Hillsboro mayor trying to resurrect corpse of Westside Bypass

In an e-mail missive sent out to many decision-makers in Washington County, Hillsboro mayor Jerry Willey is proposing legislative language to require ODOT to conduct a study on a “Westside Corridor”–which is defined as a

new, alternative state highway corridor route, and associated, supporting state and regional highway projects, west of Oregon Route 217 running north and south through Washington County and portions of Multnomah and Clackamas Counties and connecting to US Interstate Highway 5 at its north terminus approximately at Highway 30 and at its south terminus near the City of Wilsonville.

The e-mail contains numerous things: A memo to various government officials, a white paper in support of the project, and the aforementioned proposed language.

Within the white paper, a rather rough map describes the corridor as starting in Wilsonville, wrapping around the west side of Sherwood, up to Scholls, and then north to Hillsboro following the rough path of OR219, and then across the West Hills south of Cornelius Pass (but north of Germantown Road), intersecting US 30 south of Sauvie Island, crossing the Willamette into the North Portland industrial area somewhere south of Kelly Point Park, and then running along Marine Drive right up to the Expo Center, ending at I-5. The proposed routing, for much of its track, lies well outside the current Urban Growth Boundary for the Portland metropolitan area; the major exception is when it passes through Hillsboro. Obviously, this alignment, which the white paper at least once refers to as a “parkway”, could stand some refinement…

I guess no bad idea is ever truly dead.

That said, it appears that Mayor Willey apparently hasn’t read (or seen) the recent presentation from ODOT, which outlines the current funding realities for the agency. ODOT cannot cobble together funding for the CRC, or its own maintenance backlog–let alone numerous other projects in the pipe, with completed EIS’s waiting to go, such as the full build-out of the Pinot-Casino Highway or the Sunrise Corridor; projects that are (whatever their drawbacks) probably better-thought-out than this idea.

But regardless, it’s probably wise to have some silver bullets and garlic handy.

36 responses to “Hillsboro mayor trying to resurrect corpse of Westside Bypass”

  1. My only complaint would be that it doesn’t follow a third crossing. Linking it to I-5 south of the CRC just assumes the CRC can handle the extra traffic.

  2. I agree with Dave H, aside from trying to pull the western bypass back to the CRC bridge, getting I-5 out of the center of Portland sounds like a good idea.

    Is it a bad idea from a traffic point of view? Is it a bad idea because it would construct new roadway through farmland in Hillsboro, or are we conflating “bad” with “untenable” because the money for such a project will probably never be available?

  3. (Had trouble posting comments on this particular thread before, so I’m giving it another shot…)

    If the funding were to ever become available, I could conceivably support some sort of Westside Bypass; the northernmost segment is very similar to something I proposed on this blog with the upgraded Columbia Corridor a couple of months ago. And this latest bypass proposal does thankfully seem to avoid cutting through Forest Park and Sauvie Island.

    That said, I’d only support this idea with the caveat that the bypass retain its purpose of reducing congestion and keeping freight/commuters/recreational travelers moving, and not become a catalyst for more development along its ROW. Indeed, I’m hard-pressed to come up with an example of a bypass/ring road that hasn’t become a magnet for more congestion; one possibility is the 101 bypass of Cannon Beach which is a fast “Super 2” with grade-separated interchanges and very little development. This seems to be the exception, however… I-205 has become as congested as I-5 (as is I-405 in Seattle), and I understand Belt Line Hwy in Eugene is having its own issues.

  4. Yes, new beltways rarely solve anything, and usually make everything worse. They attract industrial and residential development around them and eventually become just as congested as before. At least we have a fairly strong UGB here, so it is not quite as likely, but in reality it will be used as an excuse to expand the UGB to surround it in the future. I could maybe support a plan that created a freight-optimized route going north from Hillsboro and connecting with Hwy 30 bypass, but only if it was done very carefully and was not actually a freeway. It would be really cool to have freight routes that actually levied a toll on non-freight users! I could also support improvements to Hwy 217 that bring it up to freeway standards.

  5. Which freight? Intell sends it stuff to PDX for export via air, not to any maritime dock. Portland exports 1% of westcoast containers. Wheat, our biggest volume marine export, comes in by rail and barge. “Freight” is now the stalking horse for more roadway capacity, but in the end its just more pavement for auto bound commuters.

  6. Lenny,

    Bravo! You are exactly correct. “Port”land is an anachronism. It should be “Chip”land or “Trainers”ville. Port? Only as an excuse to kill hardwoods.

  7. I could also support improvements to Hwy 217 that bring it up to freeway standards.

    How is 217 not meeting freeway standards?

