Improving Highway 43, a major connecting corridor for the southwest Portland metro area that is in many places bumpy with potholes, has been a goal of West Linn City officials and a fantasy for highway commuters, for many years.
The City of West Linn, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Metro have not forgotten the busy thoroughfare. All three jurisdictions are still working to secure funding for the improvement project.
The first phase of the project will focus on the section of the highway from the border with Lake Oswego to Hidden Springs Road. Improvements from Hidden Springs to I-205 will come in subsequent phases.
After ODOT gave the City of West Linn new cost projections for the Highway 43 improvement project that far surpassed the original anticipated expense of $6 million, the City has reduced the scope of the project to make sure it stays within budget.
According to Public Works Director and City Engineer Lance Calvert, the cost increase was a result of state and federal requirements for federally funded projects. Working with ODOT, public works staff was able to reduce the scope of the project, while still fulfilling the state and federal requirements.
"They've potentially scaled back the project to just a couple of sections from Hidden Springs north and basically just using up all the grant money in that corridor but not exceeding the budget of the project," Calvert said.
According to an initial concept plan for Highway 43, adopted by the City in 2016, "significant growth within the region along with lack of roadway maintenance funding has put a strain on the roadway. The road's pavement condition and capacity has not kept up with its demands."
One of the most significant changes of the project is adding a center turn lane to the highway. Currently, Highway 43 is mostly two lanes through West Linn with a third turning lane for short stretches.
Another prominent feature to be added during the project is a buffered cycle track, or bike path with a physical barrier to shield cyclists from traffic.
"We're trying to create safe bike spaces for middle schoolers, not just professional cyclists," Calvert said.
He noted that another main focus of the project is handicap accessibility, because none of the sidewalks along the highway currently meet ADA standards
The project, which is set to be completed in 2022, will cost around $6 million. The City of West Linn is using GO Bond, System Development Charges (SDC) and street funds to pay $2 million for the project.
The City received $3 million from Metro in flexible funds for the project in 2017. The remaining $1 million comes from state and federal funds.
Metro is currently considering later phases of the project in its possible T2020 ballot measure, which will finance transportation projects throughout the region if passed by voters.
Due to challenging grades of Highway 43 south of Hidden Springs Road, Calvert said the cost to improve this portion will be far more than Phase 1.
Metro has classified Highway 43 as a Tier Two corridor, giving higher priority to corridors like McLoughlin Boulevard and Tualatin Valley Highway.
"Some of the reason Tier Two corridors didn't score as well with initial scorings were based around things like going through equity areas, or they maybe had a higher level of risk assigned to them," explained Metro Councilor Christine Lewis, herself a West Linn resident. "The good news is out of all the Tier Two corridors, Highway 43 is one of the six that will be evaluated in February and I think it's going to compete really well."
Lewis said the Metro council will receive a recommendation on which Tier Two projects to fund in February or March.
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