Archive | Highways

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.

Appeal to be filed against Pinot-Casino Highway

It appears that the Pinot-Casino Highway (sometimes known as the Newberg-Dundee Bypass, which broke ground last week, although construction does not start until next year) has attracted legal opposition opposing the construction–albeit from an unusual place.

Phase 1 of the project (which will likely be signed as an extension of OR18) runs from an intersection with OR219 south of of Newberg, near Springbok and Wilsonville Roads, to an intersection with OR99W just west of Dundee (you can see a map of phase 1 here). The “full” project calls for a four-lane freewayexpressway (ODOT doesn’t like to call their divided limited-access highways “freeways”, for some reason) from the bottom of Rex Hill (northeast of Newberg) to the present intersection of OR18 and OR99W just north of Dayton; but there’s not enough money to build that, so a “Phase 1” project, with the truncated alignment, was approved as part of the 2009 Jobs and Transportation (JTA) Act, in which various highway-projects were goosed with stimulus money.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, a local builder named Mart Storm, suggests that the truncated alignment is useless, and that a longer alignment is necessary to relieve congestion in the Newberg/Dundee corridor. Such “independent utility” arguments have been successfully used before to kill off projects with stunted first phases (the West Eugene Parkway is a recent local example)–if a project is broken into phases, federal law requires that the first phase have “independent utility”–in other words, be useful as a standalone project. The purpose of this is to prevent back-loading of the useful parts of a project into subsequent phases, essentially forcing them to be built. (If phase 2 turns out to be useless or not cost-effective, it can simply not be built).

Typically, “independently utility” arguments are often deployed by environmentalists or others looking to kill a project outright.

Looking at Phase 1 of this project–it appears that Mr. Storm has a point–except he’s arging at the wrong end of the project. Storm owns property near Fulquartz Landing Road that would be condemned in order to build the full project (producing a windfall for him), but which is not necessary for the first phase–he is claiming that the failure to run to Fulquartz Landing (a half-mile further south) is “unacceptable”. Storm insists that he is only looking out for the good motorists and residents of the Newberg-Dundee area, and not his own pocketbook. While I’m not a civil engineer, the difference between the Fulquartz Landing terminus and the planned terminus at Niederberger Road is (as far as I can tell) not much. He might have a better argument were the other alternative a full extension to McDougal Junction (the current eastern end of OR18), where ODOT ultimately plans to build a full interchange keeping OR18 and OR99W traffic flows separate.

Mr Storm’s concerns notwithstanding the real problem with Phase 1 is at the other end. The planned eastern terminus of the bypass at OR219, without any connection back to OR99W, will force tons of traffic onto Springbok Road, a local street in Newberg. Either that, or onto Wilsonville Road (and thence to I-5 in Wilsonville), which ought to annoy Clackamas County greatly. As Phase 1 includes no intersections or interchanges other than the termini, for Portland traffic to use the bypass at all, they will have to find some way to get between the eastern terminus and 99W. The project does include some improvements to Springbok Road (which is currently a narrow two-lane collector), but nothing that will enable it to handle high volumes of freight traffic, not to mention the throng of Portlanders looking to go wine-tasting, gambling, or beachcombing, that makes traffic on OR99W so miserable in the first place.

This is the sort of situation that the independent utility requirement is designed to avoid–a partially completed project making things worse rather than not better, and creating a situation where completion of Phase 2 becomes a necessity rather than an option for the future.

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…

Guest Post: Proposal for Upgraded Columbia Corridor/Bypass 30 Reroute

Another guest post by frequent reader and commenter dan w. We wish to remind readers that we are happy to run guest posts–simply email submissions to one of the moderators–ES.

Serving the Rivergate Industrial District, Portland Airport and a plethora of other
industrial/employment centers, the Columbia Corridor–aka Bypass 30 and its parallel routes–is a vital freight and commuter corridor but isn’t always on the collective radar. Indeed, this study dating back to pre-Y2K days is one of the few documents I could find that focus on this corridor. The document defines Columbia Corridor as extending between Rivergate and Troutdale, but for my proposal outlined below I’m focusing on the section between Rivergate and I-205.

After the jump….
(Click on link for full-sized image)

Mostly utilizing existing ROW, rerouting Bypass 30 onto this newly upgraded corridor would help relieve pressure on congested I-84 (freight rail improvements as outlined by local and state proposals are also a key component but I opted not to include them on my map). Also, while current bus service only runs along a few segments of the corridor, BRT or something similar along its entire length has the potential to serve countless employers. It can connect with the Red and Yellow MAX lines and various bus routes including 6, 70, 72 and 75.

Phase 1 should be relatively inexpensive and low-impact to implement (assuming a full freeway isn’t the chosen option). One option is an expressway, which is a combination of at-grade and grade-separated interchanges (think Hwy 224 between McLoughlin and I-205). In fact, several grade-separated facilities already exist on this corridor, and frontage roads and driveway consolidations along various stretches should also help with traffic flow. The key is to not have implementation of the corridor be so disruptive that it ends up eliminating huge chunks of the industrial facilities to which we’re trying to improve access.

Option A – NE Lombard to MLK (includes new ROW between Lombard Pl and MLK/ Columbia intersection)
Option B – Columbia Blvd to MLK

Option A – MLK to Marine Dr to N. Lombard
Option B – Columbia Blvd (includes new ROW to the north between Portland Rd and Upland Dr to skirt residential area) to N. Burgard

Although it tacks a couple of extra miles onto the corridor, I prefer Option A for the west segment because: 1) It generally avoids residential areas, 2) MLK between I-5 and Columbia is already pretty much limited access, 3) unlike Option B, a full interchange already exists at I-5, and 4) it offers direct access to my proposed Columbia River bridge.

Both east segment options have their advantages, but I’d prefer to have BRT run on Columbia rather than Lombard because it would directly serve more employers.

Phase 2…. Here comes the fun expensive part. Inspired by others’ posts on this blog, this part of the proposal calls for the corridor to connect to new bridges over the Willamette and Columbia, the latter being a third-bridge CRC alternative.