  8. Regarding “Portland”, the city was named after Portland, ME; which was named after the Isle of Portland off the coast of Great Britain. The name may have once been a compound of “port” and “land”; but such usage long predates the establishment of Our Fair City.

    Regarding OR217; it is a freeway (save for the remaining traffic lights on the southern end, at the interchange with I-5); but its interchange spacing is well below “modern design standards”. Of course, modern design standards are meant to allow free-flowing truck traffic at 55MPH or faster; an excellent interim solution for 217 would be lower speed limits. They can rename it a “parkway” to get the point across. :)

  9. Hillsboro is in an interesting situation. It is currently attracting many thousands of new jobs but getting from here to anywhere else is a real challenge, because much of the transportation infrastructure, MAX excluded, hasn’t been kept up with the demand. It is really putting a damper on the ability of this region to sell itself to the rest of the world.

    People in Portland may forget that Hillsboro isn’t a suburb. It is a proper city with its own agenda that happened to get munged together with Portland as the suburbs grew to meet it. Why should our ability to leave here be yoked to Portland? Why not have our own connections to Vancouver and Wilsonville?

    • You’re welcome to create a connection to Wilsonville if you can get Metro’s agreement. But please don’t try to link to Clark County. It would ruin the rural parts here.

      We don’t have the strict land use rules you do in Oregon, and our County government is in open defiance of what restrictions we do have. The river is the only thing keeping northern Clark County from turning into a giant version of Hazel Dell.

  10. The Oregonian (and its affiliated paper, the Hillsboro Argus) is beating the drum a bit more.

    To make things a bit interesting, a commonly-proposed routing for the bypass (between Tualatin and Sherwood, then north along Roy Rogers Road, then using Tile Flat Road or Clark Hill Road just west of Cooper Mountain, then north into Hillsboro)–now has llots of urban fabric currently present, or coming, both in the South Cooper Mountain area, and the western side of Bull Mountain. And then there’s the South Hillsboro UGB expansion area. Back when the Westside Bypass was built, much (more) of this route was rural.

  11. Discussions of highway wishes never mention the uncomfortable fact that traffic levels have peaked (vehicle miles traveled) and Oregon’s main fuel supply (Alaska Pipeline) is in terminal decline.

    Multnomah and Washington Counties had Peak VMT in 2002, Clackamas peaked in 2006.

    Oregon as a whole also peaked in 2002.

    The Alaska Pipeline, which powers the motors of Oregon, peaked in 1988 and has dropped three fourths since. It’s now just above “low flow” shutdown levels.

    details at http://www.peaktraffic.org

    • Maybe you ought to drive on 217 before you make those comments. Or take a look at the growth out on the west side. Whatever data points you are looking at hardly refect reality.

      • The data points are from ODOT’s website:


        The link I included had the link to ODOT.

        Peak Traffic doesn’t mean No Traffic, but traffic levels aren’t going up any more.

        Federal law requires planning ahead two decades when plotting federal aid highways. It’s anyone’s guess how much energy there will be in 2035, but it will clearly be much less than we enjoy today. The Alaska Pipeline will likely be defunct before then as most of what was discovered in north Alaska has already been extracted and burned.

        And yes, I’ve driven on 217.


        • With all the newly annexed land in Tigard, Beaverton and Hillsboro, expect traffic on the west side to get much worse regardless of what the pencil pushers at ODOT have in their report.

          • They’re not pencil pushers, they actually are engineers who track the details.

            And you missed the point about the energy that runs all of the motors – when the Alaska Pipeline finally gives out due to geological depletion, I doubt there will be much traffic to worry about. I remember the gas lines of 1973, but those were temporary.

            Oregon doesn’t have any oil, we have the wrong geology for that.

            ODOT cannot even fund the highways they’ve already approved (Newberg Dundee and Sunrise bypasses). Perhaps you could persuade Phil Knight to part with a few of his billions to pay for a West Side Bypass Boondoggle.

            • No one ever thought oil would ever go below $100 a barrel yet it’s near $60 today.

              Let’s be honest, you would rip out all of our freeways today. That’s what you are getting at. You’re anti-car and would prefer everyone live in the city and it bothers you that most Portland area residents live in the suburbs and drive cars.

            • Everybody,

              “Peak driving” does not mean that total vehicles miles traveled will necessarily drop. It means that miles driven per time period PER VEHICLE is dropping. If population gain in a particular geopolitical subdivision is at a greater rate than VMT per vehicle decline, traffic in that particular subdivision will increase.

              IOW, you can both be right at the same time.

