A segment of Tonquin Road that runs parallel to the new parkway will be closed until April.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A flagger directs traffic in front of Basalt Creek Parkway shortly after the new road opened to traffic. Basalt Creek Parkway serves as an alternate route for traffic while Tonquin Road is closed. Once both roads are open, transportation planners hope traffic flow through the area will improve. A long-planned project is becoming a concrete reality — or at least an asphalt reality — as the first segment of new roadway in between Tualatin, Sherwood and Wilsonville opened to the public this month.

Basalt Creek Parkway runs between Tonquin and Grahams Ferry roads, curving south of its intersection with the former to cut east-west, with Tonquin Road to the north and Clay Street paralleling it to the south.

At the same time they opened Basalt Creek Parkway, said officials from Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation, road crews closed Tonquin Road between its new intersection with the parkway and where it meets Grahams Ferry Road to the east. Basalt Creek Parkway will serve as an alternate route while Tonquin Road is closed, likely until sometime in April, according to project manager Renus Kelfkens.

Kelfkens and Melissa De Lyser, a spokeswoman for the Department of Land Use & Transportation, said they are glad to have the first piece of the new and upgraded road network in the area open to the public.

"It's a big deal. We're actually quite excited," De Lyser said. "It's providing a much-needed connectivity, and the fact that we have Basalt Creek to open while we do the work on Tonquin really helps us minimize the overall traffic impacts. ... The way that we were able to juggle the construction schedules has been really beneficial to everybody."

Kelfkens said Basalt Creek Parkway has been striped for now as a two-lane roadway, although a bridge over the railroad tracks is wide enough to eventually accommodate five lanes — two for travel in either direction and then a center turn lane. The parkway will likely be expanded when development begins in the area.

Right now, the Basalt Creek area is mostly a mishmash of quarries, farms, fields, and a few corrugated-iron buildings here and there. Tualatin and Wilsonville have plans to annex the area and eventually redevelop it with a mixture of housing, manufacturing and high-tech businesses, although a joint planning process has stalled due to disagreements over what to do with a piece of land east of Grahams Ferry Road.

The Basalt Creek Parkway construction itself is part of a larger county road project that also will see 124th Avenue extended south from Tualatin-Sherwood Road; it will curve to the east where it meets Tonquin Road and become Basalt Creek Parkway. Sections of Tonquin and Grahams Ferry roads also will be expanded to three lanes; they currently are two-lane roads, one travel lane in either direction with no center turn lane.

"That combination provides some increased capacity," said Aquilla Hurd-Ravich, planning manager for the City of Tualatin.

While the extension of 124th Avenue was originally planned to open to traffic this fall, Kelfkens said it was pushed back to an expected spring opening, as the laying of water pipes as part of a joint infrastructure project by the Tualatin Valley Water District and the City of Hillsboro to tap the Willamette River as a drinking water source is being done in conjunction with the roadwork.

"It depended on how (the contractor) wanted to stage the work with the road construction and the pipeline. We gave them that flexibility," Kelfkens said. "The only thing that had to be done first was get Basalt Creek open as a detour for Tonquin."

The segment of roadway that opened to traffic Monday, Aug. 14, is about seven-tenths of a mile long, according to Kelfkens.

The county plans to further extend the new Basalt Creek Parkway east to Boones Ferry Road. That second phase has yet to be designed, but Kelfkens said he hopes to see construction begin by 2020.

Once the entire project is complete, interlinking segments of Tualatin-Sherwood Road, 124th Avenue, Basalt Creek Parkway and Boones Ferry Road will form a regional freight route, according to De Lyser and Kelfkens.

"Hopefully, it creates a little bit of a relief valve on Tualatin-Sherwood Road," said Hurd-Ravich, adding, "I think it just provides an alternate route, and hopefully it provides an alternate route for some of the freight that's getting moved once 124th opens up."

Ray Pitz contributed to this report.

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