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Year in Review: Slow movement on Cornelius Pass Road fixes

   Safety improvements on Cornelius Pass Road are slowly moving forward. Several state legislative budget shortfalls halted plans to improve the safety of the road, where two teen girls had died in car crashes within the last eight years.

In early May, a community advisory committee dedicated to designing and completing Cornelius Pass Road safety improvements met for the first time in more than a year to discuss the progress of the project, which had been stalled

due to lack of funding since 2014.

The day before that meeting, on May 6, Kerrigan Clark, a 17-year-old from Scappoose, was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Cornelius Pass Road, just north of Skyline Boulevard.

The committee, composed of citizens, lawmakers and county officials, was formed in 2013 when Multnomah County was set to receive $9.5 million in state funding from the Legislature in 2012 for the project. The death of Taija Belwood, a 17-year-old from Scappoose, in 2008, who crashed on Cornelius Pass Road, prompted discussions about saftey improvements for the road.

In 2013, funding for the road improvement project was re-allocated by the Legislature, leaving the committee with no budget. Some funding was secured in part by Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, in 2014 to begin design work, but when the small budget was used up, the process was further delayed.

By March 2015, $3.9 million in funding had been secured for the project, causing the committee to reevaluate what aspects of the project could realistically be completed. Mike Pullen, Multnomah County communications coordinator, said a handful of smaller projects would be more likely to be completed than the initially planned bigger projects.

In 2015, the committee finally secured sufficient funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the project. Approval of a design contract with Murray Smith & Associates, an engineering design firm, is expected to be complete by late January 2016, according to Pullen. Construction will likely not begin until 2017.