$31.7M project would add another lane between Canyon Road and Sunset Highway

Oregon's Department of Transportation is preparing a $31.7 million project to widen about 1.5 miles of Highway 217 between Southwest Canyon Road and the Sunset Highway.

ODOT officials met with city planners last week to discuss the project they say would help ease congestion on a busy section of the highway.

'It'll definitely help the area out,' said Bret N. Richards, project leader in ODOT's Portland office.

According to ODOT's plan, the project would widen the highway from two to three lanes northbound from Canyon Road to Highway 26, it would widen to two lanes (tapering to one lane) at a northbound ramp to Highway 26, it would rebuild ramps at Southwest Walker Road to accommodate the wider highway, install meters at all highway ramps and replace the median barrier with a 42-inch-high structure.

The project would leave a Highway 217 on-ramp at Southwest Wilshire Road closed. Water swales and eight retaining walls also would be constructed.

Construction of the project could begin in 2008 and take about two years to complete, Richards said.

ODOT officials recently finished looking at design alternatives for the project, and are in the preliminary planning phase, he said.

The state agency must go through the city's planning process to get permits for the project.

ODOT has not yet applied for the project's permits.

Paving planned

Work on that stretch of highway was outlined by ODOT planners in May 2005. They said that section needed to be improved because drivers must weave through fast-moving traffic to enter and exit Highway 217 and get onto the Sunset Highway in either direction.

It originally was considered during construction of the the westside light-rail project. An environmental impact statement prepared for the rail project included the Highway 217 work.

TriMet's 32-mile westside light-rail line opened in mid-September 1998.

'This project's been around for awhile,' Richards said.

An ODOT traffic report from November 2004 found that about 58,500 vehicles each day used the 1.47-mile stretch of Highway 217, most people driving about 63 mph in the area with a posted 55 mph speed limit.

ODOT reported in 2004 that an average of 113,500 vehicles traveled the entire length of Highway 217 each day. That number is expected to grow to 151,600 vehicles by 2025.

The area to be widened by the project had an accident rate of 0.44 per million vehicle miles traveled, well below the state average of 0.82 accidents per million miles.

ODOT's proposed project is separate from a planned widening of the entire Highway 217. When that work is done (and it is far from a sure thing because of funding questions) the 1.47-mile stretch could get a fourth northbound lane and the Walker Road interchange would be modified.

It also is not part of the repaving project that should begin this summer and be completed by December. That $4.7 million project will grind and pave 6.37 miles of the highway from Southwest 72nd Avenue to the Highway 26 interchange.

Most of the paving work will be done at night.

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