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TIMES FILE PHOTO - The Washington County Transportation Futures Study is scheduled to take 18 months to complete, but citizen members of the Study Advisory Committee hope the results will help reduce congestion and improve livability in the county.The long-awaited study of Washington County's transportation needs is finally underway, including an online survey open to the public.

Just don’t expect the results anytime soon.

The Washington County Transportation Futures Study is scheduled to take 18 months to complete. And after that, recommendations for any new transportation projects will have to be submitted to local, regional and state agencies for funding.

But during the first meeting of the Study Advisory Committee on Friday, April 24, several of the committee’s 13 citizen members expressed hope that the results will help reduce congestion and improve livability in the county in the future.

“I hope this results in something that can get done, and not just sit on the shelf,” said Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce President Deanna Palm, who expressed frustration at the lack of funds currently available for transportation projects and the time it takes to get them completed.

Meeky Blizzard, a former staff member for Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Dist. 3), said she hopes the study “leads to a broader discussion of county needs.”

Coincidentally, committee member Kathy Stallkamp, a Tigard-area community activist, was late getting to the meeting because of an accident on Highway 217.

According to a consultant-prepared report titled “Taking Stock: A Look Back” that was presented at the meeting, the study is needed because “Washington County has historically met or exceeded local and regional population and employment forecasts. This has created demands to provide transportation infrastructure at a faster pace to provide needed capacity.”

Among other things, the report says that previous planning efforts have identified the need to improve north-south transportation options within the county. Previous efforts to address this problem have been slow to materialize, resulting in increased traffic on roads in existing neighborhoods and rural areas.

As documented in the report, Metro (the elected regional government) recommended construction of a major new highway from Tualatin to Hillsboro in 1987. Commonly called the West Side Bypass, it was opposed by environmentalists and others who prompted the adoption of other options, including the MAX line from Portland to Hillsboro and numerous improvements of existing roads, including Highway 217.

Not all of the recommended projects have been completed, however, and congestion has continued to grow in much of the county, increasing pressure for a new study.

“What we’ve been doing for the last 20 years hasn’t been working,” said committee member Steve Larrance, a former Washington County commissioner.

The Hillsboro City Council voted in November 2012 for the 2013 Oregon Legislature to require the Oregon Department of Transportation to study a new automobile and freight link from Interstate 5 near Wilsonville past Hillsboro to the Port of Portland.

The idea was opposed by then-Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, however, in part because he worried it would compete for funding with the Columbia Crossing Project, which ultimately collapsed. Former Hillsboro State Sen. Bruce Starr successfully pushed for study funding during the ensuing legislative session, however, and though Starr was defeated in last November’s election, he is now a member of the advisory committee.

During the Friday meeting at Beaverton City Hall, the advisory committee discussed a Community Values Statement that will ensure the study looks at a wide range of transportation-related alternatives, not just a single construction project. Among other things, it says that county residents value access to a wide range of options, including walking, bicycling, mass transit and private automobiles. It also says residents want to protect air, climate, water, open space and other natural resources from the impacts of growth and transportation.

The public survey is part of an Online Open House offered on the project’s website. It asks participants to rank the importance of such values as transportation options, social equity, economic vitality and health. Comments are accepted as part of the responses. It is open until May 15.

The website — wctransportationfutures.org — also includes all background materials for the study.

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