Forest Grove gets $2.38 million grant to improve crossroads at 47 and 8

Forest Grove leaders got the grant they wanted last Wednesday, when the Oregon Department of Transportation approved $2.34 million to help the city improve a major intersection.

“It was not a sure thing,” said Public Works Director Rob Foster. Only $63 million in federal grant money was available for this region, he said. “They had $90 million worth of projects. A considerable number had to be axed.”

In addition, “our project had some risks, so that’s what made us a little concerned about its survival,” Foster said.

The current plan is to add two right-turn lanes to the intersection of Highway 8 (Pacific Avenue) and Highway 47 (Quince Street), near McMenamins. One lane would turn from westbound Highway 8 onto northbound Highway 47, and the other from southbound Highway 47 onto westbound Highway 8.

This second addition is problematic primarily because a transmission line for the Tualatin Valley Irrigation District is located in the area where the road would need to be widened, and the city doesn’t know whether it would have to relocate the line or how much that might cost.

It will take a year just to finish the design, Foster said.

But that design could change. One of the traffic solutions the designers will consider is a large roundabout.

“When we listed 10 issues with this intersection, the roundabout idea solved more than half,” including (possibly) the transmission line, Foster said.

A roundabout at this busy location would be larger than the two single-lane roundabouts on Verboort Road, Foster said, likely having two or perhaps even three lanes.

It’s still just an idea that hasn’t even been researched or analyzed yet, he said. But some citizens have already expressed support for it, partly because roundabouts require landscaping and that could beautify the intersection, which serves as an entrance to Forest Grove.

Business owners have expressed strong feelings on both sides of the roundabout issue, Foster said.

Along with the $2.34 million in federal grant money distributed by ODOT, Forest Grove has $200,000 from Wal-Mart (part of the original approval agreement for the store) and $1.3 million in “flexible funds” from Metro, the Portland-area transportation agency.

“When it all started I thought we could do it for less than a million,” Foster said. “It’s amazing to me how much these right-turn lanes are costing.”

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