              And so far as the availability of gasoline for the Northwest, the oil trains are an increasing proportion of the feedstock to Cherry Point and Anacortes. It’s not as cheap as a pipeline, but there will be oil for our Northwest refineries if there’s oil for anywhere. We will not differentially suffer a lack of it, except intermittently of course from refinery mishaps of course. We typically of course pay quite a bit more for it than folks in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma,

  12. 1. Increasing oscillation of oil prices has long been predicted as an indicator of Peak Oil. We’re there. Enjoy the $60 / barrel oil while it stays there. A decade ago people would be outraged at $2.50 / gallon, now they’re delighted. But the real issue is what happens as the fields continue to decline. It looks like deflation is part of what is unfolding.

    2. I don’t want everyone to live in cities, not at all. I think suburbs are fine as long as people tear out their lawns and grow food, the typical suburban tract house has enough land for most families to grow their own vegetables.

    3. Highway bridges will be useful after the oil is gone, at least those that cross rivers.

  13. “the oil trains are an increasing proportion of the feedstock to Cherry Point and Anacortes”

    Indeed, but they cannot replace the boats from Alaska – and as the boats from Alaska go away there will be increased competition for the oil trains and what they carry. North Dakota is now about a million barrels a day (where the oil trains come from) but this is probably near the peak of ND’s production from fracking due to geological limits. Alaska was about two million barrels a day at its peak in 1988, now it’s down to about a half million a day.

    We’re past peak driving.

    The real issue is going to be food.

  14. “1. Increasing oscillation of oil prices has long been predicted as an indicator of Peak Oil.”

    Oooh, Mark. There are price points at which new exploration is stimulated, and others at which it falls off.

    “3. Highway bridges will be useful after the oil is gone, at least those that cross rivers.”

    Which can include nearly any land based mode.

    “as the boats from Alaska go away there will be increased competition for the oil trains and what they carry. ”

    And there are also a lot of untapped reserves still in Alaska—and in other parts of the world, too. I’m not saying that I necessarily favor unlimited fossil fuel consumption—but I don’t see a lot of wholesale transition away from road use and private vehicle use, either. The weather makes a difference, too. Check the weather forecast, before engaging in a lot of transportation planning.

    • The Alaska Pipeline has pumped about 16 and a half billion barrels since 1977.

      The “NPR” zone in northwest Alaska was originally estimated at 10 billion barrels (untapped), the most recent official estimate is under a billion.

      The “ANWR” zone in northeast Alaska has a range of estimates, a couple billion perhaps. Even if the largest, least likely estimate is correct it’s still much less than what’s already been drilled.

      Oregon does not have any oil, we have the wrong geology for that.

      • If we’re running out of oil as much as you’re stating then oil prices would sky rocket. But they are dropping instead. Something in the so-called free market is not adding up.

        • It’s been a long, long time since the alleged free market has determined the price of oil.

          A few factors in the recent drop:

          – economic warfare with Russia
          – the desire of the Saudi welfare state to stop fracking in the US (since fracking requires very high prices to make a profit)
          – economic slump diminishing the demand for oil and things made with oil (ie. everything)
          – increasing oscillation for oil prices was long predicted for the peak – see the Department of Energy’s 2005 “Hirsch Report” for one example.

          The “lower” price today is still higher than the price a decade ago. It’s a steadily increasing climb, but oscillating.

          The cheap, easy oil is now being replaced by more expensive, difficult oil. It’s why Texas (the most famous US state for oil) has most of its oil now from fracking or offshore drilling, and neither has brought Texas levels back to the 1972 peak. The days of sticking a pipe in the ground and getting a gusher are long gone.

          Again, there is no oil in Oregon or Washington, drivers here are at the mercy of oil suppliers elsewhere. Enjoy it while it lasts.

          • Mark,

            We are no more “at the mercy of oil suppliers elsewhere” than any other location without local oil. If we generate enough value added from out knowledge industries we will have the income sufficient to purchase oil from those places which have a surplus.

            Yes, eventually even technology will no longer keep it flowing; the volume of the “drillable” crust of the Earth is finite and only a portion of it yields anything. We certainly need to transition to renewable resources as rapidly as we can, the devil take the hindmost on the cost of doing so.

            But we had the same geological lack of oil in 1973 and 1979 before the Alaska source began volume production and suffered less than some areas of the country which are producers. Oil is not infinitely valuable, and thus cannot become infinitely costly. As long as we have products the rest of the world wants and cannot get from another source more cheaply (apples, software and increasingly the easy availability of stuff produced everywhere), we’ll do just fine in the bidding war for oil.

            The truth is that if your logic were true, then Oklahoma and Louisiana would be wealthy places since they “produce their own oil”, instead of the outhouses they are.

