Cornelius adopts transportation system plan update
A lot has changed in Cornelius since 2005.
The central corridor along Adair and Baseline streets has been revamped, with sidewalks, new signals and other street improvements being put in. Residential construction is beginning to take off, especially in the southern neighborhoods. Now, city officials are looking at plans for urban renewal and other ways to promote fresh commercial and industrial development.
Recognizing their changing circumstances, members of the Cornelius City Council voted unanimously Monday, Feb. 5, to adopt an updated transportation system plan for the city.
"Our current TSP guiding all the development in the city is from 2005, so it's 13 years old. Since then, Metro has had a number of different policy updates," Ryan Wells, Cornelius' community development director, explained to the council. "As you know, our urban growth boundary has expanded significantly on the east side, and therefore, we need to revise our policies and plans to accommodate that projected growth. We've had significant roadway improvements in the downtown that we're all very proud of and are continuing to see bear fruit, and then the 10th Avenue (improvement) project as well. We wanted to extend the planning year of the transportation system plan from 2025 to 2040. And then we also want to incorporate pavement management systems in our updated plan so that we take as good of care of our street system as we can."The transportation system plan lays out a blueprint for current and future projects related to walking, biking, driving and mass transit in Cornelius. In addition to these modes of transportation, the plan also breaks projects down between a "financially constrained plan" that includes projects "reasonably expected to be funded by 2040" and a "strategic plan" that includes projects that may not be.
Driving projects take up the single largest piece of the plan by estimated cost. There are 23 driving projects identified in the plan that are estimated to cost $33.7 million in total, although the amount in the "financially constrained" list shrinks to $15.2 million. Walking projects are a close second, with 50 projects estimated at $30.5 million overall, or $10.5 million in the constrained plan.
The biking and transit projects are a more distant third and fourth, estimated at a respective $5.1 million and $2.2 million to complete. In the financially constrained plan, biking projects total $1.49 million and transit projects total $1.7 million.
There are only four transit projects outlined in the plan, only one of which — developing park-and-ride facilities along Highway 8 at 10th and 26th avenues — is on the financially constrained list. (One of the three items on the "strategic" list is a feasibility study that would provide the city with more information about what it would take to bring high-capacity transit to Cornelius.)
Other projects of note that city staff expect to be funded by 2040 include:
• Installing new bicycle parking throughout Cornelius. This is a high-priority project that the city expects would be funded through urban renewal. Wells remarked, "If you don't have bicycle parking, people aren't going to ride their bikes to a destination."
• Creating several mixed-use paths as part of the Council Creek Trail. City officials anticipate these projects will be funded by Metro, the regional government. Once the Council Creek Trail is complete, planners envision it running from west Hillsboro through Cornelius and Forest Grove, and then turning north to Banks.
• Filling in sidewalk gaps throughout the city. Most of these projects are marked as high priorities for the city.
• Extending North Holladay Street from Fourth Avenue west to the city limits. This street extension is envisioned as a collector route for an as-yet-undeveloped industrial area in northwestern Cornelius.
• Building a frontage road along the north side of Baseline Street between East Lane and Northwest 334th Avenue. Currently, Northwest 336th and 338th avenues and East Lane connect to Baseline Street; they would instead intersect with the frontage road once it is constructed. "There's a significant perceived and real level of conflict with folks trying to get out of this neighborhood, and then a potential future conflict with commercial growth density," Wells said.
• Extending 29th Avenue south from Baseline to Dogwood streets. At an estimated $4.53 million in today's dollars, this is expected to be the single most expensive project in the plan, not counting roadway maintenance. The plan states it would result in the closure of the railroad crossing on Northwest 345th Avenue, as well as a possible new traffic signal on Baseline Street.
• Reconstructing downtown alleyways between Baseline and Adair streets. This project, expected to be part of downtown urban renewal efforts, would be pedestrian-friendly and include "decorative features" for a more attractive look and feel.
In total, the financially constrained plan includes an estimated $53.6 million in projects over the next 22 years.The transportation system plan is not a funding document, and the City Council did not approve any capital expenditures at Monday's meeting. Money for each project, if it has not already been appropriated, will need to be lined up from city, county, regional, state, federal or private sources in order for them to be completed.
The plan does recommend that the City Council ask voters again to approve an increase to the city's motor vehicle fuel tax to help fund transportation projects and maintenance in Cornelius. A 2016 measure to raise the gas tax from 2 cents per gallon to 4 cents per gallon was soundly defeated, with 71.4 percent of voters opposed. Similar measures failed in cities across Oregon.
The plan warns that more funding for roadway maintenance, which makes up the largest component of the financially constrained plan, is "desperately needed." It already costs up to $4 million to maintain Cornelius' existing streets, according to the document, but a recent estimate put the amount available for that maintenance at just over $1.12 million.
"Current funding levels allow the City to maintain its system on a 75- to 80-year cycle, far short of the desired 20-year maintenance cycle," the plan's summary of roadway maintenance states in part.At Monday's meeting, Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin wondered aloud about worsening traffic and backups at stoplights along Highway 8 as the city's population grows. More than 1,000 new houses and apartment units are in various stages of development in Cornelius, according to a map of current development projects the city published last November.
Wells acknowledged that Cornelius will likely feel some strain.
"There's nothing in here that proposes that we're not going to have congestion as population and utility of the system increases," Wells said.
Wells said city staff received "significant public feedback" during the 16-month process of developing the transportation system plan update. Public outreach was conducted in both English and Spanish, he noted, although he said the city received markedly less input from Spanish-speaking residents overall.
A public hearing was held Monday night for members of the public to weigh in on the plan, but no one came forward at the lightly attended meeting to offer testimony.
The council also voted to adopt amendments to its municipal code in line with the transportation system plan update Monday.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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