Revised price tag for Fanno Creek Trail project sets board members back

Much like trying to bike across Southwest Hall Boulevard at rush hour with no 'walk' signal, the timing of a recent work session between the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District and the Beaverton City Council turned out to be less than ideal.

As the harsh reality of numbers and costs associated with Fanno Creek Trail crossing options at the busy Hall thoroughfare sank in, board members realized they weren't prepared to present a united front to the council.

Once consultants' and engineering numbers were crunched, park district staff reports that originally estimated $2 million and $3 million for respective over- and undercrossing options came in at closer to $5 million and $9 million.

Calling the options 'horribly expensive,' THPRD board member Larry Pelatt joined board members Bill Kanable and Joe Blowers in a retreat to explore how to further contain project costs.

'I think, in general, board members agree something needs to be done about that crossing,' Blowers said this week, reflecting on the March 20 meeting. 'But when you start talking $7 (million) or $10 million, that sort of takes over the discussion. How in the world do you come up with $10 million for a (project) like that? I think that's where we are right now.'

With no apparent consensus among park district board members, Mayor Dennis Doyle suggested postponing further discussion with the council until the board could agree on a proposal.

Blowers said the board, which meets the first Monday of each month, didn't have time to discuss the updated cost estimates before the scheduled meeting with the council.

'Three million and 2 million were the numbers we associated with the project. The week before (the work session), we get brand new numbers. Our first chance to respond was in the work session,' he said. 'The mayor kind of pulled the plug: 'If the THPRD board is not on the same page, how can we work together in a work session?''

Councilor Catherine Arnold said she saw the work session as an opportunity to share ideas, but understood how the cost differences changed the board's tune.

"They were hoping to get some feedback from us because we'd seen this material before," she said of the plans. "It was also, 'Let's talk about it.' And we might have."

The project's funding source has not been secured, but could involve a combination of funds from the park district, the city of Beaverton, Oregon Department of Transportation and possibly Metro regional government.

The bridge options for the trail - whose final links were connected and opened in December - include a design with ramps approaching the bridge directly, at an original estimated cost of $1.5 million to $2 million, and another with spiral-ramp approaches first estimated to cost around $2.5 million. The tunnel or 'pedestrian underpass' option, which would raise Hall Boulevard to allow the trail to pass underneath near its natural grade, was originally estimated to cost between $3 million and $3.5 million.

A trail crossing committee in January narrowed five options to carry pedestrian and bicycle traffic across the congested thoroughfare down to two. Proposals involving pedestrian signals, an island or rerouting the trail to nearby intersections were eliminated in favor of a tunnel underneath Hall or a bridge spanning the boulevard.

A bridge crossing, whose cost is now estimated at $5 million, would include spiral ramps on the north side of Hall to protect sensitive wetlands and take up to six months to complete.

The tunnel option, now estimated to cost around $9 million, calls for raising the roadway elevation up to 10 feet to protect it from the 10-year floodplain and building large retaining walls on both sides of Hall Boulevard. Construction would take up to a year and a half.

Following the impasse at the March 20 work session, park district officials and board members are pondering alternative solutions. One possibility is to revisit an 'at-grade' crossing between Creekside Drive and Greenway Avenue.

'Our consultant is looking at that in terms of design requirements and will bring his conclusions to a meeting between THPRD and city of Beaverton staff later this month,' said Bob Wayt, spokesman for the park district, noting a cost estimate would be included. 'If there is agreement between THPRD and city staffs, a new recommendation would be taken to our board in May.'

The board, he said, would likely return to the City Council with its new findings.

At the truncated work session, Councilor Marc San Soucie expressed interest in looking again at the at-grade crossing option.

While board members generally agreed the project's priority level will need to be reassessed, there's little doubt that whatever happens will necessitate a multi-jurisdictional funding partnership.

'I think the city is willing to be part of it. That's obvious to me,' Blowers said. 'I don't know how much the city is willing to contribute financially. But if we do anything other than the status quo, it will have to be a group project. We can't finance it by ourselves.

'We're gonna need some help.'

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