            • Some people in Oklahoma and Louisiana are very wealthy, but it’s not well distributed.

              There are also timber barons in Cascadia who are wealthy, but timber towns are poor.

              In 1973 and 1979 oil production / extraction was still on the upslope. Now it’s peaked and the transition to difficult oil is underway.

              The shift to “renewable” resources is also a shift to a smaller economy, since living on our solar budget won’t generate as much as digging up a hundred million years worth of energy storage. We’re also using up renewable resources such as topsoil, fisheries, forests — using them faster than they naturally regenerate.

              Fossil fuel was a one time gift and we’re not thinking about how to carefully use what’s left. More bypasses will look silly to your grandchildren.

            • Please don’t put me in the autoista camp. I’m not, and if you had read my post carefully you would have seen that I said that we need to transition to renewable sources of energy.

              I certainly agree that a “Northwest Passage” road is just an excuse to build more McMansions in exurban Clark County. There’s no “freight” need for it, because the products of Washington County are almost entirely intellectual, not physical.

  15. “More bypasses will look silly to your grandchildren.”

    Some of them might. We need to complete our metropolitan ring road with its overlooked NW Portland component, thus solving the Gordian Knot of traffic problems that we have now, due to the mounting traffic between SW Washington and the Silicon Forest which now uses mostly one route—I-5.

    Then our children and grandchildren will thank us for solving that issue, while it was easy to do so. As they scoot around—-protected from the rain and wind—in their electrified or hydrogen powered vehicles.

  16. Another factor to take into consideration in all of this stratospheric discussion of transportation planning is the age demographic. First, people will live many more years after reaching retirement age than previously. And I doubt that baby-boomers and later generations will be willing to escort themselves into care facilities, if they don’t have to. And they won’t have to since medical science will be ever more able to fix the problems that incapacitate people now. That means a lot more people who want to go places other than their place of work, i.e. travel for enjoyment. So that skews demographics if you are trying to incorporate such data into municipal transit planning.

    Second, both housing and industrial construction generally require the workforce to be able to get to various worksites, often at odd hours, too. Exception might be office personnel in the big construction corporations. Nearly all tradespeople drive.

    Third, the expanded housing and business development also leads to businesspeople who need to get somewhere in a hurry. Sure, more issues will be solved by technological inventions, but there will still be a lot of business conducted in person.

    Fourth, more people living in the area means more vacation and leisure travel. Are they gonna go Greyhound? I’ve suggested a state funded intrastate bus system, but nobody seems to want to take up this mundane issue.

    Fifth, people’s bodies are not going to get stronger, even as lifespans increase. Repetitive motion and collision injuries from things like cycling will still affect people at about the same age. So even if bicycling continues its upward trend, that trend will be weighed down by a larger group of people who had to give it up, or at least give up strenuous regular commuting.

    So all of these reasons point to at least some more investment in our highway infrastructure, while not on the scale of the existing interstate system. And because of the continued existence of the Clark County–Washington County axis, completion of our metropolitan ring road, with some kind of interstate connection through NW Portland, is something that should be done sooner, rather than later when population infill makes it a lot harder. I’ve also made some suggestions on how to reorient entrance-exit traffic within the Portland core, which would free up some really prime land for construction. But ODOT functions at its own timing, so they aren’t addressing these issues just yet.

    So, given the rapid population and employment increase in the metropolitan area I don’t think that bicycling nor mass transit AS WE NOW HAVE PLANNED is going to address all of the needs.

    • Right, Ron. All of us retired Boomers in Clark County are going to be traveling to Washington County frequently. Why, we might even go EVERY DAY in hommage to our commuting days!

      We are absolutely gonna demand that the Northwest Pasage be built, right away now so we don’t die before we get to use it. We’ll get right on it, Bucko!

      • I thought it was clear that I was not referring to travel for employment. So how DO you go places? From my POV (which happens to be directly on the Springwater Trail) the 30 degree temps and other winter weather have really “dampened” the “active transportation” enthusiasts. Do you stay inside all winter?

        Besides, I know that one thing Clark County people seem to agree upon—–more tax free shopping in Oregon! They normally get here via a bridge.

        “I certainly agree that a “Northwest Passage” road is just an excuse to build more McMansions in exurban Clark County. There’s no “freight” need for it, because the products of Washington County are almost entirely intellectual, not physical.”

