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No easy solution when it comes to truck traffic


Wilsonville's geography draws traffic from two interstate highways; route limits not seen as realistic

by: SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Large commercial trucks like this tractor-trailer on Wilsonville Road have drawn complaints from local residents concerned over what they see as an increase in truck traffic. A recent study, however, shows the truck traffic in the city is within acceptable limits. How many trucks are too many when it comes to residential neighborhoods in Wilsonville?

If those neighborhoods are adjacent to the strategically placed Wilsonville Road, probably too many for comfort. But because Wilsonville Road is a key transportation route connecting Newberg with Wilsonville and ultimately to Stafford Road and West Linn, it’s not likely anything is going to change when it comes to truck routes through the city.

According to a recent traffic study carried out by city community development staff, Wilsonville Road typically sees around six to seven percent commercial truck traffic, depending on which direction of travel is being examined. This figure compares with the two to four percent normally seen on arterials with residential connections, said Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar. But, because of Wilsonville Road’s regional importance, the city’s current truck volume is still within normal parameters.

“It’s higher end, but not really out of line considering the regional connections to I-5 and I-205,” Kraushaar told Wilsonville City Councilors at a June 2 work session prior to the council’s regular meeting. “Wilsonville Road connects to more things than just our city; it attracts many different types of freight.”

The traffic study arose out of repeated complaints earlier this spring from Wilsonville residents over the number of commercial trucks, including large semi trucks with one or more trailers, driving through Landover and other local neighborhoods.

Councilor Scott Starr suggested at an April meeting that perhaps drivers using global positioning satellite, or GPS, navigation are being pushed onto Wilsonville Road as they look for quick routes to or from Interstate 205 and its Stafford Road interchange.

“Now there are semis with multiple trailers on the back now that are going through there,” Starr said.

In response, the city carried out speed and truck traffic studies in the affected area along Wilsonville Road on the east side of the city. This is the area that is seeing an increase in commercial traffic – and complaints - traveling past Wilsonville High School and Boeckman Creek Primary School, as well as the numerous apartment complexes along the route.

Several recurring themes showed up in citizens’ complaints, Kraushaar said. They included queries asking if the posted speed limit can be reduced; whether trucks can be banned from this route; whether an alternate truck route can be established; and if traffic-calming tools such as medians are available.

While the truck traffic study showed conclusively that Wilsonville Road is not carrying more trucks than intended through residential areas – industrial areas, by comparison, usually see up to 25 percent heavy truck traffic – a speed study showed that drivers regularly exceed the posted 35 miles per hour speed limit along Wilsonville Road from Town Center Loop East north to the Stafford Road intersection.

“It was fairly interesting,” Kraushaar said, noting the average speed for northbound drivers on Wilsonville Road was 33 miles per hour, or just under the posted limit. Southbound drivers also drove under the limit on average, at 34 miles per hour.

At the same time, the speed study showed the 85 percentile for Wilsonville Road drivers was 38 miles per hour for northbound drivers. In other words, 85 percent of drivers were traveling at or less than 38 mph. 15 percent, however, were exceeding that pace. For southbound drivers, the 85th percentile was even higher at 39 mph.

While these figures show many drivers are regularly exceeding posted speed limits, Kraushaar said the recorded speeds validate the current 35 miles per hour limit on Wilsonville Road east of Town Center Loop.

Consequently, she added, the city does not currently support a change in that limit.

“It is a major arterial in our road classification system, a heavy duty connection throughout the city,” she said, “and to reduce the speed on that type of a facility likely ends up frustrating people more than not; you’re not being collected on a collector, you’re actually on a big arterial and the speed study supports a 35 mph posted speed.”

Problems in the future could arise when the city’s development plans for the Frog Pond area along Stafford Road collide with existing traffic patterns. One possible solution would be to rebuild the SW 65th Avenue and Stafford Road interchange. Currently a windy bottleneck that often backs up traffic a quarter mile or more during peak hours, this route could – if rebuilt – direct truck traffic away from Stafford Road toward Elligsen Road and north Wilsonville.

But as a county road, the city currently has no direct control over that intersection. Not to mention the cost of rebuilding the terrain in that area would likely be prohibitive even if the county agreed to allow the city to carry out improvements, which it could do.

“I’m guessing in the Ms not the thousands,” City Manager Bryan Cosgrove told the council.

In the meantime, city staff will return to council at a future meeting with additional information on extending the median on Wilsonville Road from its current terminus at Boeckman Creek Primary School. Additional portable signs warning drivers of their speed in bold yellow numbers also are an option under study.