Meet the Cornelius Pass Highway
The transfer of Northwest Cornelius Pass Road to Oregon Department of Transportation ownership was finalized Monday, March 1.
"Farewell, old friend," the Multnomah County Roads Department tweeted, along with a photograph of highway signage at Cornelius Pass Road's much-maligned intersection with Northwest Skyline Boulevard.
Farewell, old friend: NW Cornelius Pass Road is now officially Oregon 127. ODOT's newest highway stretches from Hwy. 30 in Multnomah County to Hwy. 26 in Washington County. Details: https://t.co/TTvGUItZX1 pic.twitter.com/BO3qngok1A— MultCo Road Services (@MultCoRoads) March 1, 2021
In truth, Cornelius Pass Road has been a thorn in Multnomah County's side for years. Built as just one of a handful of twisty, winding back roads through the Tualatin Mountains, the now-highway has become a major commuter and freight route.
Crashes have not been infrequent on Cornelius Pass Road, especially the former Multnomah County portion, over the years. Some of those crashes have claimed lives.
Over the summers of 2019 and 2020, Multnomah County undertook a long-awaited $5.65 million road improvement project on Northwest Cornelius Pass Road.
State legislators approved funding for that work in response to public pressure following the death of Taija Belwood, a Scappoose High School senior, in a New Year's Eve 2007 crash. But the planning phase of the project was lengthy, and work hadn't even begun yet when another Scappoose High senior, Kerrigan Clark, died in a similar crash in May 2015 — months after the project budget was slashed.
Early on, the improvement project was planned to include a reconstruction of the Skyline Boulevard intersection. Those plans were dropped in 2015 amid cost-cutting and design concerns.
Many commuters were disappointed by the improvements when they were finally built. For one, they took longer than expected. The contractor was unable to complete its work in one season, so the road had to be closed for several weeks last year for it to finish. For another, the improvements didn't include repaving the road, worn as it is from heavy trucks and a high volume of traffic, except in spots that were undergoing other safety improvements.
This summer, ODOT will re-pave the highway between U.S. Highway 30 and the Multnomah County line, which is between Northwest Kaiser and Germantown roads.
The safety improvements were a prerequisite for ODOT accepting ownership of the road. They included widening portions of the road to soften sharp curves and adding guard rails and signage.
ODOT takes control of an 8.1-mile stretch of road between Highway 30 (also known as Columbia River Highway in Columbia County and St. Helens Road in Multnomah County) and U.S. Highway 26 (Sunset Highway).
Washington County had been responsible for Cornelius Pass Road up to the county line, just north of where it crosses Rock Creek.
The portion of Cornelius Pass Road south of Highway 26 will remain under Washington County's jurisdiction. The road used to end at Highway 8, or Tualatin Valley Highway, near the boundary between Hillsboro and Aloha, but it now runs south of the highway and railroad tracks into the burgeoning South Hillsboro development.
The ODOT portion of Cornelius Pass Road has been officially designated as Highway 127. New signage is expected to be posted soon denoting it as a state highway. Currently, the only highway signs along the route point toward Highway 30 in the north and Highway 26 in the south.
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