$9.5M project is to identify, design, construct road improvements

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - Bruce Penney, left, and Sarah Hanson, right, sitting as members of the Community Advisory Committee formed by Multnomah County to recommend safety improvements along Northwest Cornelius Pass Road. The committee includes several volunteer members, like Penney and Hanson, who reside in the area.A committee formed to study prospective safety improvements on Northwest Cornelius Pass Road met for more than two hours in the Skyline School gymnasium Tuesday, Jan. 14, but struggled to articulate a vision for what should be done to improve conditions and reduce crashes on the heavily trafficked route.

Much of the Community Advisory Committee meeting was taken up with discussions of hypothetical means of calming traffic, several of which — including speed limit decreases and a regular law enforcement presence — appear to be unworkable solutions, according to meeting participants.

The total budget for the project is $9.5 million, although only $1 million is available immediately for design work.

Members of the committee referred at several points throughout the meeting to the constraints of the budget, and the group conducted an exercise midway through its second hour to identify which parts of the road are most in need of addressing.

“We’ve got two hotspots, down at [Northwest] Eighth Avenue and at the tunnel curves, and yes, the Skyline intersection is important because people are having one heck of a time getting out of [Northwest] Skyline [Boulevard] and onto Cornelius Pass,” said Bruce Penney, who lives on Cornelius Pass Road north of Skyline Boulevard, early in the meeting.

Skyline Boulevard resident George Sowder disagreed.

“I’m going to play devil’s advocate, Bruce,” Sowder said. “Who cares if a truck turns over? Is it lethal to human beings? ... It’s inconvenient, but is it dangerous?”

Sowder said the Skyline intersection deserves more attention because it has seen several fatal crashes, although it has had fewer truck crashes than the series of curves north of the intersection and the section of Cornelius Pass Road near the Eighth Avenue intersection, according to crash data presented at the meeting.

Committee members seemed to agree that the Skyline and Eighth Avenue intersections and the “S” curves north of Skyline Boulevard are Cornelius Pass Road’s most problematic segments, but beyond that, attendees’ visions were less focused.

Sarah Hanson, a Cornelius Pass Road resident who also serves as legal counsel to the government of Columbia County, presented the highlights from a meeting of road dwellers last month.

“It appears, at least to some of us, that the majority of people who are commuting on the pass don’t really have a good sense of residences around them,” said Hanson, suggesting that signage to alert motorists of driveways along the road could be useful.

Hanson also said her group of neighbors does not want road improvements that will increase driving speed along the road.

The committee is set to continue meeting this spring, with an “open house” on safety improvement options scheduled for Feb. 18.

Under the project’s designated timeframe, safety improvements are supposed to be selected and designed this year, with construction work taking place in 2016.

The scope of the project is the segment of Cornelius Pass Road within Multnomah County. Washington County has jurisdiction over the southern portion of the road, beginning just south of where it intersects Northwest Kaiser Road.

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