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Regional transit plan boosts local bikeways

Goal is to make it easier and safer for people to cycle


by: TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - A lone bicyclist struggles to find a safe way over the 185th Avenue bridge across Sunset Highway, despite sidewalks and bike lanes on it.Focused infrastructure improvements could serve to substantially increase the number of people riding bicycles in Washington County, thereby helping to reduce traffic congestion and increasing public health.

That’s according to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), an advocacy group that recommends enhancing bike access over Highway 26, increasing bike safety along the Tualatin Valley Highway and linking neighborhoods in the county with bike-friendly greenway-style streets. Those specific proposals are among 16 recommendations contained in the “Blueprint for World-Class Bicycling,” a regional plan released by the BTA last week intended to increase biking throughout the metropolitan area.

Washington County officials agree with the recommendations from BTA, an organization that has promoted the increased use of bicycles for about 23 years.

“We agree with the spirit of the report’s recommendations for Washington County. We are committed to helping plan and build a truly multi-modal transportation system for Washington County’s residents, workers and businesses,” said Stephen Roberts, communications coordinator for the county’s Department of Land Use and Transportation.

In fact, all of the recommendations in the plan for the county are either under way or in the planning stages.

For example, the Bethany Boulevard and Glencoe Road bridges over Highway 26 are currently being widened to include bike lanes. Those two bridges were singled out for improvements in the report, along with the 185th Avenue and Cornelius Pass Road bridges. The goal is to provide more effective methods of linking residents in the growing neighborhoods north of the highway with the employment, shopping and recreation centers south of it.

Safety improvements for bicyclists are also being considered in the TV Highway Corridor Plan currently being prepared by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It is intended to address longtime transportation problems, including the lack of a continuous bike path, along the busy thoroughfare from Beaverton to Hillsboro. Its recommendations are expected to influence the outcomes of the Aloha-Reedville Study being conducted by Washington County and the South Hillsboro Concept Plan being finalized by the city of Hillsboro.

County officials are also studying which lightly traveled roads can be designated as preferred bike routes. One goal is to encourage more biking by recommending the safest routes between homes and destinations.

The county is also working on the Westside Trail, which is already included in the report. When finished, the 24-mile off-road trail will run from the Tualatin River to the Willamette River at the St. John’s Bridge, connecting nearly 120,000 residents to jobs, services, schools, natural areas and public transit hubs. Further, the county is currently considering a new bridge over Highway 26 for bicyclists and pedestrians as part of the trail.

Will Vanlue, the BTA’s communications manager, said the recent report is not intended to overlook the county’s efforts. He noted that the recommendations were generated by community residents and elected officials, and are meant to illustrate the range of possibilities.

“Some are projects that can be accomplished in the near term and some will take a little bit longer,” said Vanlue.

Many of the other recommendations focus on Portland, which is already committed to increasing the percentage of daily trips taken on bicycles.

The plan does not report how much such improvements would cost or how they would be funded.

Federal, state and local transportation dollars are continuously being spent to improve Highway 26, and the Oregon Department of Transportation is conducting a study of safety problems along TV Highway. Washington County and Hillsboro are also considering improvements there as part of their planning efforts for Aloha/Reedville and South Hillsboro.

The plan was developed over the past few years with the involvement of hundreds of residents in the region, including a Washington County community forum held in Tigard. It divides the recommendations into four areas: “Make Big Streets Safe,” “Let’s Fix It,” “Create Neighborhood Greenways” and “Build Inspiring Trails.” The goal is to help create a safe, region-wide transportation network that includes bike connections throughout the region.

The plan is a follow up to the “Blueprint for Better Biking” report, released by the BTA in 2005, which listed 40 key projects. A 2011 status report by the BTA found more than 75 percent of the projects have either been completed or are in progress.

The full plan is on the BTA’s website, btaoregon.org.




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