Public gets first look at Highway 217 project
The public is getting a first look at what state engineers are proposing to relieve traffic congestion on Highway 217, one of Oregon's busiest thoroughfares between Tigard and Cedar Hills.
Ten interchanges fall within its seven miles between Interstate 5 and the Sunset Highway — a number that would not be allowed today, given a preference for interchanges spaced at least a mile apart — and at times during rush hours, the highway looks like Oregon's longest parking lot.
Its current average of 120,000 vehicles per day is comparable with the traffic volumes on the Sunset Highway between Beaverton and Portland, I-5 between Wilsonville and Portland, and I-205 through Clackamas County to Portland, according to 2016 figures.
The Oregon Department of Transportation proposes a $98 million project over three years, starting in 2020. The project is funded by the $5.2 billion statewide package approved by the 2017 Legislature.
"We hope that adding some of these lanes will relieve the bottlenecks," said Faye Douangchit, ODOT senior project manager.
Main features of the project:
• A new frontage road southbound between Allen Boulevard and Denney Road in Beaverton, similar to the frontage roads in both directions between Canyon Road (Oregon 8) and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway (Oregon 10).
When completed, southbound motorists will use only one off-ramp and one on-ramp between Highway 99W and Greenburg Road in Tigard. The Allen Boulevard on-ramp and Denney Road off-ramp will close.
• A new auxiliary lane northbound between Highway 99W and Greenburg Road in Tigard.
• A new Hall Boulevard bridge spanning Highway 217. The bridge has to be rebuilt to accommodate the auxiliary lanes, but will be the same width.
The project does not involve adding capacity for more vehicles. But there will be some added auxiliary lanes to allow traffic to flow more freely.
"The southbound side is about a year ahead of the northbound side," said Lili Boicourt, ODOT spokeswoman for the project. "Engineers have already started on the southbound. We're just getting the pieces in place for the northbound side.
"By the time the southbound side is done, we'll be ready to start on the northbound side."
Actual construction is set to start on the southbound side in 2020. When that frontage road is finished, work will shift to the northside lane and the Hall Boulevard bridge.
The bridge will remain in operation during the project, But Boicourt said traffic will be restricted to one lane in each direction while half of the bridge is being rebuilt,. It's similar to how ODOT handled construction of the Highway 214 bridge that spans I-5 near Woodburn.
Noise walls are under consideration as part of the project.
Among those at a May 23 open house at Whitford Middle School in Beaverton, where project drawings were on display, were Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten and Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen — Highway 217 runs through their districts — and Rian Windsheimer, ODOT region manager for the Portland area.
The project website is: www.Hwy217.org.