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ODOT stands firm behind proposal for Highway 26

Boring, ODOT, Gresham and county explore highway access


No decision was reached at the Feb. 5 meeting of the Boring Community Planning Organization, but a lot of views were expressed; a lot of questions answered.

At issue was a proposal to limit access to Highway 26 near Boring. With approval from Multnomah County, the city of Gresham asked the Oregon Department of Transportation to prepare the highway and its intersections for more traffic. Gresham is planning years in the future to create an industrial development north of Highway 26.

No one at the meeting of more than 90 people was happy about the proposal to construct an interchange at 267th Avenue and close Stone and Haley roads. They also were not happy about the interim proposal to block left turns and prohibit crossing the highway at 267th Avenue and at Stone Road.

But ODOT officials said these are the necessary steps to prepare the highway and its intersections for more traffic associated with the Springwater Industrial Park.

Seven people representing Gresham, ODOT and Multnomah County came to the CPO meeting and sat at the front of the room to answer questions from CPO Chairman Steve Bates and from the large audience.

Local residents who use the Highway 26 intersection at 267th Avenue say new striping at 267th about a year ago made it more dangerous to make left turns onto Highway 26 from 267th Avenue.

Their frustration is that ODOT is planning to stop those left turns from the south side of the highway, turning toward Gresham. They also are planning to stop the same left turns toward Gresham at Stone Road.

ODOT will invest $2.2 million to construct a barrier in the middle of Highway 26 at 267th Avenue and Stone Road to stop cars from crossing the highway and prevent left turns.

A number of the people at the CPO meeting were concerned with what they expected would be increased high-speed traffic on narrow, neighborhood roads.

John Wolf, a senior traffic engineer at ODOT, said 282nd Avenue and Telford Road were capable of handling more traffic.

One of the suggestions from several area residents was to add a signal at Stone Road, but Wolf said that proposal wouldn’t meet the standards established at the federal or state levels.

He also said the Oregon Highway Plan discourages signals at what he called “high-speed intersections,” noting that adding a signal actually increases the number and severity of crashes.

To prove their claim, ODOT officials provided statistics for the Orient Drive intersection with Highway 26 — before and after the signal was installed.

But these adjustments to the intersections are just preparing for the big project, which might not be funded for 15 or 20 years.

That project would be an entire interchange at 267th Avenue, similar to the one at Highway 212 and Highway 26.

The city of Gresham is planning to make the Springwater Industrial Park a part of the city and available for development. Jilayne Jordan of ODOT says the intersection at 267th would be the main access to that industrial park on the north side of Highway 26.

Local resident Tom Mack questioned the timing of the projects. He predicted that development of the industrial park was many years in the future.

“It seems like you are not coordinating the projects to meet the needs of the community,” Mack said. “We’re rushing a project that a good portion of this community is opposed to, and I just don’t see the need for it. I drove those roads today, and none of this made me feel like I’d be safer.”

Rich Watanabe of ODOT said the project was being proposed now because federal and state money would be available soon for this project, and they didn’t want to wait for the next time funding was available.

Bates said this plan would force increased traffic into downtown Boring and onto Highway 212, which he said already is at full capacity.

Most of the questions of concern were about safety, but Dave Taylor of ODOT said the reasons for these projects are not about safety; they are to accommodate traffic to and from an industrial park.

Bob Skipper, who lives on Stone Road, said there already is enough traffic on narrow rural roads without forcing more traffic.

“Have you bothered to look at how many accidents occur on those side roads now?” Skipper asked the ODOT officials. “They are maxed out already. We do not need another 350 cars on Orient Drive, 282nd Avenue, Haley Road or any of these roads — none of them.”

Katherine Kelly of the city of Gresham described the industrial park project as building in phases, with the first part near 267th Avenue.

Jordan defended ODOT’s choices by saying they would be driving all of the roads to see what they are like before they finish designing the project.

But Bates said the CPO isn’t through talking about the issue and exploring options. The topic has been added to the agenda of the group’s March 5 meeting.