At current rates, Washington County bike network will take 62 years to finish

At current rates, Washington County bike network will take 62 years to finish

Beaverton to Tualatin ride-3

Jim Parsons of Beaverton (upper left), attempts to join traffic at the corner of Southwest Canyon and Lombard in 2011.
(Photos by J.Maus/BikePortland)

A public meeting in Beaverton Thursday will give Washington County residents a chance for in-person feedback on a 20-year transportation plan currently slated to devote vast amounts of money to widening local streets.

Some of the biggest changes would come to east-county streets like 185th Avenue, which would grow from five lanes today to seven corridor lanes. At intersections, it might bulb out to 10 lanes of traffic.

“This is the time to provide comments on these type of changes, not when the project is under design.”
— Shelley Oylear, Washington County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

The on-street bike network, meanwhile, will keep making progress here and there. At the current rate of about seven miles of bike lane per year, finishing the remaining 431 miles of missing bike routes along arterial and collector streets would take 62 years. Finishing the county’s 140 miles of missing sidewalks, meanwhile, will take 23 years at the current rate of about six miles of sidewalk per year.

The proposed priority list for the county’s $100-million-a-year transportation capital budget seems at odds with Washington County residents’ stated preferences.

In an April 2013 poll commissioned by the county to inform its 2035 Transportation System Plan, 46 percent of residents ranked the biking and walking network as one of the county’s top three priorities, while 35 percent of Washington County residents said new and expanded roads should be a top-three priority.

Percentage of Washington County residents that ranked each activity as one of the county’s top three priorities, 2013.
(Source: DHM Research)

The list of roads to be widened or narrowed over the coming decades is on page 13 of this PDF. Others among the 37 stretches of road that would be widened (in these cases, from two lanes to five) include parts of Parkway Center Drive, Lower Boones Ferry Road and Roy Rogers Road.

Many of the changes are the requests of local city governments. In addition to the 37 road widenings proposed, about half at the request of Hillsboro or Beaverton, 19 roads would be narrowed, about half at the request of Tigard or Tualatin.

Shelley Oylear, Washington County’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said that “this is the time to provide comments on these type of changes, not when the project is under design.”

She also said many residents may not realize that roads marked as having a certain number of lanes may in some cases expand much wider.

“A five-lane road means that is its segment width,” Oylear said. “It could be five to eight lanes at intersections, and a seven-lane road could mean seven to 10 at intersections.”

Oylear, who BikePortland contacted for a rough estimate of the time it’d take to build out the bike network, added that it’s a complicated calculation.

Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-24.jpg

The Tour de Parks in Hillsboro in 2008.

“We are still trying to identify all the bike/ped needs around the county,” she said. “We have info about bike lanes and sidewalks in the urban area, but are still identifying specific projects and cost … not to mention the rural road needs.”

There’s no question that many Washington County residents rely on auto travel, and no one is expecting the county to become the next Portland overnight, or even by 2035. But it’s a little odd that the county’s plan seems to contradict the preferences expressed by its voters in the county’s own polls.

Tonight’s open house is 4 pm to 8 pm at Valley Catholic High School, 4275 SW 148th Ave., Beaverton. Can’t make it? You can also leave a comment online at the county’s “virtual open house” through Feb. 21.

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