Washington County crews in Cornelius have upgraded sidewalks and signs, widened the road, and more.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The intersections of 10th Avenue and Adair and Baseline streets look much cleaner than they used to, with shiny new signs and signals and overhead lines moved underground.The waits are almost over.

Washington County officials working on improvements to 10th Avenue in Cornelius are nearly ready to declare the work to be "substantially complete." Construction has been ongoing since January 2017, segments of the north-south road have been fully closed for multiple weeks on three separate occasions, and the work even triggered a brief evacuation this past August when a crew running a machine accidentally broke a buried gas line.

Project manager Andy Morris knows the project has caused a lot of inconvenience. In Cornelius, 10th Avenue is considered one of the main roads, and much of the work has centered around its intersections with Adair and Baseline streets, which carry Highway 8 traffic through town. Several businesses are located on 10th Avenue in the middle of the couplet, including a Plaid Pantry convenience store and Supermercado San Alejandro.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Project manager Andy Morris and Washington County communications specialist Heather Sturgill show off some of the new features along 10th Avenue in Cornelius."The community out here's been great. I've worked all over the place in Washington County, and the people out here are the most tolerant and patient," Morris said. "Almost zero complaints. These people out here have been great."

Morris said he expects the remaining work to be wrapped up over the coming weeks.

"I think everybody will be gone by the first of the year," Morris said. "I think we should have everything wiped out by then."

Among the improvements the project has made, 10th Avenue has been widened, dedicated left turn lanes have been installed at its Adair and Baseline intersections, and missing sidewalks and bicycle lanes have been filled in along the street from the northern city limits south to Alpine Street.

"This project increased the width of 10th Avenue by approximately 10 feet in the northern section and 17 feet in the couplet between Adair and Baseline streets," Heather Sturgill, a spokeswoman for the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation, reported.

Within Cornelius city limits, 10th Avenue is a city road. However, the county has taken the lead on the project as part of its Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program, or MSTIP.

Cornelius applied for MSTIP funding for the $8 million project, which builds — figuratively and literally — on the improvements made by a project earlier this decade that focused on Baseline Street. That earlier project, which was jointly funded by the city, the state and the regional government Metro, installed sidewalks and street lighting along the eastbound highway corridor, among other changes.

The county is better equipped than a small city to deal with a project as big and complicated as 10th Avenue, Morris and Sturgill suggested. Morris ran down a list of businesses, property-owners and entities he has had to work with on the project, including multiple cable and internet providers whose utility lines have been moved underground, stores affected by the multiple closures, the two railroads within the project area, and the Oregon Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Highway 8 through Cornelius.

"As far as complexity, this one's been really difficult," Morris said. "It's had really deep (stormwater), it's had water, overhead to underground utilities, which is something we don't do often. And then of course, there's been street lighting."

In places, though, the changes are striking. Street nameplates at the intersections of 10th Avenue and Adair and Baseline streets have been replaced with larger, newer-style signs. Utility lines at the intersection have been moved underground, reducing overhead visual clutter — and a potential safety hazard. A stormwater treatment facility, designed to look like a natural wetland once it is fully vegetated, has been added on the west side of the road just south of Council Creek, filtering out toxins from runoff before it is discharged into the creek.

Morris is proud of the work his project team and contractors have done.

"It's a lot cleaner from an old picture to a new picture," he said. "At the end of the day, this is what people see, too, is a black road and yellow and white lines and getting there faster."

Rob Drake, city manager of Cornelius, said he thinks everyone in town is happy to see the construction work concluding.

"It was a complex project and fixed many longtime ills in our downtown," Drake remarked in an email Tuesday, Dec. 11. "It impacted traffic moving through downtown and multiple businesses, but we're hoping people will feel the improvements offset the inconveniences."

Drake added, "We have a fantastic new street that includes improvements to the tracks south of Baseline. People can now travel 10th Avenue south of Baseline with a smooth and safe ride! We also want to thank Washington County for funding and managing the project!"

Although the project isn't officially done yet, nearly all of the heavy lifting has already been done, Morris indicated. A fence still needs to be put up along Payless for Storage's 10th Avenue frontage. Some sidewalk panels are cracked and must be replaced. Some landscaping work remains to be done. A section of North Davis Street needs a gap in its sidewalk to be filled in.

"Most of the improvements that are left are cosmetic," said Morris. "Bark dust and lawn seed."STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Andy Morris of the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation talks about a new stormwater facility and other features installed along 10th Avenue.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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