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Traffic jams clog intersections as Oregon Department of Transportation prepares to open bypass

A crowd of Newberg citizens approached the Newberg City Council on Dec. 4 to voice their concerns about the Highway 219 intersections with Everest Road and East Second Street, saying they were concerned about safety, traffic delays and pedestrian safety.

Preparations for the opening of the Newberg-Dundee bypass, including eliminating left turns from Highway 219 onto East Second Street, are probably exacerbating the problem, at least for now.

There are around 333 permanent homes, 50 manufactured homes and 126 apartment units in the area surrounded by Church Street, Highway 219, Sportsman Airpark and Hess Creek, according to Doug Rux, the city's community development director.

Considering an average of about two cars per family that would constitute around 1,018 vehicles who regularly use those intersections to leave the area. The number does not include local businesses or cars traveling to Family Life Church.

The neighborhood is confined with few outlets, Rux said. Everest Road is the main exit used to access Highway 219 and Highway 99W to the north.

The residents can utilize alternate routes such as East Second Street that curves around the neighborhood to merge with both Third Street and Airpark Way on the west side of the area. Traffic can exit off of Church Street, but drivers cannot turn left to merge onto Highway 99.

"The amount of traffic accidents and traffic deaths that have occurred in the last seven years, at least from my personal opinion, is phenomenal in comparison to blocking an entire neighborhood," Richard Arnold testified.

He added that Church Street "is right off of a major off-ramp from Highway 99W going onto Highway 219 (and) cars and trucks are going 40 to 45 mph right there, so trying to turn right onto that street is asking to get sidelined. Everest Street already has a sign at the corner of Highway 219 … that says 'Caution, there may be traffic ahead.'

"Not to mention it's right around the corner from an existing busy intersection, which means that it is just going to get worse in terms of traffic. Now, the concern about (East) Second and (Highway) 219 is that it is right off the landing strip at the airport.

"I personally contacted the FAA and asked them what needed to be done, and they informed me that if I had the measurements, the altitude and all the details of the intersection and presented it to them, that they would give a detailed description of what they would feel would be in the best interest of being able to make the traffic controller.

"It's just not a safe neighborhood," testified Kathy Bolandor.

The Highway 219 and Highway 99W intersections with Everest Road have been a concern for quite a while. According to the city of Newberg transportation plan, published in December 2016: "OR 99W in Newberg contains four segments that rank among the top 10 percent and two that rank among the top 5 percent for state highways in Oregon according to the Safety Priority Index System (SPIS) for 2013" and "OR 219 between mile points 20.71 and 20.82 including the Everest Road intersection (top 10 percent) is one of them."

"Since the time that the crossing was made as a stop Sept. 7, it has caused a dramatic increase in traffic at Everest and Highway 219, it has always been the same issue and now even more so. I have seen school buses trying to negotiate that intersection. … Not to mention the long lines that occur during rush hours in the morning and evening. It is really a traffic concern. Essentially we are held hostage because it is an unsafe way to cross the highway," Ned Mike testified.

Those appearing before the council said they want answers and they want to see some indication the city is working with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) on a solution.

"We are working with the city on that issue," said Lou Torres, ODOT's public information officer, explaining that there is a process and steps that need to be taken before ODOT can make any decisions on how to solve the problem.

With this month's opening of the Newberg-Dundee bypass, ODOT estimates anywhere from a 50-percent to a 65-percent reduction in city traffic.

"The bottom line is that the bypass needs to open and we are going to monitor this," Torres said. "We are going to observe how the changes effect the neighboring streets. Drivers will try different routes out and then get into a routine and start to use a particular route and change the traffic pattern. We have to work our way through that and then we can get some really good data and help us to determine if we need to make any adjustments to the local streets."

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