Highway 47 improvements in Forest Grove move forward
Washington County is considering several design options to make improvements to a notoriously dangerous intersection: Highway 47 at the Fern Hill Road and Maple Street.
The junction is known for being one of the most frequent spots that Forest Grove police are called out to because of motor vehicle crashes. In 2014, seven people ended up in the hospital after a T-bone crash at the intersection.
Last summer, Daniel Stewart, 34, was traveling southbound on Highway 47 — signed locally as Tualatin Valley Highway — when a northbound SUV attempted to make a left turn onto Maple Street, striking Stewart on his motorcycle and killing him.
A traffic study will determine possible design alternatives for the angled intersection through a joint partnership with Washington County, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the city of Forest Grove.
County officials are considering several options to improve safety at the intersection.
"We haven't selected a preferred alternative yet. We have been looking at a roundabout, signal and a reverse U-turn," said Renus Kelkens, a senior project manager for the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation. "Stakeholder discussions are important, with OR-47 being a state highway and heavy truck route (and is) in close proximity to a railroad crossing, with a scenic bikeway running through the intersection, and the Forest Grove School District bus barn south of this intersection."
Currently, the project is funded only for the $2.2 million design phase, paid for through Washington County's Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program. Estimated design completion date is Dec. 31.
"We continue to work with our partners at the city of Forest Grove and the Oregon Department of Transportation to evaluate design alternatives and identify key stakeholders," said Heather Sturgill, a senior communication specialist for the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation.
Sturgill added, "We anticipate presenting our findings at an open house this summer."
Once an alternative is selected, design work will continue and funds for construction will be sought, she said.
Traffic counts show that Highway 47 at Fern Hill/Maple sees approximately 12,000 vehicles using the roadway daily. Fern Hill Road has about 1,950 vehicles each day while Maple Street fields about 1,380 cars daily.
Meanwhile, the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation is making improvements on Martin Road from Highway 47 to Verboort with plans to make safety improvements to accommodate increasing freight and commercial traffic.
That will include the installation of a roundabout at Highway 47 — signed at that spot as Quince Street — and Martin Road, as well as widening of the road south of the traffic circle.
"This roundabout will be similar to the Verboort and David Hill roundabouts, but will have shorter curbs and sloped to better accommodate wide farm vehicles," Sturgill said.
The planned roundabout has been reviewed by the Rural Roads Operation and Maintenance District Advisory Committee, which meets quarterly to advise county staff and the Washington County Board of Commissioners on such issues.
When the Martin Road improvements are made, the county also plans on replacing two culverts with a concrete bridge, which will span Council Creek.
Some of the concerns expressed by those attending a recent virtual open house included issues about large vehicles using the roundabout. In addition, open house participants were concerned about plans to close Porter Road at the same time Martin Road is closed to make the improvements, said Sturgill.
Other concerns included Porter Road not being able to accommodate detour traffic from Martin Road and that Porter Road would be accessible from Verboort Road only.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.