Council tries to soothe I-5 traffic woes
As traffic grinds to a halt along Wilsonville Road and Wilsonville's other main surface arterials on weekdays during rush hour, many look to City Hall with frustration. But traffic congestion mitigation has been a frequent topic at City Council meetings and councilors and staff have expressed their own frustrations with the issue, citing Interstate 5 is the main culprit for congestion.
Recently, the Wilsonville City Council has passed and expedited a slew of city-wide traffic reductions and redirection projects — from adding a third stacking lane to the I-5 southbound ramp to the 5th Street to Brown Road connector. But councilors and staff say that there's only so much that City-based initiatives can do, inspiring the City to sponsor a panel of regional traffic experts to come and answer residents' traffic questions and voice their concerns.
"It really come down to I-5. When I-5 fails, it begins to create backups throughout the city," said Mark Ottenad, public/government affairs director, at the Nov. 6 City Council meeting. "It will probably take a whole set of improvements (to fix)."
Since I-5 is under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), City staff expressed that its hands are tied in terms of fixing Wilsonville's traffic woes that stem from the interstate. The panel is intended to inform and get residents involved to help find a solution for regional issues, such as the possibility of adding capacity to the Boone Bridge.
"We want to educate the public about what we can and can't do as well as enlist them," City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said.
The City hopes that state and federal representatives and agencies will take part in the panel, including local representatives from the South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART), which will participate in the panel. City Council and staff will also be on hand in some yet to be determined capacity for the sake of public outreach.
"We need to be up front and listen to people's concerns," Mayor Tim Knapp said. "I think that we have some responsibility to be upfront and receive people's questions and take some visible part... I don't just want to be glad-handing people."
Cosgrove said that the City couldn't talk about I-5 issues specifically, but ODOT will be invited to participate and speak for itself.
Councilor Charlotte Lehan also spoke about additional traffic issues, such as traffic pooling in Wilsonville and on the Boone Bridge after being funneled through the multiple interchanges that surround the city.
"No one is really recognizing this fire hose problem that is Washington County that's pointing right at Wilsonville," Lehan said.
In part to address this regional traffic concern, Knapp sent a proposal for a South Metro I-5 corridor traffic study led by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in April to Rep. Richard Vial (R-Wilsonville).
The letter urged Vial to back this study, focusing on identifying problems and solutions for "local and interstate traffic along the South Metro I-5 Corridor, stretching from north of Salem/Keizer past Wilsonville to Portland and Hillsboro."
The study has yet to be approved.
In the meantime, the panel is proposed to take place some time in early January.
"We're asking people to help us solve a regional problem," Cosgrove said.