238th Drive rebuild plan spooks area residents
Multnomah County's plans to revamp Northeast 238th Drive has locals worried about careening semis and more accidents on the precipitous incline.
The $8.77 million state-funded project would rebuild a stretch of 238th between Glisan and Halsey streets in Wood Village, with construction scheduled to begin by 2019. The improvements include 10-foot-wide shared paths for walkers and bikers on both sides of the roadway, plus easier curves designed to allow semi-trucks to navigate up or down the hill.
Large retaining walls will be built and drainage will be improved, though the number of lanes won't change. Residents, however, aren't ready to share the road.
"I've called 911 for about eight head-ons, helped pull people out of cars — helped make sure people are still alive," said Nick Singleton, who lives on the corner of 238th. "Now it's going to be trucks hitting cars? I don't really want to see people die."
The County's vision is hardly new. Gresham, Wood Village, Fairview and Troutdale city councils approved the looming roadwork in 2012 as part of the East Metro Connections plan.
That roadmap says big rigs should have a variety of options — including 181st Avenue in Gresham, Fairview Parkway, 238th Drive and 257th Avenue in Troutdale — when chugging between I-84 and U.S. Highway 26.
The East Metro plan also spelled the end for a proposed extension of 242nd Drive to I-84, which was strongly opposed by former Wood Village mayors Dave Fuller and Patricia Smith. The link would've gobbled up land near McMenamins Edgefield, which the business didn't like at all.
Keeping the 242nd extension off the table hasn't satisfied citizens, who gathered for an open house on Monday, Feb. 26, at Wood Village Baptist Church.
"I really feel like this is all for the trucks. It's not for our community, because we won't benefit," noted Irena Lukasiewicz, a paraeducator who's lived in Wood Village for two-and-a-half years. "A sound wall isn't going to absorb exhaust fumes from these big diesel trucks."
Lukasiewicz is one of many naysayers hailing from Treehill Park Condominiums. The only way in or out of the complex is onto 238th Drive just south of Arata Road, and residents are accustomed to making left or right hand turns whenever they're coming or going.
The county will likely restrict access, with one proposal prohibiting all left turns.
"There's limited visibility (and) it's getting more precarious," explained Multnomah County spokesman Mike Pullen. "You have to have a certain amount of traffic to warrant a traffic signal, because they're very expensive."
Instead of dead-ending in front of Donald L. Robertson Park, planners say Hawthorne Avenue could be lengthened to provide secondary access to Treehill's condos. Wood Village has considered the idea before, as some city councilors live on site, but there's no funding available now.
Modern building standards don't allow for large developments with only one point of entry. But Treehill's developer, who originally planned to build apartments, went bankrupt before completing the project.
At the meeting, residents indicated they preferred a design with trees and bioswales partitioning the multi-use path from the roadway. Pullen says the county is preparing car crash data that should help ease residents' fears.
"238th is terrible. I would never ride my bike there," commented Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who represents East Multnomah County. "After this road project, I wouldn't be afraid."