Archive | Sunrise Corridor

$1.5 billion transportation project passes the FEIS milestone

The Sunrise Corridor’s FEIS has been approved. The price tag: $1.5 billion.
And no, I’m not talking about Milwuakie MAX.

Instead, it’s another transportation project in Clackamas County, one that involves concrete (6-8 lanes of it) rather than steel rails and overhead caternary, one whose price tag appears to be just about the same as Milwaukie MAX, which should merit some interesting compares.

I’m speaking, of course, of the Sunrise Corridor–a new 6-8 lane freeway connecting the current interchange of I-205, OR 213 (82nd Avenue) and OR 224 (Milwaukie Expressway), heading east, just north of the current OR224/212 alignment out to Rock Creek junction, and ending a short distance west of the current “center” of Damascus. The project, if built, would be the first new freeway built on the Oregon side of the Portland metro area since I-205 was completed back in the 1980s. (We’ve widened several since then, but no new ones have been built).

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project was just recently published, and the executive summary is interesting reading. (The full EIS can be downloaded from the ODOT project website; one document per chapter–the “old” project website which was hosted David Evans and Associates, the consulting firm overseeing the drafting of the EIS, appears to have vanished).

The price tag? Just south of $1.5 billion. (If this were Dead Horse Times, I’d insert the customary picture of Dr. Evil here, but portlandtransport.com is too highbrow for such cheap editorial stunts).

A billion doesn’t buy you very much any more

For the $1.5 billion, what do you get?

  • A five-mile freeway stretching from I-205 to Rock Creek Junction, 6-8 lanes in width, along with some realignment and widening of OR212 east of there.
  • Three interchanges along the route, one at I-205, one at or about SE 122nd, and one at Rock Creek, including the monstrous new interchange at I-205 shown below. (Click on the picture for a bigger version).hellinterchange.png
  • Various improvements to other approach roads and ramps in the corridor, including a new braided ramp at the current I-205/OR212 interchange, a new access road connecting 82nd Avenue to the commercial area just west of 82nd and north of 224, a new Ambler Road overcrossing of the UPRR tracks, and a network of multi-use paths.

You don’t get any transit, naturally, though I’m sure the 31E will use this new freeway if it gets built, and it’s still running. This is an ODOT project, after all.

Show me the money

The big catch–there’s always a catch, after all–is that out of that $1.5 billion, only $200 million or so has been budgeted to build the thing–$1.3 billion is not an amount you can paper over with an urban renewal district here or there. :) Out of that $200 million, $56 million is the value of land in the right-of-way already owned by various stakeholders. Metro hasn’t identified any funding for the project as of yet, though it’s included in the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, in the “financially contrained scenario” (i.e. its high on the priority list). Including funds not currently budgeted, it’s estimated that over $400 million will be available in the next 20 years–still leaving a $1 billion shortfall.

Tolling has been considered for the project, though it appears to be off the radar screen as of now. (A similar conclusion to the tolling question was reached on the Newburg/Dundee Bypass).

There’s one other possible fly in the funding ointment. Currently, there are a few electoral efforts underfoot in Clackamas County to withdraw financial commitments made by county commissioners (albeit commitments which are unpopular with voters) to fund other shorter-term regional projects, namely MLR and the Sellwood Bridge. Were these referenda to be successful, and other regional stakeholders forced to come up with additional funds to complete these projects (assuming further reductions in scope couldn’t be made instead)–how might that affect regional contributions to the Sunrise Corridor? While no such deals (or threats, or however you want to spin it) have been discussed in public–generally infrastructure financing deals involve a good deal of horsetrading between different governmental entities. I hope I don’t sound like a mafia wiseguy when I make this observation (“nice freeway project ya got there…”), but I could see a scenario where Metro’s funding level for the Sunrise project (were it to get that far) to drop by $30 million or so….

Objections?

The other hurdle the project will face is objections from environmentalists. Oregon’s environmental lobby is rather good at blocking or descoping roadway projects–and is far better at it than CPI and other conservative groups are at derailing transit. (Not that I’m complaining. :) And it appears there’s at least one big bright red plum for 1000 Friends and their friends to pick on this project–the “independent utility” rule for federally-funded infrastructure projects. For a project to qualify for Federal funding, it has to have “independent utility”–it can’t depend on the construction of subsequent projects for proper functioning. The FEIS claims that this condition has been met–but it’s a condition that can be challenged in court. A similar challenge helped kill off the West Eugene Parkway, and a good argument can be made the Sunrise Corridor won’t be fully effective until the “part 2” project–the so-called “Sunrise Parkway”, connecting Rock Creek to US26 west of Sandy–is built. (The Parkway is still in concept phase at this point). And there’s also the little matter of traffic on the Milwaukie Expressway–which might see additional pressure were this project built (and especially if the Parkway were also built, and zillions of skiers and freight haulers to start using this route rather than the Gresham street network to reach the Mt. Hood Highway).

There’s one more issue worth noting–development in Damascus. A major justification for the project is the urbanization of Damascus–a decade ago, planners were projecting that the Damascus area would see significant increases in population. That hasn’t happened (other than in the westernmost parts); and Damascus residents, not particularly liking the County’s (and Metro’s) plans for their community, incorporated–thus allowing themselves greater control over their land use planning. Whether or not significant development in Damascus will occur, I don’t know–but many residents there are opposed to it. But without urbanization of the area, is there still justification for an infrastructure project of this magnitude?

At any rate, it should be interesting.

Tolls Don’t Pencil for Sunrise

Yesterday’s Oregonian reports that tolls may still work to help add a lane to I-205 (although it’s challenging), but they probably don’t pencil out for the Sunrise Corridor.

At nearly $1 billion, the Sunrise Corridor project costs too much and would not attract enough toll-paying traffic to make financial sense, according to a report released Wednesday by the Macquarie Infrastructure Group, an Australian company that has been exploring the concept.

You can find the ODOT report here (PDF, 998K).

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 http://www.deainc.com/sunrise/index.html. 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