City of Lake Oswego will now begin acquiring right-of-way from more than 50 properties; construction could begin in 2018

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Concept art shows some of the Boones Ferry Road project's core features: bike lanes, green spaces along the sidewalks and connected plaza areas.Plans to remodel and expand a large section of Boones Ferry Road through Lake Grove reached an important milestone last week: City officials announced that the design phase of the project is now about 60-percent complete.

Actual construction on the estimated $26.9 million project isn’t expected to begin until 2018, but the design milestone signals that the City Council can begin laying the legal groundwork by passing a resolution to authorize the undergrounding of utilities and the use of eminent domain.

The project will widen and revamp Boones Ferry Road between Madrona Street and the Oakridge Road-Reese Road intersection, supplementing the existing four lanes with a central median and turning lanes, bike lanes, improved landscaping and drainage, bus shelters and public plaza areas connected to the sidewalks. It will also add two new signalized intersections and pedestrian crossings.

However, the City will need to create space for these additions by acquiring property along the edge of the road in order to expand the right-of-way. According to Redevelopment Director Brandt Williams, more than 50 properties will be affected; most of the needed space is currently covered by the edges of parking lots or landscaping between the lots and sidewalks along the road.

“There are over 50 properties that we’re going to be acquiring right-of-way and easements from, so this is a significant undertaking,” Williams told the City Council last week. “So that will most likely be the piece of this project that determines when we can move forward with construction.”

Negotiations to acquire the properties have not yet begun. According to City Attorney David Powell, state law requires the City Council to authorize the potential use of eminent domain for specific properties before beginning negotiations. A portion of the project’s funding comes from ODOT, which also imposes that same requirement.

“In most instances, these are successfully negotiated,” Powell told the council. “This is not a signal that you necessarily are going to condemn property that we can’t negotiate, but you do need to have this in your pocket as a tool in the event that you can’t.”

Williams said the City has spent a lot of time narrowing the scope and physical design of the project in order to shrink the affected property list as much as possible. The 60-percent design milestone, he said, signifies that the list has been finalized to the point that the City can now begin negotiations.

“We feel very comfortable now,” he said, “that we’ve come up with legal descriptions that are accurate and reflect what we actually need from these properties.”

The council passed a resolution last week authorizing the use of eminent domain for the first 15 properties on the list. Williams said staff hope to have a resolution for the all of the remaining properties ready in November, although he said a third resolution may be needed to finish the list.

Stacy Bloom, the project’s lead engineer, also briefed the council on a resolution to move utilities along the route underground during the project. Lake Oswego’s government has made a consistent effort to move utility lines underground whenever possible in recent years, and the existing utility poles along Boones Ferry Road stand in the way of the wider street.

“All of the overhead utilities within our reconstruction section are in conflict with our street improvements because of our widening efforts,” Bloom told the council. “So of course now would be the time to underground these utilities.”

In response to a question from Mayor Kent Studebaker, Bloom clarified that while businesses along the corridor would have to pay out of pocket in order to move their utility connections underground, they will not be required to do so; if a business owner wants to keep their existing aerial connection in order to avoid rewiring their building, the City will install a utility pole on the property to bridge the two systems.

The eminent domain and undergrounding resolutions both passed by a vote of 6-0. Councilor Joe Buck recused himself from both votes because his family owns two of the properties that will be impacted by the project.

Williams cautioned that while the 60-percent design point is “a very significant milestone,” the project still has a long way to go. The final design is expected to be ready in mid- to late 2017, and the project is targeted to begin construction in “the first part of 2018,” assuming all of the necessary property is acquired.

Construction is tentatively scheduled to wrap up at some point in 2019.

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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