        1. There will probably be a lot of smaller, multifamily units, capitalizing on views. I guess there finally is going to be a tall building in the Couv waterfront area at last. But, hey, the McMansions, even in the Couv, have proven to be a good investment. You do support the middle class getting ahead? Or are they supposed to live all their lives in micro apartments?
        2. Why are there so many trucks tied up on I-5? Are they all coming through from points south on I-5? When I have had a good vantage point to see the confluence, there is more afternoon traffic coming from I-405 than I-5.
        3. The Silicon Forest has mostly been geared to manufacturing, rather than engineering. and besides a big expansion of Intel, there will also be one of NIKE, out there. And then there are all of the spinoff industries. But…I’m all for interstate freight traffic to be on rails. So, when are we going to get behind that issue…instead of all the misleading doggerel being passed off as planning? But even if all the new employment were strictly white collar, it still would be several miles shorter and much more direct from the Couv via a NW passage.

        You know what kills mass transit? Time-wasting transfers. And being stuck in road jams because of shortsighted bureaucrats. I think another things that kills it for buses, is that they never have a comfortable feel….unlike things like sightseeing buses. Perhaps on express buses serving an “exurban area” to a big employment center, maybe they could make them more plush….and less bus-sy. Just a thought. Maybe comfortable seats and polished wood and chrome inside?

        • I certainly agree with your observation about making commuter buses more pleasant. We have those in Clark County — they even have overhead racks and reading lights. Aunt Patty got them for us in the ARRA. Alas, she has been “demoted”.

          So far as my supposedly missing that you were not talking about commuting, I’d wager they every other reader of the blog understood that I was calling BS on your assertion that the random sort of trips that retired people take will be in any way facilitated by a “Northwest Passage” roadway. Itwould be way out of the way to go to Washington Square and even more so going to Bridgeport. Yes, Tanasbourne would be right along the way, but there’s nothing there that isn’t somewhere closer to the river. It isn’t very high end.

          You’re right about more “traffic” traveling between 26 and I-5 North via I-405than through on I-5. But that’s NOT true for truck traffic. Almost all the truck traffic on 26 is construction related, and that does not come from Vancouver. In any case it’s. Small minority of total traffic on 26 in the rush hours, which is the ONLY time your dream road would have ANY traffic to speak of.

  17. Volume of use at different times? I think a study would show that. The silicon forest businesses do have other shifts,too; not just days. Almost all the truck traffic on US 26 is construction related ? Now I would like to see some figures on THAT.

    • Ron,

      OK, I admit that saying “almost all” overstated my case. There are plenty of Kroger, Safeway and Wal-Mart distribution trucks, and ones for other retailers of all kinds.

      But with the exception of runs from UNFI they aren’t coming from Clark County. Nike makes NOTHING on its campus except designs and decisions. Those “things” require no eighteen wheelers for distribution.

      Similarly, what does Intel make in Hillsboro that requires distribution by anything other than fiber optics? Chips? Yes; possibly a couple containers full per day, if that.

      Maybe there is sufficient “heavy” industry in Hillsboro to justify the southern link to I-5, but output headed to Seattle would be a tiny fraction of the total, most of which would be headed to California.

      Again, the only traffic your dream road would attract is commuters between Clark County and the Tech Corridor. Drivers drawn to the sprawl created by the corrupt Building Industry of Washington controlled government of Clark County.

  18. ” Drivers drawn to the sprawl created by the corrupt Building Industry of Washington controlled government of Clark County.”

    Which is why I think the 192nd Bridge is pretty much a dumb idea. There really is not that much room in Rockwood for “development” cuz once you get to Powell Bv. you run into hills. And I have heard at least one person in Washington say that they don’t want a bridge bringing Oregon riff raff to Camas. And I think that FIGG engineering has nothing to lose in giving out a “free” proposal, since they are probably considered a minority owned company and I bet they have received tons of lucrative highway contracts. I’ve been critical of their design, also, because it looks like it would take a lot of additional material to render their separated -level walkways. However, I would favor a Camas-Troutdale bridge, and believe that one could be built from the same mass produced components required for a Western Arterial route, probably for a low additional cost.. Any shortcuts across the Columbia will also facilitate mass transit and cycling. The 10,000 ft long 192nd proposal is not exactly a ‘short’ cut.

    Now, as far as trucks from Silicon Forest to Washington via I- 405 and the Fremont Bridge; Off the top of my head, I don’t really know! I know that overall traffic volume at afternoon times is greater, and all of this adds up to a horrible jam on I-5, which will get worse with upcoming development. Maybe someone who uses this route frequently could shed some light. A metropolitan ring road is simply basic urban planning practice and with Portland growth projections completion of ours would be something which would be inevitable anyway: and the sooner it is done the sooner the urgency for an uber-expensive I-5 project, whatever form it would take, can go away. Seismic upgrade of the old bridges is eminently feasible; I’m convinced the heads at UC Berkeley can figure out a solution.

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