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Cedar Mill News
Volume 4, Issue 12


December 2006

Transportation planning in the northern Tualatin Valley
By Virginia Bruce

It’s probably too late to sort out the mess that is the road network in Cedar Mill. The roads were built to serve the loggers and farmers that first settled the area, following native trails and winding around farm properties to get goods to Portland and Beaverton. When the area began to be more heavily developed in the 50s and 60s, there was no money or strong vision from the County to create a transportation infrastructure adequate to serve future needs. So we’re left with attempts to make things work a little better—expanding Cornell, Murray and Saltzman to alleviate some of the congestion and improving intersections to speed up traffic.

Public transportation is seriously lacking in our area, and there are many reasons. Lack of a grid with convenient loops for buses means that bus service is minimal. Spread-out neighborhoods invite residents to use their cars for every trip. People who wish to rely on public transportation simply don’t move here, and so there’s little demand from the public to improve the situation.

The MAX light rail system was eagerly anticipated as a way to assist commuters in leaving their cars behind, but now the garage is filled before 8 am on weekdays, so most commuters aren’t able to use it. According to TriMet, there wasn’t enough money available to build a sturdy enough foundation to accommodate additional floors to the garage. And the Cedar Mill Shuttle, while well-intentioned, serves only a tiny handful of potential commuters.

North Bethany offers hope

Planning for the area called North Bethany, the 800-acre Urban Growth Boundary expansion around the PCC Rock Creek campus, is just getting underway in earnest. Many Cedar Mill residents fear that more people to the north will only mean more congestion for us, as the new residents make their way from Highways 26 and 17 to their new homes. Is there a way to actually plan for adequate routes to get these people in and out?

Metro Planning Director Andy Costugno thinks so. He says, “I think a “Main Street” type corridor makes sense (for North Bethany)—a very high quality bus route with land uses along it that support easy access to transit and a few sections along the way that are like a Main Street with commercial and mixed-use. Then bus service could be incrementally improved as ridership develops. If a median right-of-way were retained, it could be used for Light Rail or a streetcar at some time in the future. If it never develops, it could simply be an attractive boulevard.”

Visionary thinking like that could at least help to handle the transportation needs of future residents. Andrea Vanelli, who is coordinating project administration for Washington County in the Bethany planning process, says, “So far the planning work has been somewhat preliminary—necessary things like providing analysis of existing conditions and early estimates of future needs. The next steps begin some of the more interesting work of compiling all of this site information to begin to see how it may take shape. The early months of ‘07 will include an iterative land use-transportation analysis whereby the various components inform and shape different alternatives for consideration.”

“So the transportation piece of the work will be at a rather “sketch” level for a while, however the group’s evaluations will be guided by a set of Planning Principles that describe the desire for transportation options that are well-integrated with community design. A planner with Tri-Met is following this work on the project Technical Advisory Committee, and we are relying upon him to help explore far-sighted concepts such as the one Andy mentions regarding a boulevard with a convertible median for future streetcar use.”

“As for the larger transportation picture, it’s obvious there will be a need for new arterials as part of this growth, and we are coordinating with Multnomah County and Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan update as part of the planning process.”

Light rail is very expensive. The Green Line that will follow I-205, for example, is expected to cost at least $450 million, and 60% of that is coming from Federal funds, which is much less available these days. So grandiose projects like a new MAX line are currently out of the question. But things can change, and it would be a shame to eliminate the possibility of good transportation in and out of North Bethany by failing to plan for it now.



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Published monthly by Cedar Mill Advertising & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229