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Mayor Doyle hosts Congresswoman Bonamici for walk along Beaverton's biggest transportation priority

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (center) discusses the narrow, cracked sidewalks along Southwest Canyon Road with city transportation planner Todd Juhasz (on grass). Behind them is Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle. Local business people, city and federal staff members and the media joined a brief tour Tuesday.Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici's office is within sight of Southwest Canyon Road, but she saw it up close from its narrow sidewalks on Tuesday as cars and trucks plodded past in heavy traffic and an ambulance screamed by.

“I drive up and down Canyon Road a lot,” she said over the din. “I do not often get out (and walk it).”

She might feel more compelled to walk a few blocks away from her office if the city of Beaverton gets a $10 million federal grant, which would pay nearly half the cost of major improvements that would transform one of the city’s busiest streets into a safer and more inviting place for walkers, bike riders and businesses.

“There’s so much potential here,” Bonamici said during a pause in the stroll.

“If we get the grant, we will move heaven and earth to make this happen,” pledged Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, who invited the congresswoman on the short walking tour.

Bonamici has advocated on behalf of Beaverton for the grant in Washington, D.C. A decision is expected in October.

The Canyon Road project is aimed at the section of roadway from Southwest Hocken Avenue east to 117th Avenue, nearly a mile of street through the heart of the city ending just shy of Highway 217. A proposed hotel and restaurant project in the next block could duplicate improvements to the highway.

The project would improve safety for walkers and bicyclists with wider sidewalks and better crossings, would enhance intersections to correct turning conflicts that slow vehicle traffic (including freight), and add medians and traffic-calming measures such as street trees. The street would not be widened over its current two traffic lanes in each direction.

Doyle ranked Canyon Road as Beaverton’s highest-priority transportation project, one that will help spur additional private investments in the city’s core.

“This is the face of the community for tens of thousands of commuters a day,” he said. “It’s huge.”

This is the third time the city has applied for this grant, known as the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery). On its second attempt, the city survived early cuts to land in the final 15 percent of applicants. But the competition for TIGER grants is stiff and its latest previous application fell short.

This year, the city has more planning under its belt and more matching dollars on the table, said Doyle and transportation planner Todd Juhasz, who wrote the grant this time around.

The city already has secured about $10.8 million from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Metro and Washington County funds. A $1 million Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development paid for pre-engineering and planning work.

Doyle said he was cautiously optimistic the city would receive the TIGER funding to nearly double its money.

Without that $10 million, the city would make partial improvements with its half-sized pot of money. Without the TIGER grant, Juhasz said the project would likely be pared to about half the distance — he couldn’t yet say which section — and would entirely lose some elements in the bigger plan, including putting utilities underground.

Staff will continue planning and other pre-construction work into 2016, with major construction likely to occur from spring to fall in 2017, Juhasz said.

The improvements will knit the entire area closer together, making walkers and pedestrians more apt to cross north to the MAX line or head south to grab a bite to eat along Broadway Street, supporters said.

Lisa Frank, an advocate for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which is consulting with the city on the project design, said Canyon Road is part of a state highway corridor (Oregon 8) that ranks as the deadliest in the Portland metropolitan area.

“Anything we can do to improve that road is really critical,” she said.

Beaverton Bakery owner Carrie Ann Schubert and Reser’s Fine Foods director of manufacturing Thorsten “Thor” Wentzek said making Canyon Road safer will help protect employees of their companies who use it as a walking and bicycling route to and from work.

Schubert, standing near The Beaverton Building and The Round, where hundreds of people work and shop and live just blocks from the bakery — but on the other side of a gauntlet of cars — said making Canyon easier to get across also is good business.

“I need all of these people to want to cross that road,” she said.
By Eric Apalategui
Beaverton Reporter
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