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Over the next couple of weeks, crews will tunnel beneath Highway 217 and Southwest Scholls Ferry Road.

COURTESY MAP: WILLAMETTE WATER SUPPLY PROGRAM - Two tunnels are being installed at Highway 217 and Scholls Ferry Road for Willamette Water Supply Program drinking water pipeline work.

Anyone driving along Highway 217 at Scholls Ferry Road will probably notice some increased construction activity as crews begin work on a new pipeline for the Willamette Water Supply Program project.

The Willamette Water Supply Program is a joint project between the Tualatin Valley Water District, Hillsboro and Beaverton. The ambitious drinking water project is intended to provide water for those who reside in the Tualatin Valley Water District, as well as residents of Beaverton, Hillsboro.

The Willamette River, one of Oregon's largest rivers, will be the program's new supply source. The treatment plant itself will be located in Sherwood.

The water treatment plant design was finalized in September of this year and is anticipated to be finished in 2026. The new seismically resilient water treatment plant is slated to provide 60 million gallons of water per day and is designed for a maximum of 120 million gallons per day, according to an October newsletter about the project.

The impetus of the Willamette Water Supply Program began seven years ago to support increasing growth in the region. Leaders also realized they needed to address the fact that Hillsboro only has one water supply.

"So if something happens to their water supply, they're in trouble, right?" said project spokesperson Marlys Mock. "And we also recognize that none of these water systems are built to withstand the big Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. This new system will be designed to withstand a major seismic event."

The construction taking place right now along Southwest Scholls Ferry Road is the Metzger Pipeline East phase of the project.

The project merges already-planned construction by the Tualatin Valley Water District into ongoing plans for the Willamette Water Supply Program and Beaverton, according to the project's website.

The new system will provide a backup water source for Beaverton, Mock said. The timing is just right too, as Beaverton city officials anticipate its current water supply may only be sufficient until 2045, so participation in the water supply program will support planned growth for decades to come.

The price tag on the project is $1.3 billion, a cost that will be shared by TVWD, Hillsboro and Beaverton customers based on water usage. Officials have applied for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans from the federal government, which Mock said is making a "huge dent" in the long-term cost of the overall program.

Over the next couple of weeks, crews will tunnel beneath Highway 217 and Scholls Ferry Road, which is also signed as Highway 210.

Crews will also be working on a drinking water pipeline within the travel lanes of Southwest Scholls Ferry Road from Greenway Park to Southwest Allen Boulevard, then beneath Allen Boulevard to Southwest Western Avenue, officials said. The work will also include pipeline installation along Southwest Cascade Avenue, as well as construction within Southwest Hall Boulevard from Scholls Ferry Road to Southwest Greenburg Road.

Overall traffic impacts should be minimal until February 2022, when closures are set to begin.

"Because we're building our big water pipeline under Scholls Ferry," Mock said, "there will be lane closures and delays and more traffic impacts, and we're going to be communicating really broadly about that before that happens.

While no traffic disruptions are anticipated initially, drivers should watch out for changing road conditions as crews expand work into nearby roads, project officials said.

Drivers can listen to 1610 AM radio for information and traffic updates or visit the Oregon Department of Transportation's to learn about traffic impacts.

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