This story has been updated.
The first roads in a decades-long construction project in South Hillsboro are now open to the public.
On Thursday, July 12, work crews officially opened the road extension of Southeast Cornelius Pass Road at Tualatin Valley Highway, giving drivers the first up-close glimpse of South Hillsboro.
"It is very exciting," said Colin Cooper, Hillsboro's planning director. "Without question."
The extension connects Cornelius Pass with Blanton Street, cutting through the massive South Hillsboro housing development connecting 209th Avenue, near the Intel Aloha Campus to the east with 67th Avenue — formerly Southwest 229th Avenue — to the west.
Cooper said the city has withheld building permits from much of South Hillsboro until the main roads are in place. With Thursday's grand opening, Cooper said residents will begin to see considerable construction in the area begin.
"Now, in essence, it's full speed ahead," he said.
The largest neighborhood in Oregon history, it will be 20 years before the sprawling area known as South Hillsboro is built out to its full 8,000 homes, according to city officials. When finished, the area will be home to about 20,000 Hillsboro residents.
City and county planners have been preparing for South Hillsboro's arrival for close to two decades, Cooper said. In the last two years, developers have invested as much as $40 million in new infrastructure to the area.
Drivers in the area should note: Southeast 67th Avenue will no longer connect with Tualatin Valley Highway. Drivers will have to use the newly expanded Cornelius Pass Road to access the highway.
Cooper said in order to get the extension of Cornelius Pass Road approved — which required the road to cross the Union Pacific railroad which runs parallel to TV Highway and is used by Pacific & Western railroad — the city had to close other crossings in the area.
"If you're going to open a new railroad crossing in this day and age, they want to close another," Cooper said. "They don't want to increase the safety concerns they have with any crossing."
The 67th Avenue crossing is the only public crossing removed as part of the expansion, city spokesman Patrick Preston said, though three private railroad crossings were required to close as well.
"Ideally, we'd like to have more connections from the city, but that was non-negotiable with the railroad," Cooper said.
City officials say the change will relieve congestion in the oft-backed up 67th Avenue, and will improve safety. Two new traffic signals have been erected along Blanton Street at Cornelius Pass Road, and along 209th Avenue.
Work in the area is far from over. Along with as many as 8,000 new homes expected to be built in the area over the next two decades, crews next year will start widening Cornelius Pass Road from TV Highway north of Frances Street, as well as plans to widen 209th Avenue south to Butternut Creel.
The left turn lane from southbound Cornelius Pass Road onto TV Highway has been reduced to one lane, and Hillsboro Police have spent this week issuing warnings to drivers caught turning left from the middle lane, which is now a through lane across TV Highway into South Hillsboro.
The first homes in South Hillsboro are being showcased during the NW Natural Street of Dreams, which opens July 28 on Southeast 67th Avenue.
When finished, the area will include 15 miles of walking trails, 280 acres of parks and several special bicycle lanes, called cycle tracks, which are separated from other motoring traffic.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with additional quotes from Colin Cooper and Patrick Preston.
By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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