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Bypass jams up political traffic

Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey is rethinking the city’s request that the state study a new automobile and freight corridor through western Washington County.

On Nov. 20, the City Council voted to ask the 2013 Legislature to direct the Oregon Transportation Commission to study a Westside Transportation Corridor between Interstate 5 near Wilsonville to Highway 30. The request called for the study to be completed in time for the 2015 legislative session.

Since then, Willey has heard from the office of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is worried the request could interfere with his top transportation priority next session: state funding for I-5 bridge replacement project between Oregon and Washington known as the Columbia River Crossing.

Willey has also heard from people who wonder why the requested study doesn’t include other transportation options.

“I guess we were just naive,” Willey says. “We didn’t think asking for a study was any big deal.”

According to Willey, he and the rest of the council believe it is obvious western Washington County has serious congestion problems that will only grow worse as more jobs are created and the population increases.

Instead of relying on their own observations, however, the council recently commissioned a white paper that confirmed growing gridlock on the major freeways during the next 20 years. It concluded that a new transportation corridor through the western portion of the county could reduce some future problems.

“We thought the white paper would convince the Legislature to ask the Oregon Department of Transportation to study the issue in depth. We didn’t think it would interfere with other agendas,” Willey says.

Willey is not prepared to give up yet. He thinks there might be support for broadening the request to include a look at the county’s transit needs.

Although Metro is studying a high-capacity transit corridor between Portland and Sherwood along Highway 99W, Willey says there is also a need for improved bus service connecting all of the communities outside Portland.

“The bus system was originally designed to connect suburbs to Portland. But now people are living and working in those communities. We need to ask, what would the ideal transit system look like if we could start from scratch?” Willey says.

Poking the bear

Willey admits he was “poking the bear” when he first publicly suggested studying a new westside transportation corridor more than a year ago. He knows there was a lot of controversy over an earlier proposal, known as both westside bypass and western bypass. It included a freeway between I-5 near Wilsonville and U.S. 26 near the 185th Avenue interchange.

That plan was taken off the table by the state, county and Metro in 1997. Instead, multiple plans and projects were endorsed to provide transportation alternatives, including mixed-use communities, more MAX lines, more bus service, and road improvements.

But since he first raised the issue, Willey says he has heard from many elected and business leaders in the county who do not understand why or how the original plan was killed. Some agree that a new study is needed, including Beaverton Mayor Dennis Doyle.

“A new study is long overdue. It’s obvious something needs to be done about our transportation problems,” Doyle says.

Willey hopes to develop a compromise during a series of upcoming meetings scheduled with the governor’s office and others who could potentially be involved with the study.



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  • 20 Oct 2014

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  • 21 Oct 2014

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