely recipient. The fact that the Portland part was already turned over undermines the rationale for the rest of it.
  • Scholls Ferry Road. I’m referring to the segment between Progress and Raleigh Hills, with is generally a 2-3 lane arterial through residential neighborhoods. OR210 west of Progress should remain a state highway, as it serves much regional and freight traffic. It’s worth noting that the stretch of Scholls Ferry between Raleigh Hills and Sylvan once also was a state highway, but was abandoned long ago.
  • Barbur Boulevard. Here’s the big one–the entire stretch of Barbur Boulevard from downtown to the Tigard interchange just west of PCC-Sylvania. South of there, where OR99W gets called the “Pacific Highway”, ODOT maintenance should remain in force; but north of there Barbur lies within close proximity to I-5, but still is expected to function as a highway.
  • SE 82nd Avenue. Here’s another example of a former highway being obsoleted by a nearby freeway. Barbur still is built, kinda, to highway design standards. 82nd, OTOH, has much higher density along it, and functions as a highway not at all, with I-205 running ten blocks or so to the east. Other than short snippets near the airport and around the OR224 interchange, 82nd should become a city street.
  • MLK and Grand. This last one is probably the most controversial on the list, as OR99E still functions significantly as a highway–but the stretch downtown and through Northeast Portland is also obsoleted by a nearby freeway–in this case, I-5. McLoughlin Boulevard should remain in the state system, and the northernmost stretch of MLK north of Columbia should remain as state highways, but between the Ross Island Bridge and Columbia, MLK and Grand should be permitted to function as city streets.

Roads to ADD to the state highway system.

There are a few streets which might be useful additions to the state highway system, given their regional and/or freight importance. If nothing else, these could be part of jurisdictional swaps, where the state and various localities exchanges roadways with each other. Among these.

  • Edy Road/Tualatin Sherwood Road. This road, which connects OR99W in the Six Corners area of Sherwood to Interstate 5, is a major corridor for freight traffic, and a popular alternative to 99W for inbound traffic. The idea of turning this into a state highway might be obsoleted by the proposed I5-99W Connector project, but that project has been in limbo for three years now, as Clackamas County strenuously wants to avoid any spillover traffic; making TSH a state highway might be a fallback position.
  • Roy Rogers Road. Continuing north from Six Corners, Roy Rogers Road is a high-speed, two-lane highway that connects Sherwood with South Beaverton, ending at Scholls Ferry Road just west of Progress Ridge. Of course, the northern terminus of this route is part of the South Cooper Mountain UGB expansion area (and a smaller UGB expansion southwest of Bull Mountain is also adjacent to Roy Rogers Road), so that needs to be taken into effect.
  • Cornelius Pass Road. I’m speaking mainly of the stretch between US30 and US26, possibly extending as far south as Cornell; but this part of Cornelius Pass also functions as a major regional freight route. South of Cornell, Cornelius Pass serves as a local arterial, which would not be an appropriate highway.

One more realignment

Dan w did a guest post on this, but the current routing of US30 Bypass along N Lombard, is a big mess. For one thing, it’s questionable whether or not US30 needs a bypass in the first place–this is a historical relic from the time when the US30 mainline was Sandy-Burnside-18th/19th-Vaughn-St. Helens Road. With the current routing via the Banfield Freeway, the Fremont Bridge, and NW Yeon, there’s no need for a “bypass”–let alone one that travels on 3-lane surface streets through residential neighborhoods.

For most of the stretch of Killingsworth/Lombard, the obvious thing is to shift the highway designation to Columbia Boulevard, which is a designated freight route. Doing so might permit transit improvements to the 72 and 75, if nothing else. The problem is, is that there really isn’t any good connection between the Saint Johns Bridge and Columbia Boulevard, which is a big reason that additional crossings of the Willamette in North Portland are often proposed.

But regardless of that, transferring Lombard/Killingsworth to local jurisdiction, and making Columbia a state highway, at least out to Portland Road, makes some sense.

Bonus trivia: Did you know that Portland Road between Columbia and Marine, as well as Marine Drive east of their to I-5, is also a state highway? It’s known by ODOT as the “Swift Highway”, and is designated as OR120. Given that this route is mostly useless, it’s one that ODOT has declined to post route markers for, but Google Maps tells all…

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