Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



The big question surrounding the planned huge South Hillsboro development has always been whether our crowded road system can accommodate it. At maturity, South Hillsboro would add a population about the size of Sherwood immediately adjacent to the already overloaded Tualatin Valley Highway.Walt Hellman

Now that the Hillsboro City Council has approved the detailed structure of the South Hillsboro plans, the answers to this transportation question are finally becoming clearer. They don’t look good, especially when considered in a regional context.

One way to gain an insight into the hugely complex development is to concentrate on its lynchpin, Cornelius Pass Road. The plan is to extend the road south across the railroad tracks through the planned new South Hillsboro commercial town center.

One of the goals in the South Hillsboro plan is to ensure “north-south connectivity designed to serve regional needs.” With five lanes in the new development, Cornelius Pass Road would seem to be a key part of the regional plan. No housing is to be approved until necessary road funding is secured.

This all sounds good until you look at the plans in more detail.

Don Odermott, the city of Hillsboro’s transportation planning engineer, told me that Cornelius Pass at TV Highway will be a seven-lane intersection with four turn lanes. He feels this will alleviate the worst congestion at the intersection. But revised Metro standards now include gridlock as being acceptable for one hour at peak, and this will occur. The city fought for an overpass option at the intersection, but the best it could get was consideration for that after 15 years.

Metro’s recent change, designating inadequate country roads as “rural arterials,” doesn’t make them any better or create a real west side throughway. Compare the connectivity of models on the east and west sides of Interstate 5. On the east, we have I-205, an interstate highway. On the west, we will have a dangerous hodge-podge of country roads connecting to the new Cornelius Pass extension, which will have a 25 mph zone in South Hillsboro, a railroad crossing and the crossing of overloaded TV Highway with planned gridlock during peak hour. While Cornelius Pass itself will be able to carry freight traffic, there is no planned freight connection to extend south to I-5 from the new area. This is regional connectivity?

The proposed plan for north-south regional connectivity doesn’t pass the test of practicality or adequacy of function. This single critical failure puts into question the credibility of the entire South Hillsboro transportation plan. What other mirages are in it? The plans are only on paper now. Infrastructure funding is uncertain. Rushing forward now will benefit only the developers — at the expense of the entire community for generations to come.

Two conclusions come from the failure of the Cornelius Pass test: First, South Hillsboro development should be put on hold. Instead of solving the critical need for north-south regional connectivity, it is blocking it. Second, current planning is not placing enough emphasis on meeting the need for increased road capacity. Having inadequate road capacity will not force less driving. It will only increase congestion, air pollution and lost time.

Patchwork solutions like the South Hillsboro plan won’t do. Putting South Hillsboro plans on hold will allow us to step back and better fulfill our responsibilities to coming generations to provide a truly adequate transportation system.

Walt Hellman is a retired Hillsboro High School physics teacher and longtime member of the Hillsboro Planning & Zoning Hearings Board.

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