by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville Road connects Wilsonville with Newberg to the west. Its also a narrow, two-lane road that many now worry will not be able to cope with increased traffic from a planned Newberg-Dundee bypass. For a project that’s been decades in waiting, the Newberg-Dundee bypass highway is not getting a lot of public attention.

Work on the first phase of the planned 11-mile bypass highway around the state’s most notorious traffic bottleneck got underway last fall to relatively little fanfare. Now, however, the project is getting the attention of Wilsonville city officials and others concerned about the potential impact on Wilsonville Road traffic.

“(The Oregon Department of Transportation is) very much convinced that having Wilsonville Road be part of a signalized intersection, there really is a belief that the creation of the bypass won’t increase traffic on Wilsonville Road,” Wilsonville Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar told the Wilsonville City Council on Nov. 18.

As designed, the $288 million first phase of the bypass would extend 4 miles from a new Oregon 219/Wilsonville Road intersection to the junction of Oregon Route 99W and Oregon Route 18 south of Dundee.

LaDuke Construction is carrying out the initial stage of construction, which includes building embankments for bridge approaches and preparing the area for roadways, which will be built next year.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP / GARY ALLEN - Construction on the Newberg-Dundee bypass got started last fall. This photo shows the eastern terminus of the first phase of the bypass, where it will attach to Highway 219 south of Newberg near the junction with Wilsonville Road.When completed in 2016, the first phase of the bypass will, according to ODOT, reduce traffic volumes by around 20 percent in Newberg and 40 percent in Dundee.

Extensive ODOT modeling done before the first shovel ever hit dirt also concluded the bypass would not measurably impact traffic on the Wilsonville Road, which joins Wilsonville with Newberg.

But many remain unconvinced this will actually be the case. They say motorists, including more heavy trucks, are more likely to be directed onto Wilsonville Road once linked with the bypass road.

And if traffic counts are markedly increased on Wilsonville Road, that could have a direct impact on the west side of Wilsonville itself, which already experiences significant traffic congestion at peak hours at intersections around the Interstate 5-Wilsonville Road interchange.

“It seems like it boils down to whether you have confidence in the modeling or not,” said Councilor Richard Goddard.

Closer to the project, members of the Ladd Hill Neighborhood Association, a community planning organization, or CPO, that covers parts of rural Yamhill and Clackamas counties, are among those who do not. At a Sept. 19 meeting, ODOT officials met with the group to try and assuage their concerns about the impact on Wilsonville Road.

According to minutes from that meeting, ODOT representatives claimed traffic would likely increase on Wilsonville Road from around 3,500 to 4,000 trips per day, significant but not enough to warrant concern. However, the minutes state, “Many more LHNA speakers simply could not believe in the accuracy of the ODOT estimate.”

Those who live on Wilsonville Road testified to the number of traffic accidents on the road and emphasized that drivers seeking a shortcut to Interstate 5 may be more tempted to use Wilsonville Road once it is connected directly to Oregon Route 219.

Phase one plans call for the construction of a signalized junction that would join Route 219 and Wilsonville Road with Springbrook Road in a three-way intersection. In the fourth phase of construction, the terminus of Wilsonville Road would be moved to the south to meet up with Route 219 at Wynooski Road next to the Newberg Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Ladd Hill Neighborhood Association members suggested that perhaps Wilsonville Road could be connected with Wynooski Road as part of phase one instead.

“The Ladd Hill CPO is really worried about it,” Kraushaar told the council. “When I first started getting calls from the CPO, I also contacted Clackamas County. The county met with the CPO and the county’s thought was that what’s important is to take traffic counts now and take them after the bypass is completed and see if models were correct or not. And if that’s not the case, do something.”

What could be done after the fact remains a matter of conjecture.

“It seems to me it would make sense to evaluate low-risk mitigation on the front end before you risk millions of dollars building it a certain way,” said Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp. “I don’t see a downside to considering one of those other options; whereas there is a significant downside to the option they’ve chosen to focus on. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to answer those questions.”

Kraushaar said she simply doesn’t have the data at present to contradict ODOT’s projections.

“My thought is for safety,” she said. “It’s not a safe road. It’s narrow and windy, people cut across their lanes to do their fancy driving, stuff like that. But ODOT continues to stick to their belief that their model is correct and that we don’t need to do anything.”

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