ODOT chips in on I-5 study
For years, City of Wilsonville staff have prodded the Oregon Department of Transportation to address mounting traffic on Interstate 5 and subsequent overflow onto Wilsonville streets.
Recently the city's, the city's pleas seem to have paid its first dividend.
The two parties announced they are collaborating to produce a "Southbound I-5 Boone Bridge Auxiliary Lane Study" in order to determine whether adding a southbound auxiliary lane, which is a lane primarily for entering and exiting traffic, from I-5 Exit 283 in Wilsonville to Exit 282A would quell traffic overflow. If the parties deem the project valuable based on the study, a related project could be added to Metro's 2018 Regional Transportation Plan.
"This initial study is a very positive sign and very appropriate. It's certainly only a first step," Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said.
Wilsonville City Council first approved $50,000 for the study and the planning process began in October while the City announced that ODOT agreed to contribute to the study in late December.
Knapp said Wilsonville staff repeatedly asked for ODOT's help at legislative sessions and meetings over the last few years and that ODOT's agreement is an acknowledgement of the traffic problems Wilsonville drivers face.
"I think it's a concession or an acknowledgement of the reality that we're currently living through and what the congestion impacts on the freeway system and off the freeway system in Wilsonville are," Knapp said. "It's increasingly clear that just ignoring the problem will not be the strategy that is a productive thing for the people responsible for the freeways."
ODOT spokeswoman Kimberly Dinwiddie referred to the study as an opportunity to address traffic issues.
"The problem in Wilsonville, the bottleneck, has been growing and it's emerging so now is the time to act," she said.
Dinwiddie said the study will include assessments of crash statistics, delay times, future growth modeling and a preliminary cost estimate of a potential project.
Dinwiddie also said ODOT's approximately $100,000 investment will include consulting fees for an engineering analyst and staff time.
Wilsonville Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar said ODOT has considerable access to expertise and data that will be useful for the study.
"Our staff doesn't have a transportation modeler and ODOT has a tremendous amount of expertise in modeling for the interstate system and has access to data that we don't collect," she said.
Knapp, however, said the study will not include the advanced technical and engineering analysis that he has recommended and added that a more thorough study would be required before greenlighting a future project.
"I don't want to raise expectations because it's still not a full-blown technical analysis as much as a high-level review," Knapp said. "What we were advocating for funding was to do the full engineering analysis to look at the technical side in terms of how you would build improvements and what result would you expect in terms of traffic flows or volume and that will remain a necessary step even assuming a positive outcome from this initial study."
Dinwiddie said a more in-depth analysis would be implemented if the project is added to the regional transportation plan.
"On any project we need to do more analysis and design work than what is done in a planning study before we put a project out for contractors to bid on," she
Kraushaar doesn't expect the study to provide a precise cost estimate either.
"I think the study is going to determine whether or not an auxiliary lane will help the congestion. In terms of the cost estimate, I don't expect the study will do a whole lot on the cost estimate but we'll know how far it (the auxiliary lane) needs to go and how long it needs to be," she said.
Through the new study, Wilsonville and ODOT hope to produce a more accurate estimate.
Kraushaar said the City of Wilsonville will conduct public outreach for the study. Public outreach will include a new website, an open house, an online open house, reaching out to the Oregon freight community, homeowners associations, technical advisory committees from Clackamas County, Washington County and Marion County and the Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce and, potentially, public hearings.
The City of Wilsonville also hopes to garner support for a "South Metro I-5 Corridor Study" that would analyze other possible improvements to I-5 and public transit options.
"I-5 is an integral part of Oregon's economy and commuting and tourism. It's getting to be a problem and it's good to think about the solutions now rather than wait for decades," Kraushaar said.