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Big growth coming; who'll pay?

By some estimates, Hillsboro is projected to grow from 92,000 people today to about 133,000 by 2035 and around 150,000 by 2050. How will the city keep up with the explosive growth? One answer is by making sure developers pay a large share of the costs.by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CHASE ALLGOOD - Intel will pay millions of dollars to expand this busy stretch of Northwest Cornelius Pass Road to six lanes in the next few years.

In a few years, many Hillsboro residents and commuters will get to their homes and work a bit more quickly after Northwest Cornelius Pass Road, from U.S. 26 to Ronler Drive, is widened from four to six lanes. The intersection at Northwest Evergreen Parkway will be improved for bike lanes, and the ramps to and from U.S. 26 will also be enhanced, including the addition of a second southbound off-ramp.

Most of the work will not be funded or done by the city. It will be paid for and overseen by Intel, the semiconductor manufacturer with around 17,000 workers in Washington County. The company will hire and pay a contractor to do the work according to city standards.

The improvements will help many Intel workers get to their jobs at the company’s Ronler Acres campus. But it will also help others who use the road, including hundreds of new Salesforce.com employees who will be moving into the former Synopsys software company offices to the south, and the 130 additional employees Oracle Corp. has promised to hire at its nearby high-tech manufacturing plant.

The city is requiring Intel to tackle the improvements as part of its construction permit to build a second D1X manufacturing facility and office building at the Ronler Acres campus. The county is also assessing Intel approximately $6.7 million in Transportation Development Taxes for the project. The amount will be credited against the money Intel spends on the improvements, which is likely to be much more.

Intel is not complaining, however. Company officials know its growth in Hillsboro is unprecedented in Oregon.

“This is new territory, and everyone is trying to figure out how to manage it correctly,” said Jill Eiland, the company’s northwest regional corporate affairs manager.

Precedent set

This is not the first time the city has required Intel to undertake street improvements as a condition of acquiring a building permit. For example, Intel was required to build Ronler Drive, from Northwest Cornelius Pass Road to the campus, as a condition of its permit for the first D1X facility. Intel says the project cost around $3.5 million. The company then deeded the finished road to the city. Intel is also installing a traffic circle and making other improvements at the Southwest Butler Street and 65th Avenue entrance to its campus. The estimated cost for that work is over $2 million.

Residential developers also pay for transportation improvements related to their projects. Holland Partners development company is paying for a traffic signal and other upgrades on the streets around its new housing and retail complex at Northeast 231st and Cherry Avenue. And the developers who built the more traditional, suburban-style neighborhoods near Orenco Station paid for the residential streets, which were then deeded over to Hillsboro.

Many cities require new developments to help offset additional infrastructure costs by paying related charges. But Hillsboro is going much further than most by requiring specific projects for the biggest ones. The practice helps explain how Hillsboro has mitigated some of the problems normally associated with fast growth — and how it plans to keep pace with its increasing population and employment base.

Map of projects

The Intel projects are identified on a map of 44 transportation projects scheduled in Hillsboro in coming years. Mayor Jerry Willey presented the map at last month’s “State of the City” speech. Only eight of the projects will be financed by developers. The rest rely on federal, state, county and city funds.

Washington County is the only county in the state that dedicates a fixed portion of its property tax revenues to transportation projects. The Major Street Transportation Improvement Program began as a series of serial levies approved by county voters in 1986, 1989 and 1995. But when Oregon voters approved the state’s complicated property tax limitation system in the late 1990s, the last levy became part of the county’s tax base.

All of the spending must be approved by the Washington County Coordinating Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the commission and cities in the county. It receives and considers funding requests from the various governments.

By the end of this year, MSTIP will have helped fund 111 multi-modal transportation projects, totaling $555 million. Major projects completed to date in Hillsboro include sections of 170th Avenue, 185th Avenue, Baseline Road, Brookwood Avenue/Parkway, Cornelius Pass Road, Cornell Road and Evergreen Parkway/Road.

Like other cities in the county, Hillsboro also assesses a fee on residents and businesses to help maintain its streets. The citywide Transportation Utility Fee was approved by the City Council three years ago. The fees appear on monthly utility bills that also include water and sewer charges. The fee for single-family homes is currently $3.18 a month, while the business fees range from $1 to around $1,300 a month. The TUF is projected to generate $1.75 million this fiscal year.

Washington County also has a one cent per gallon gas tax to help maintain its roads, and Hillsboro receives a share of that.

Rush hour congestion

In the middle of the day, Northwest Cornelius Pass Road from U.S. 26 to Ronler Drive does not look like it needs much work. Traffic flows smoothly along its four lanes, helped by turn lanes at major intersections such as Northwest Evergreen Parkway.

But during the morning and evening rush hours, the situation is different. The road fills with traffic from U.S. 26, Northwest Evergreen Parkway and Imbrie Drive. When Intel officials started talking about expanding the Ronler Acres campus again, city planners knew it was time for a major upgrade. Intel agreed, and committed to four projects related to the road. The city agreed to take responsibility for a fifth one.

The projects Intel agreed to fund will completely transform the function and appearance of the road. Intel will add additional northbound and southbound lanes, construct an eastbound turn lane from Butler, construct a westbound turn lane at Evergreen and add pedestrian islands in the median at key intersections.

Intel will also add a second westbound to southbound off-ramp from U.S. 26. And it will add bicycle lanes on Cornelius Pass Road and some connecting streets.

Intel officials do not yet know how much all this work will cost. They suspect it will be more than the $6.7 million in TDTs charged to their most recent expansion project. The company will look to partner with the city and county on some of the work if possible, but are ultimately responsible for completing it.

As part of the deal, Hillsboro has agreed to build a new right turn lane from Cornelius Pass to U.S. 26.

But that is not the end of Intel’s investment in Hillsboro as part of its most recent expansion permit. The company is also adding an additional eastbound lane to Ronler Drive. And it is modifying signals and making further improvements on Northwest 229th Avenue, just north of its campus.



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