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State board adds two metro-area highway projects

It is just one of many changes planned for Metro-area roadways


Two Metro-area highway projects designed to ease the movement of trucks and traffic have been added to the Oregon Transportation Commission’s four-year statewide plan.

One project adds a southbound auxiliary lane on Interstate 5 from Highway 217 in Tigard about four miles to Interstate 205 in Tualatin.

The other would start development of a plan for the Rose Quarter in Portland, at the congested interchange of I-5 and Interstate 84.

The projects are among seven statewide funded partly by Oregon’s share of federal money that comes from a five-year renewal of transportation spending authority, which Congress passed six months ago. The federal money is for freight-related projects under Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

The commission acted at its monthly meeting on June 16 in Hood River.

A third Metro-area project — development of a plan for widening I-205 in each direction from two to three lanes in a six-mile stretch between Stafford Road in West Linn and the George Abernethy Bridge — was added in May.

The auxiliary lane on I-5 is fully funded at $13 million, part coming from the state commission shifting $2 million from a southbound auxiliary lane planned for Highway 217 about 3.5 miles between Highway 10 in Beaverton and Highway 99W in Tigard.

An auxiliary lane allows cars and trucks entering the roadway to merge outside the main through-lanes. Such lanes already exist on I-5 in both directions between I-205 and Elligsen Road in Wilsonville; they are planned on I-205 near its junction with I-84 in East Portland.

However, development of plans for the Rose Quarter interchange and I-205 widening will require millions more for design, engineering and construction. The price tag for development is $2.5 million for each project.

Those and other projects are on a list that metro-area officials hope will get state money for during the 2017 session.

Among the unfunded projects are auxiliary lanes on and seismic reinforcement of the Abernethy Bridge, and Phase 2 of the Sunrise Corridor between Clackamas and Happy Valley. (Phase 1, an expressway, is scheduled for completion this month.)

Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers, who leads a Metro-area transportation commission advising the Oregon Department of Transportation, said not all projects will involve highways, but all of them will cost money.

“We are firmly entrenched in our belief that this is a multimodal system,” Rogers said in testimony to a new joint legislative committee on transportation. “I have always quipped that a ‘project of regional significance’ is a way of saying that I cannot pay for it.”

Legislative committee members who toured the area and heard from officials and the public on June 13 are just starting to lay the political groundwork for a transportation funding plan.

“We urge you to think big,” Metro Councilor Shirley Craddock said, with significant funding for both roads and public transit.

The legislative panel is led by Rep. Caddy McKeown of Coos Bay and Sen. Lee Beyer of Springfield, Democrats who chaired the transportation committees in their chambers during the current two-year cycle.

Oregon law limits use of fuel taxes and vehicle fees to pay for road and bridge work. Capital improvements for modes other than highways have relied on proceeds from a series of lottery-backed bonds known as ConnectOregon.

A report issued by Gov. Kate Brown’s transportation advisory panel last month lists as priorities: the maintenance of roads and bridges; relief of Metro-area traffic congestion; expansion of public transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities; movement of freight, and seismic reinforcement.

Though he proposed no specifics, Brian Gray, Western Oregon regional president of Knife River Corp., said metro-area congestion affects the entire state. Gray, whose business is involved in construction materials and contracts, said that projects as far away as Medford and Coos Bay hinge on timely delivery of construction materials from Portland.