Groups seek Fanno Creek Trail crossing solutions

Task force assembles to address Hall Boulevard safety issue
by: Submitted graphic

The quest to safely cross congested Hall Boulevard along the Fanno Creek Trail has flummoxed bicyclists, pedestrians and various governmental agencies for more than a decade.

Since the Beaverton City Council scuttled a 2001 plan to construct a crosswalk and 'refuge island' in the middle of the thoroughfare, trail users were left with the choices of dodging vehicular traffic on the four-lane Hall Boulevard or traversing off course to a controlled signal at Greenway.

The Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District is now working with city and transportation officials to develop a safe, efficient and ideally permanent solution to the crossing conundrum.

The park district is implementing a $359,000 grant in Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program funds to study options to upgrade the Fanno-Hall crossing.

Adding $41,089 of its own funding, the park district is collaborating with the city, Oregon Department of Transportation and Metro regional government, and assembling an 11-member community task force to study four proposed crossing options.

These include:

n A bridge over Hall Boulevard between Fanno Creek Park and Greenway Park;

n A tunnel underneath the road;

n An 'at-grade' signaled crossing at Hall, likely with a 'relief island' in the middle of the thoroughfare; and

n A similar at-grade crossing at Hall Boulevard, to the east at Southwest Creekside Place.

The task force will comprise 'stakeholders' from the City Council, the park district board, the city's Natural Resources Committee, local businesspeople and other community representatives. The group could have its initial meeting as early as June 29.

Park district officials are using traffic counters and head counts to determine how many trail users actually go the extra 400 feet - nearly the length of two-and-a-half football fields - to the Greenway crosswalk and double back to the trail across Hall Boulevard, and how many simply take their chances and head straight across the four lanes.

Steve Gulgren, the park district's superintendent of planning and development, admits the current situation - particularly bike-friendly curb ramps or 'cuts' - all but invites bicyclists to continue directly across Hall.

'The city did a road widening with the curb cuts that leads users to think that's the place to cross,' he said. 'It is a little confusing. Visually, it's inviting' to cross there.

Hal Bergsma, the park district's planning director, agrees the current crossing is 'poorly designed.'

'One of the issues is that during evening peak hour, there is a queue of traffic from westbound Hall onto Greenway,' he said. 'Traffic is backing up to that (crossing) point.'

Once the advisory group decides on the path it wants to pursue, the City Council will consider the plan before it moves forward. The project's starting timeline could range from around two to five years depending on the complexity and expense of the chosen approach.

'If it's (a traffic) island, it's obviously much easier,' Gulgren said. 'If it's a bridge, it would take that much more money' and time.

The project's importance will likely increase as the park district's trail system expands and more users are beckoned to follow the paths through the city and Washington County. The district will build a new segment of the Fanno Creek Trail this summer just east of Highway 217 near Scholls Ferry Road.

'It's pretty heavily used already,' Gulgren said. 'There will be increased use as we complete other segments.'

The district is seeking additional funding through Metro and federal agencies for other projects including the Beaver Creek Regional Trail and a Fanno Creek Trailhead near Denney Road.

'There's a whole lot going on in terms of trail projects in the area,' Bergsma said.