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JULES ROGERS - The Sunrise Corridor, shown here between Minuteman Way and a hilly horizon, rises to pass over Minuteman Way up to I-205.

While Portland’s highways shudder as they near commuting capacity, an eastside project meant to reduce traffic congestion is approaching completion.

The Sunrise Corridor, located in indistrial Clackamas, is a 2.5-mile highway that is currently under construction and is scheduled for completion this June.

The new highway, Portland’s first in 30 years, bypasses the OR 212-224 connection with I-205, instead crossing through the Lawnfield Industrial District. It spans from I-205 to S.E. 122nd Avenue at OR 212-224.

The corridor facilitates traffic flow of commuters and trucking traffic headed to and from the Fred Meyer, Safeway and other big distributors there. It addresses congestion due to the freight traffic, which has been known to gridlock the area on a daily basis.

“This is designed to ease the congestion in there and make sure it’s adequate for future job development,” said Don Hamilton, spokesperson for motor carrier transportation with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

ODOT - The States official project map shows where the new Sunrise Corridor is installed, creating a shortcut for trucks and local commuters to get to the Lawnfield Industrial District without using the OR 212-224 intersection with I-205.

The project includes 12,000 feet of new roadway, four new bridges, new multi-use paths and intersection improvements. There’s now a soon-to-open overpass above I-205, connecting 82nd Drive to 82nd Avenue. There are also updates to intersections, including bike paths and sidewalks throughout the area, meant to improve access to employment.

“That’s a big job growth area in there, it’s an investment for the community," Hamilton said.

The Sunrise Corridor is the first phase of a larger project, the Sunrise JTA project, and is being built by the Oregon Bridge Engineering Company (OBEC), which was founded by ODOT engineers in 1966.

1,500 fewer trucks

Construction started on the Sunrise Corridor in July 2013 for the two-lane highway from the Milwaukie Expressway and I-205 to Southeast 122nd Avenue and OR 212-224.

It’s intended to reduce truck traffic going to and from the Lawnfield Industrial District, address congestion and increase pedestrian and bike safety. The whole project updates affected roads and intersections in the area.

Currently, 16.2 percent of daily traffic along OR 212-224 is trucks. That's 2,630 semis, 745 medium trucks (like dump trucks) and 2,760 light trucks (such as FedEx or UPS) driving those corridors every single day.

After the project's completion, ODOT projects traffic to be 5.8 percent trucks, about 1,190 per day, along OR 212-224.

JULES ROGERS - The Sunrise Corridor overpass above Minuteman Way leads up to I-205.

Road to Damsacus

"Future performance will depend on how fast development occurs in Happy Valley and Damascus, as well as future funding for another phase of Sunrise further east," said Susan Hanson, community affairs manager with ODOT.

The $118 million project was approved by Oregon Legislature through the Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act, because another benefit is access to employment from the east side. It is the first phase of a larger plan to build the Sunrise Corridor Preferred Alternative, a $1.4 billion venture that will have as many as eight lanes, although there is currently no funding for the rest of the project.

“We had a very bipartisan group that finally reached the agreement about what this should be,” Hamilton said. “ODOT is very pleased with the work that we did with the partners on this, including the cities, counties and state legislators who were involved.”

JULES ROGERS - Along with the new highway, industrial access improvements are being made to Minuteman Way.

Time is money

The corridor project is expected to divert 19,600 daily trips off of the existing road system, reducing annual delays by 980,000 hours. It created 1,000 jobs in construction and indirectly, supported 5,900 jobs already in the area, and is projected to create long-term employment through improved freight mobility and the thriving industrial district.

“This should assure retention of jobs in that area, and may lay the groundwork for some future job development around there, too, which is critical for the area,” Hamilton said.

With the trucks bypassing the OR 212-224 connection to I-205, the congestion backing up from there to the Milwaukie Expressway is supposed to dissipate.

Each day, the new route will free up 400 hours for cars and 31 hours for trucks in completely stopped traffic along the corridor. It will save car drivers 3,680 hours and trucks 220 hours per day from slow traffic congestion.

In a year, the total annual time saved by the Sunrise Corridor route will be 920,000 hours for cars and 55,000 hours for trucks — an amount worth $22.5 million in time savings, according to ODOT.

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