Local officials clearing obstacles to trails network
Like heavily traveled freeways, public trails for pedestrian and bicycle traffic are easy to take for granted once they're in place and used every day as a way to get to work or get some exercise and fresh air.
What's easy to forget is the extensive foresight and planning - including route selection, negotiations among multiple jurisdictions and property owners and, of course, securing grants and other funding sources - that take years to transform into the reality of a trails network.
With some construction projects already in the queue for this summer, Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District officials are hopeful there is sufficient financial and political momentum to complete a long-planned regional trails network in and around the Beaverton area.
Bob Wayt, the park district's director of communications, said a combination of projects - some funded by a $100 million bond measure passed in 2008 and others awaiting grants and matching funds - are expected to dovetail in the next few years.
'We have a lot of projects going on. It's multi-year in nature,' he said. 'It's going to take awhile to complete them all.'
When the current list of new trails, extensions and links is complete, planners envision a 10-mile 'backbone' through Central Beaverton that - along with additional segments of the Rock Creek, Westside, Waterhouse and Fanno Creek trails - connect the north and south areas of Washington County.
Some of the new segments could be completed by later this year, while the larger network the park district envisions may not see construction until 2015 or beyond.
'There is so much that goes into establishing a trail connection,' Wayt said. 'It takes a long time because it takes so much work.'
A large portion of the proposed network is collectively known as the Crescent Connection.
The ambitious urban-to-nature trails plan - whose price tag is estimated between $8 million and $9 million - involves an intricate jurisdictional web including land and rights of ways controlled by the park district, the cities of Beaverton and Tigard, the Washington County Coordinating Committee, TriMet and Metro regional government.
The park district is seeking $5.5 million in federal funding, along with a matching grant from Metro. The coordinating committee is expected to make a decision by August on the funding, which would come through in fiscal year 2014-15.
The elaborate Crescent Connection includes an extension of the Fanno Creek Trail through Tigard. From the trailhead just west of Highway 217 on Denney Road, the trail would follow an on-street route from downtown Beaverton and continue through the Beaverton Transit Center and Beaverton Central MAX light-rail station to the city line at Hocken Avenue.
The park district would continue its segment roughly along the MAX line through the Tektronix campus to the terminus of the existing Westside Regional Trail at the Tualatin Hills Nature Park, said Hal Bergsma, the park district's director of planning.
'It will basically be a link completing some sections of Fanno Creek (Trail) to Tigard and to the west side,' he said. 'It's certainly among one of the most ambitious' trails plans.
Trails projects funded by the 2008 bond measure set for construction between this summer and 2013 include a connection between the Westside Trail and the north-south Waterhouse Trail to Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus.
Bergsma indicated those connections will provide a significant 10-mile pedestrian/bicycle corridor upon their expected completion by 2015.
'With completion of segments of the Westside Trail in South Beaverton and of the Waterhouse Trail,' he said, 'it will be possible to take a trail, mostly off-street, all the way from the south end of Beaverton at Barrows Road to PCC Rock Creek. That by itself is a major accomplishment.'
A pretty penny
While timelines of five years or more and funding in the millions may seem excessive for what amounts to fancy footpaths, regional trail construction involves more than meets the eye.
For one, the trails are built to sustain traffic over a long period of time. Standard construction calls for an asphalt-paved path that's 10 feet wide with 2-foot gravel shoulders.
'The cost is about $1 million per mile for new trail,' Wayt said.
That figure can go up or down, depending on a variety of factors.
'These are not inexpensive projects,' Bergsma said. 'It depends on typography, environmental mitigation (involving) wetlands, if bridges are needed. You add those kinds of things in and it becomes more expensive.'
In establishing funding, Metro officials are interested in projects that make significant contributions to connectivity and access for pedestrians and bicyclists, including access to employment and transit centers as well as public attractions and activities.
'(Metro) doesn't want to see increments,' Bergsma said. 'They want to see something that results in a pretty complete project.'
He admits it will be an encouraging sight when work begins on trail segments for which funding has been secured.
'It won't be long before we get some definite construction activity,' he said.