At long last, the Bethany Boulevard road improvement project is drawing to a close — literally.

On Tuesday morning, a few roadworkers remained, repainting spots along the asphalt here and there and checking road reflectors along the dramatically transformed road spanning from West Union to Cornell. The project is expected to wrap by June TIMES PHOTO: KENDRA HOGUE - Nate Gordon stops traffic along Bethany Boulevard as Hugh Parsons touches up striping along the roadway and project foreman Charlie Thompson checks reflectors.

Over the course of 20 months, the congested two-lane road widened to four car lanes (five lanes in congested turn areas) and added bike lanes, sidewalks, landscaping, water and sewer lines, as well as street lighting.

Homes on both sides lost yard space, and many residents were affected — negatively and positively — by tall walls, which felt “prisonlike” to some and provided a welcome barrier from noise for others.

Long backups, with flaggers stopping traffic traveling in both directions, became the norm for the neighborhood during construction.

“This was one of our larger recent projects,” said Stephen Roberts, communications coordinator for the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation. “The typical range of our projects is $8 million to $15 million. This was $24.6 million in all,” funded by local property taxes from MSTIP, the Major Streets Improvement Program.

About 27,000 vehicles per day exit at westbound Highway 26 at Bethany and Bronson, 21,000 north of Bronson, which includes a stoplight.

Residents and businesses in a much wider area were affected by the roadwork.

“The area impacted roughly encompasses 185th to Saltzman Road, and from Highway 26 up to Springville Road and beyond,” said Roberts. The affected area includes rapidly growing North Bethany, with a sea of newer and soon-to-be-built homes.

The long traffic backups of two years ago — on westbound Sunset Highway at Cornell Road, Frontage Road and Bethany Boulevard — have been corrected, Roberts said.

Between 100 and 150 full-time construction jobs were created.

Taking the long road

The extensive road expansion was narrowly approved by Washington County Commissioners in February 2011, with Chairman Andy Duyck, commissioners Bob Terry and Roy Rogers voting for it, while commissioners Greg Malinowski and Dick Schouten voting against it.

More than 100 opponents appeared at commission hearings to protest the project. Neighbors preferred an expansion to three lanes rather than the four to five that were eventually built.

The 650-home historic Oak Hills community east of Bethany Boulevard mounted strong objections to the project, which cut dramatically into 16 Oak Hills’ backyards and felled trees in the process.

About 1,700 petitions opposing the project were filed with the county in late 2010 by residents of communities along Bethany Boulevard, including Oak Hills.

Though the community has yet to have a post-mortem on the project, Oak Hills Home Owners Association board member Sarah Elizalde Bourne said the affected homeowners continue to have concerns about the quality of the stamped-concrete wall installed behind their homes. “It’s clearly premade, stamped concrete, and the sealant wasn’t applied correctly, which is causing problems.”

“As the project nears completion, most people we hear from like the project because now, traffic flows a lot better,” said Roberts. “People can now walk or bike to stores, schools and parks.”

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