Cartoon used by permission: Steve Ackerman
Highway 217:short- and long-term improvements
By Megan Bruce, staff writer
Two projects are currently scheduled for OR 217. The preservation
project will grind and pave OR 217 between 72nd Avenue and the
Sunset Highway (U.S. 26). The rest of the route was already repaved
during the building of the I-5 interchange a few years ago. Most
of the $10 million project work will take place at night to minimize
disruption of traffic.
Federal funding has recently been obtained, so beginning in 2007
the estimated $36.5 million modernization project will add a third
northbound lane on OR 217 from TV Highway to Sunset Highway. This
project has been in the works since the early 1990s when Washington
and Multnomah counties, Beaverton and TriMet joined with ODOT in planning
the Westside light-rail corridor and related improvements to highways 26
Metro’s Highway 217 corridor study, which began in 2003, has been
guided by an Advisory Committee. The committee is comprised of 20 area residents,
business representatives and elected officials appointed by local
jurisdictions and the Metro Council as well as three at-large members selected
through an extensive public process.
In September Metro narrowed the options for the improvement of Highway
217 down to two based on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee.
Both options call for widening the highway by one lane in both directions.
The price tag for either option is around $500 million.
One proposal calls for a rush-hour toll lane to help pay for the
improvements. The other would be a free general-purpose lane. These
additions may not begin for 20 years, depending on funding. In fact,
the latter project has been given an estimated finish date of as late as
2089 because of the lack of sufficient funding.
Whichever is chosen, there will also be dramatic improvements made
to the highway’s interchanges and to bike lanes. The bicycle route
that runs along the length of 217 currently has several gaps that should
be filled. A bicycle lane adjoining the highway was dismissed because of
issues of safety and right of way.
While traffic in this area is not yet as bad as in Southern California,
where that state has had success with toll lanes, Highway 217’s traffic
has doubled in the past 20 years and is expected to grow by another
30% over the next 20 years.
One question is whether the project will receive funding from voters,
funding it will need with or without the toll lane. It doesn’t seem
likely that our state, which has managed to avoid a sales tax for
so long, would want to vote in a road improvement involving more fees, even
though they would be optional to drivers.
The tolls on the lanes would be variable, depending on the traffic
in the remaining free lanes. The automated tolling systems would
mean no delays to stop at booths and search for change.