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Boring residents take ODOT to task

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - In this photo about one-third of the people who attended an open house are pictured talking with officials of the city of Gresham, Multnomah County and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The open house took place in the cafeteria at West Orient School. Mainly Boring residents were there to learn more about a transportation project that affects their access to Highway 26.There were more questions than answers when more than 100 people descended on West Orient School to learn about plans that have been in the works for years.

The open house was scheduled because people who live in the Boring area were not consulted or informed about this city of Gresham project and the ways it would impact Boring residents as well as people who drive Highway 26 or want to access Highway 26 from Boring neighborhood roads such as 267th Avenue, Stone Road and Haley Road.

Oregon Department of Transportation Engineer John Wolf said a signal at Stone Road and Highway 26 would not be safe; it would cause more vehicle crashes than happen now at the two-way stop-sign intersection.

At that type of intersection (suburban, semi-rural and high-speed road), Wolf told Boring resident Steve Wiege, drivers will stop 99 percent of the time. But the 1 percent of drivers who run the light cause serious crashes.

As part of the project, ODOT also planned a 90-degree stop at the end of a Highway 26 turnaround, which would cause drivers using the turnaround to merge, without an acceleration lane, from a dead stop into the fast lane of traffic going 55-65 mph.

When Boring resident Steve Bates asked Wolf why there was no acceleration lane, Wolf said that situation was just as safe as any right turn onto the highway at any other intersection.

Bates asked for a signal at Stone Road, saying that would solve the problem — and in that case no turnaround lane would be necessary.

But Wolf repeated his answer about the expected increase in crashes from the 1 percent of drivers who run red lights.

“There is established (national) signal warrant criteria (to help determine if a signal is warranted),” Wolf said.

“The signal warrant criteria of the federal government,” Bates told Wolf, “can be over-ridden by the state of Oregon any time it wants. (The state) can put a signal anywhere it wants.”

“With certain approvals,” Wolf answered Bates, “you could go around the criteria.”

“And we’re looking to get those approvals for you,” Bates said, “if you’ll agree with us that (signal) would be a good compromise. You guys are preaching safety, but that (turnaround intersection) isn’t safe.”

“That’s much safer than a signal (at Stone Road),” Wolf said. “As I was just explaining to this gentleman (Wiege), we have a number of studies that we’ve done in Oregon as well as a number of national studies that show if you put a signal in a rural setting you will see crash rates go up. That’s been demonstrated and proven time and time again.”

Wolf excused himself to join others from the city and county to speak to the large group instead of individuals.

No comments were allowed when the large group was being addressed — only in the one-on-one sessions with individuals from ODOT, the city or the county.

Gresham Transportation Planning Manager Katherine Kelly explained to the large group how the city of Gresham 10 years ago added land north of Highway 26 to its urban growth boundary in the hope that it would develop into an industrial park and create jobs for local residents.

To facilitate that growth and entice industrial development, ODOT and the city and county created project proposals for a (as yet unfunded) large interchange at 267th and closing Stone and Haley roads as well as the interim projects to make 267th Avenue and Stone Road safer by not allowing left turns onto the highway and not allowing anyone to cross the highway.

But no one informed Boring residents they would lose most of their access to a state highway that leads to other cities.

The debate is not over, Bates said after the open house. As chairman of the Boring Community Planning Organization, Bates has asked people from ODOT to come to the Feb. 5 CPO meeting to answer a series of questions, which Bates gave to ODOT officials in advance so they would be prepared with answers.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5, at the Boring Fire Station near Highway 212 in downtown Boring.