ODOT: Bypass beating expectations
After getting encouraging numbers two months after opening the Newberg-Dundee bypass, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) says that even more traffic used the bypass this past spring.
ODOT previously reported that approximately 12,000 vehicles were using the bypass daily in January and February, which represented about 34 percent of the previous average of 35,000 that used Highway 99W prior to construction of the first phase of the 11-mile project.
Last week, ODOT Region 2 public affairs specialist Lou Torres revealed, for the first time publicly, that a study during this past spring showed that 36 percent of northbound traffic and 39 percent of southbound traffic left Highway 99W to use the new thoroughfare, which technically is a continuation of Highway 18.
"That's really good news," Torres said. "We had done initial projections and thought it would be around 30 to 33 percent. But we want to caution that we'll be better able to make a judgement when we've had at least a full year and all of the seasons, and summer is an important one."
The new information came on the heels of news that the state had allocated $22 million for the design of Phase 2 of the project, which will extend the eastern terminus of the bypass from Highway 219 to connect directly to Highway 99W on Rex Hill.
"We've started to put together a design team," Torres said. "It's probably going to take about a year and a half to two years to finish that design, but we're a ways away from having enough money to finish the right-of-way acquisition, as well as construction."
ODOT is estimating that it will need a total of $32 million to complete right-of-way purchasing for Phase 2, but that it did carry over more than $10.5 million from Phase 1 for protective purchases of properties that landowners move to develop.
Torres said that about $152 million still needs to be raised to complete Phase 2, including about $31.5 million more for right-of-way purchases and approximately $120 million for construction, putting the total estimated cost at about $184 million.
"We've got a long ways to go," he said. "And the Legislature was aware of this, but by completing the design, that kind of gives us the inside track that when other funds do become available, we'll have this design and can say, 'We're ready to go.' So it puts us in an advantageous position if and when federal funds become available. We don't know when that's going to happen."
According to Torres, ODOT has already purchased just over 9.1 of the estimated 78 to 82 acres of right of way needed for Phase 2. That includes five properties, totaling 6.3 acres, it acquired after the entire footprint of the project was approved in 2010 but before Phase 1 was completed.
"A number of people came to us within that first year or two and said they'd like to sell their land to us," Torres said. "We call those hardship cases because, typically, they're people that really want to sell."
ODOT also pre-emptively purchased a 2.82 acre parcel for approximately $325,000 using the $10.5 million left over from Phase 1 and approved by the Oregon Transportation Commission for protective purchases. Together, the 9.1 acres represents about 11 percent of what's needed for Phase 2, although Torres noted that ODOT is in negotiations to pre-emptively purchase a 17-acre plot that would raise that figure to just over 26 acres or just under 33 percent of the total needed.
Wilsonville Road realignment
Torres also updated the timeline for the related, though technically separate, project to realign Wilsonville Road to connect with Highway 219 south of the bypass' intersection with Highway 219, specifically just south of Wynooski Street. He indicated that design for the project is mostly complete but completing the right-of-way process is the major holdup, so ODOT expects to go out to bid in fall 2019 and perform construction in summer 2020.
"We have to purchase about 5.4 acres and eight properties are involved," Torres said. "There may be two relocations if all goes well, but we don't know that at this point."
Torres said that the realignment project will help one aspect of traffic congestion in the corridor between the eastern terminus of the bypass and Highway 99W, which is one of a few trouble spots that ODOT anticipated with the phased-in approach.
That projects stems in large part from pushback from residents off of Wilsonville Road, most vocally from the Ladd Hill Neighborhood Association, to the original plan to connect Wilsonville Road with Highway 219 at the same point as the bypass.
As it stands, westbound traffic on Wilsonville Road is unable to turn left onto Springbrook Road just east of the intersection with Highway 219 due to a median.
The new design calls for Wilsonville Road to be diverted south, partially along Adolf Road, to connect directly with Highway 219 just south of where Wynooski does. ODOT will also block traffic to and from the current path of Wilsonville Road, limiting traffic on that stretch to the small neighborhood adjacent to it. That, in turn, is expected to significantly reduce traffic turning right onto Springbrook Road, which now adds to congestion of the northbound traffic coming off the bypass and from Highway 219.
ODOT will also remove the median that prevents left turns from neighborhood traffic, which are forced to use Wilsonville Road in order to connect to Highway 219, the bypass and Newberg.
While the realignment won't address congestion of southbound traffic from Newberg, both from Highway 219 and Highway 99W (via Springbrook), Torres did note that ODOT is studying the effects of the bypass on nearby roads to see if improvements can be made.
"We're really analyzing that right now to see how some of these side streets are operating because we knew when we built this bypass that it was going to have an effect on a lot of other roads in the area," Torres said. "We made that commitment to the city that we would look at all that and we are doing that."
Ultimately, congestion in that corridor won't be fully resolved until Phase 2 is completed, Torres said.
"It will take care of that because people won't be getting off on (Highway) 219 unless they absolutely have to get off there," he said. "They're going to stay on the bypass and won't be going on Springbrook (Road) to get to (Highway) 99W. They'll just go to Rex Hill and get on 99W at that point."
But with more than $20 million remaining to raise just to finish purchasing the right-of-way and at least another 18 months until the design is completed, a permanent solution to congestion around the bypass, Highway 219 and Springbrook Road isn't on the short-term horizon.
Torres stressed that diverting traffic, including heavy trucks, from downtown Newberg and Dundee is the ultimate goal of the bypass and, so far, Phase 1 has been successful in that.
It also seems to have also reduced congestion on Highway 99W both within Dundee and between Newberg and Dundee. An unfortunate consequence, however, has been a bottle neck of traffic south and west of Dundee where 99W reduces from four lanes to two. To some degree, Torres said that was also expected.
"Eventually, if we can do Phase 3 or we widen 99W down at that end, that would help a lot," Torres said. "But those are in the future."
A preliminary map of the project is available at https://bit.ly/2Aq4VWr?.