Small cities now unified in requesting that Metro look at linking I-84, Highway 26
by: File photo, Travis Stovall

WOOD VILLAGE - The City Council joined its counterparts in Gresham, Fairview and Troutdale in backing a call to study how to improve transportation links between Interstate 84 and Highway 26 during a meeting Tuesday, April 10.

After years of squabbling between the four councils, the vote gives East County governments a unanimous voice in requesting funding from Metro for a comprehensive transit study. Improving transportation connection between I-84 and Highway 26 is critical to East County's economic prospects, industry and government officials believe.

The local funding request is near the top of Metro's preferences for traffic projects, said Travis Stovall, executive director of the East Metro Economic Alliance. And Wood Village's commitment only makes the request stronger.

'We (now) have the ability to approach Metro with a concerted voice to say this is important to ensuring adequate and appropriate growth,' he said.

Stovall said his group, which has been leading the effort to get the study funded, is 'very excited to have the cities agree' on an approach to solving transportation issues.

Currently, 18-wheelers and other shipping vehicles share East County roads with other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Safety concerns, alleviating traffic jams and trimming shipping times, among other factors, necessitate the study, backers say.

'You've got to do the study and look at all the alternatives before the problem can be solved,' Stovall said.

Wood Village councilors, however, also signed a resolution Tuesday calling for conditions on how Northeast 242nd Avenue - one of four potential streets that could be designated as a regional transportation corridor - can be studied.

Should it be chosen as the preferable route, Wood Village officials want any improvements to 242nd Avenue between Glisan and Halsey streets to be at street level. A 1999 plan proposed a built-up infrastructure to link the street with I-84.

Below-grade improvements would be much less intrusive, said Wood Village Mayor David Fuller.

'We still believe there's a better route for' a transportation corridor, he said.

The other roads to be considered for corridor status under a memorandum of understanding between the four cities are 181st Avenue, Fairview Parkway and 257th Avenue. Spreading the traffic out among the current links, instead of focusing on a single route, is also an option.

Fuller doesn't dispute that East County's transportation issues must be addressed. But he said he worries about how a major thoroughfare would affect Wood Village.

'Is there a need? Sure,' Fuller said. 'But it should be done where it creates the least effect on the environment and quality of life in the area. That's why we're here, and we shouldn't compromise on that.'

Stovall said Metro is in the process of choosing which studies to fund. But the backing from Wood Village, along with a recent letter of support from the city of Damascus, makes him feel optimistic about the funding request's chances. The East Metro Economic Alliance also has verbal backing from Multnomah County and expects to get county officials' blessing in writing soon.

'We hope it's enough to get the study completed, so we can plan for the future,' Stovall said.

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