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Roundabout arriving two years after fatal crash

Open house offers info on upcoming roundabouts and a road extension

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Lyle Spiesschaert (far right) and other farmers ask about the potential for losing access to their farmlands and for their farm vehicles to destroy new sidewalks on the David Hill Road extension. County staff explained that only David Hill's south side will have sidewalks, giving farm vehicles the room they need, and that access roads to farmlands will still be available to the north. Between 2007 and 2014, three people died at the Verboort Road and Highway 47 intersection just north of Forest Grove.

After two Pacific University freshmen died in an April 2014 crash, 85 people gathered in Forest Grove’s community auditorium to tell a lineup of government officials that the unsafe intersection needed to change.

Nearly two years later, improvements are finally being made with the installation of a roundabout.

Between March and September, different sections of Verboort and Purdin roads will be closed while the construction is completed.

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) spokesman Lou Torres noted that his agency had addressed safety in the past by changing speed limits and such, “but we realized that wasn’t enough.”

With a roundabout slowing vehicles down, controlling their movement and eliminating cross traffic, the intersection will be significantly safer, he said.

Partnering with Washington County’s Department of Land Use & Transportation and with the city of Forest Grove, ODOT is funding what will become its third Verboort Road roundabout, counting two smaller ones a couple miles east, where the road intersects with Cornelius-Schefflin Road.

Nearly 50 Banks and Forest Grove residents attended an open house Tuesday, Feb. 23, to see charts displaying the construction and road-closure timelines, as well as ask questions about how the roundabout will change travelling habits.

One attendee asked why ODOT was spending so much to build roundabouts when a traffic signal could just as easily be built for less money.

Signals don’t always work well for controlling traffic, Torres said. “The county has lots of roundabouts. And Astoria, Sisters, and Bend all have seen roundabout success. I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of them.”

Beginning March 7, Verboort Road between Highway 47 and Northwest McKibbin Road will be closed to through traffic until July 15, though the end date is subject to change.

For four weeks after it reopens, continued construction will restrict traffic to right turns only at the intersection. No left turns will be allowed.

And for six weeks beginning in August, 200 to 300 feet of Purdin Road from Highway 47 west will be closed, causing travellers to detour via Kemper and Thatcher roads.

Another big road project will begin in April just south of the Verboort/Purdin intersection, with construction to extend Northwest David Hill Road east to Highway 47, where it will

be connected via a second roundabout. The project is expected to wind up next spring, 2017.

Running through the wetlands parallel to Hartford Drive, the David Hill extension will have sidewalks and bike lanes on its south side to accommodate the development that is being planned for the area by the city.

The new development will potentially bring an elementary school, a new park, and various commercial and residential zones.

“As far as retail value, I think the park’s great,” said Hartford Drive resident Mark Johnson. “As far as privacy, I think it sucks.”

Currently on the edge of town, Johnson’s backyard opens up to empty fields. But Johnson knew when he moved there 18 years ago that the land behind his home would be developed eventually.

“I currently have a great view of Banks,” Johnson said. “It’s soon to be a great view of construction.”

For more information on the projects, visit co.washington.or.us/LUT/TransportationProjects/.