Corking the unruly flow
Anyone who frequents the Old Town Square on Boones Ferry Road between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. knows cars turning right onto Wilsonville Road can seem like an impenetrable and endless stream.
"Since people are allowed to make right turns here, they just keep flowing, flowing and flowing," said Nancy Kraushaar, Wilsonville community development director and civil engineer.
This causes the eastbound right turn lane on Wilsonville Road to back up, often back past Brown Road during rush hour. She also noted that freight trying to turn left from Boones Ferry Road into the clogged right turn lane entering the I-5 southbound ramp often get stuck in the intersection, blocking traffic in both directions on Wilsonville Road.
"A lot of our SMART buses also have this problem while trying to get onto their route to Salem," Kraushaar said.
To correct the issue of the ever-full right turn lane that merges onto the I-5 southbound ramp, staff is proposing the creation and implementation of a "no right turn on red" rule, effective from 4-6 p.m. This new signage will only apply to vehicles turning right off Boones Ferry Road onto Wilsonville Road.
"We think that it would help the overall flow of the intersection, somewhat," she said at the Oct. 16 City Council meeting. "Before we took any action on this, I wanted to check in with the City Council."
The council agreed that something needed to be done about the aggressive flow from Boones Ferry Road onto Wilsonville Road, but Council President Scott Starr was concerned that vehicles leaving the Old Town Square would be trapped and backup while waiting for the light to turn green as well if the program is implemented.
He suggested changing the middle, northbound lane on Boones Ferry Road, currently a straight-only lane, to a straight-and-right-turn enabled lane. Councilor Susie Stevens said that the option of converting the middle lane to a straight-and-turn lane had been previously proposed, but safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists made it a no go. Several other suggestions were made at the Oct. 16 City Council meeting, but each proved problematic for one reason or another.
"I wouldn't try more than one thing at a time," Councilor Charlotte Lehan said. "If we're doing a pilot, let's do a pilot on no right turn on red from 4 to 6 (p.m.) and we'll see how that goes — that may inform something else (to be done)."
Mayor Tim Knapp also noted that the current levels of traffic leaving the Old Town Square is lower than it will be in the future.
"The Albertson's building is empty," Knapp said. "That won't be true forever and at some point the congestion problem leaps forward onto a whole different level when there's a regular operator using that facility and customers are coming and going, like there was at one point. So we have to be planning long-range."
The council agreed and directed staff to move forward with the no right turn signage. Lehan also suggested that there be a short period of adjustment where drivers who violate the new signage will receive a warning rather than be ticketed for continuing to turn right on red at the intersection. But Knapp wanted to make sure that, if the pilot program is implemented, new signage will be enforced.
"If you put it up and don't enforce it then it isn't going to matter at all," Knapp said.
"Enforcement is a priority," City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said.