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Planning Commission chairman wants to add language promoting its discussion in proposed update of transportation system plan; vice chairman says it should be a separate item, not part of a routine ordinance containing minor changes.

Yet another discussion of a bypass highway is scheduled for the next meeting of the Washington County Planning Commission.

Or maybe not.

On the commission agenda for Wednesday, Aug. 1, is a proposed update to the county's transportation system plan. The update, which the commission considered July 18, proposes only minor changes, "and are not intended to be a comprehensive update," according to the staff report.

But commission Chairman Richard Vial has suggested adding language to promote discussion of a westside limited-access highway and road improvements around Cooper Mountain, part of which Beaverton seeks to include within its urban growth boundary.

Vial also is a Republican state representative from Scholls. In 2017 he was the chief sponsor of legislation (House Bill 3231) that would allow cities and counties to enter into public-private partnerships to create special districts for limited-access highways. The bill got a hearing but then died without action.

Vial avoided the term "westside highway" — a concept dating back more than three decades to describe a Washington County bypass to Interstate 5 — in favor of "Northwest Passage."

Commission vice chairman Jeff Petrillo weighed in with written comments in advance of the Aug. 1 meeting, which he said he may be unable to attend.

Petrillo said the update "was advertised as a housekeeping ordinance — nothing more or less — and I oppose 'slipping in' language that is contrary to its original intent, particularly when there has been no public notice of such action."

Although there is no specific alignment for the route — which is envisioned as a toll road — it is envisioned to split from I-5 in north Marion County, cut through rural areas of Washington County to Cornelius Pass and beyond, cross the Columbia River and rejoin I-5 near Woodland, Wash.

Some of the Washington County areas are designated as rural reserves that area off-limits to development.

Cost estimates run into the billions.

Petrillo said he does not oppose a discussion of the highway, but that it should be separate from the pending update, which is in the form of an ordinance.

Vial said at the July meeting that county commissioners want to proceed on the issue. Petrillo said in his memo that since the board of commissioners is the county's ultimate policy-making panel, the board — not the planning commission — should take the lead.

The planning commission meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 E. Main St.

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