Our Opinion: Get ready, because there's construction ahead
There's an old saying: Short-term pain for long-term gain.
Well, Washington County commuters, at long last, the county is closing in on a three-stage project to expand traffic capacity and improve safety on Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood and Roy Rogers roads.
Bringing what was a rural road connecting two backwater towns into the 21st century, in which it is very much a major commuter and freight route — a highway in all but name — has been a high priority for Washington County and the cities of Tualatin and Sherwood for years. But challenges and delays have put the work on hold until now.
Read our story from Aug. 9, 2019, previewing an open house for Tualatin-Sherwood and Roy Rogers road improvements.
With tens of thousands of vehicles on Tualatin-Sherwood and Roy Rogers roads every morning, and tens of thousands more vehicles on them every night, it goes without saying that roadwork — especially on the order of this project, which has a total budget of well over $30 million spread out over five years — will present some traffic difficulties.
While that work won't start until next year, another major disruption to traffic patterns in the area is set to hit next month, when Southwest Beef Bend Road will close for nearly two months at Southwest 146th Avenue for a culvert replacement.
It's not as alluring a project as Washington County's planned work to overhaul the Tualatin-Sherwood connection, but on the slopes of Bull Mountain, drainage work carries some significance. Residential development has exacerbated stormwater runoff in the area, and it's on the county to ensure that water is draining the way it should and not contributing to runaway erosion.
And then, some distance to the north, there's the long-awaited safety improvements being built along Northwest Cornelius Pass Road's treacherous, winding path through the West Hills. While most of the work is taking place within Multnomah County, rather than Washington County, the road is significant to residents and workers in three counties — including Columbia County, where many people commute to work in Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Read the Portland Tribune's story from July 20, 2019, on the Cornelius Pass Road construction project.
In its construction area, Cornelius Pass Road looks about as different from Tualatin-Sherwood Road as two-lane roads in northwest Oregon possibly can. Where Tualatin-Sherwood Road runs straight and true, Cornelius Pass Road zigs, zags and switches back. Tualatin-Sherwood Road fronts business parks and shopping centers, while Cornelius Pass Road overlooks dense woodlands, wetlands and just a few scattered houses.
But the roads have a lot in common, too — which is why the projects to improve them are so critical.
We'd like to see more work done on Cornelius Pass Road, frankly. Like Tualatin-Sherwood Road, it used to be a sleepy rural route that didn't need to accommodate much traffic, and now it carries tens of thousands of vehicles, including heavy trucks, every day. With users that range from Sunday drivers going to get groceries in Rock Creek, to 9-to-5-ers for whom the road is a regular part of the everyday commute, to commercial drivers hauling logs, gravel and fuel, Cornelius Pass Road through the West Hills is eight miles of tension and stress, too many vehicles trying to navigate a road that wasn't built for half of them.
Nevertheless, we're glad to see safety improvements being built, which will hopefully reduce the head-on, rollover and off-road crashes that are far too commonplace — and, at times, deadly — on Cornelius Pass Road.
Unfortunately, as with any major road project, it comes with a cost. Cornelius Pass Road closed a few weeks ago, and it is expected to remain closed well into the fall. Detour routes have been set up along roads even less suitable for heavy traffic than Cornelius Pass Road is.
So there you have it: It's time for some traffic problems on Portland's Westside.
What we would urge is your patience.
All of the work that is underway or planned right now for major roads like these isn't being done with the intent of inconveniencing you. In fact, officials are keenly aware of the disruptions that this roadwork will cause, and they build that into their planning. That's why, for instance, in Forest Grove to our west, county planners aren't trying to rebuild two problematic intersections on Highway 47 at the same time, instead tackling one and then the other.
Yes, waiting for flaggers and being forced onto detour routes is frustrating. Yes, it's a waste of everyone's time to sit in traffic instead of working or spending time with loved ones. But this too shall pass. It's a temporary nuisance to get to a positive permanent result.
So look on the bright side. Those traffic problems now could mean less problems for years to come.
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