At its Oct. 18 meeting, the Hillsboro City Council approved the final phase of street name changes.

TRAVIS LOOSE - Hillsboro city officials have approved a plan to change the names of 150 streets across the city. The plan is aimed at having a cohesive grid system, which the city says will help emergency responders.The Hillsboro City Council approved a plan last week to officially rename more than 100 public and private streets.

The decision, made Tuesday, Oct. 18, formally gives the go ahead to the final phase of a three-phase citywide project to rename several city streets.

Dan Dias, Hillsboro's development services manager, said that the project is aimed at reducing confusion in the city's street grid for emergency responders, and is part of a broader plan to establishing a logical and commonsense address system for the whole city.

Hillsboro's street grid was formed in hodgepodge over the decades as the city's growth began to overlap with growth in Portland, Washington County, and Beaverton during the past 100 years, city officials said. This has caused confusion for residents and visitors and, at times, made navigation troublesome for the city's emergency responders, according to Hillsboro Fire & Rescue spokesman Storm Smith.

"We're very supportive (of the changes)," Smith told the Tribune on Monday, Oct. 24. "There are a number of areas where you go from a 5-digit to a 4-digit address system, and that's a little confusing."

In all, Phase Three will alter the names of 150 streets, bringing many addresses into the proper geographical quadrants. All three phases will ultimately affect about 9,000 commercial, industrial, and residential addresses.

For a complete list of changes, and for more information on the entire project, visit the city of Hillsboro's website.

About half the address changes are purely directional — changing Northwest to Northeast, for example — but others are more involved, including changing the name of the street, or the road type. Many homes will also have to be renumbered as part of the plan — which has caused understandable frustration for some residents.

"This is an unjustified waste of taxpayer money," Hillsboro resident Randy Graham wrote to city officials on Aug. 22. "... It will cost millions of dollars and be a hardship on businesses and citizens alike. The present system works fine."

Smith, the spokesman for the city's fire department, said that the change will mean faster response times for emergency responders.

"It's going to improve our ability to respond to emergencies," he said.

While ambulance services, utility workers, and police and fire department personnel all use current, comprehensive maps for navigating, Smith added that the new addresses will be incorporated into training going forward, mitigating any potential problems that could arise.

At their Oct. 18 Council meeting, along with community feedback in the form of letters and emails, councilors and city staff heard from residents who were both confused and perturbed by the changes, giving city officials a face-to-face opportunity to hear concerns.

The testimony painted a clear picture of specific grievances for residents.

"Businesses that correspond with ... customers will endure disruptions and a useless and expensive workload because of the singularly cynical proposed changes," resident David Shields wrote to the Council on Oct. 4. "... Passports, income tax accounts, Social Security addresses, bank accounts, mortgages (and) property tax records will all have to be changed for no justifiable reason. Taxi and Uber drivers will be unable to reliably find their fares."

Other residents said the changes make sense.

"Visitors are often annoyed by the fact that (Northeast) Cornell Road magically becomes Southeast 10th Street at the intersection of Main Street," wrote resident Ken McMahon, "then morphs into (Tualatin Valley) Highway/Oregon 8 immediately after that. Surely this is excessive. I look forward to a more sensible assignment of street names. Thank you very much."

Other supporters said that the changes will help clarifying in which city those near the Hillsboro-Beaverton border actually live.

Most of the complaints came from downtown Hillsboro's Birchwood neighborhood. Several referred specifically to the proposed change of Northeast Birchwood Drive to Northeast 7th Avenue.

City staff opted to remove Birchwood from the final list of changes in order to evaluate additional data and options, and will address how to move forward at a later date.

Phases one and two of the renaming were approved earlier this year — in February and May, respectively. Those phases did not include nearly as many street changes, impacting segments north of Northwest Evergreen Parkway and to the east and west of Northwest Cornelius Pass Road.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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