The long-running push to place 3 miles of Southwest Hall Boulevard under Tigard's jurisdiction seems to be getting a little closer.
That's based on remarks made Wednesday afternoon, May 4, during a mile-long walking tour of the route that included Oregon Department of Transportation officials, Tigard city leaders and staff, and other residents.
Participants trekked down a portion of the heavily traveled roadway to get a firsthand look at areas Tigard officials say badly need road and safety improvements.
For several years, Tigard city leaders have been pushing, and at times chiding, the state road agency to turn over a portion of Hall Boulevard — which is officially designated as Highway 141 on state highway maps but not signed as such, leading some to call it an "orphan highway" — with plans to bring it up to city standards for maintenance and safety.
"The City of Tigard and ODOT have a mutual understanding that this roadway will ultimately better serve the community as a city street rather than a state highway, and ODOT and the city are committed to achieving that goal over time," said Rian Windsheimer, ODOT Region 1 manager, during a news conference following the walk. "As we saw on our walk today, Hall is in dire need of improved ADA accessibility, and over the next year, ODOT's going to improve 67 sidewalk curb ramps to current ADA standards between Scholls Ferry (Road) and Locust (Street)."
Windsheimer added, "That's not enough, but it's $7 million in the right direction."
Windsheimer said his agency is also investigating the possibility of lowering speeds on that portion of Hall Boulevard, and the state will be asking for federal funding to make crossing Hall Boulevard safer.
ODOT is expected to soon install a rapid flashing beacon pedestrian signal at Southwest Spruce Street and Hall Boulevard.
There are already two similar beacon crossings on Hall Boulevard in Tigard — one just north of Highway 99W, which is signed locally as Southwest Pacific Highway, and another near Tigard City Hall, connecting two sections of the Fanno Creek Trail. There is another rapid flashing beacon on Hall Boulevard about a mile north of Tigard city limits, again to link two sections of the Fanno Creek Trail, in Beaverton.
Windsheimer said as part of its improvements to Highway 217, plans are to not only widen the northern Hall Boulevard overpass across Highway 217 near Southwest Pfaffle Street but also rebuild it to accommodate bikes and pedestrians. In turn, the southern Hall Boulevard overpass across Highway 217 will eventually be replaced as well.
Wednesday's walking tour began at Tigard Plaza (at Pacific and Hall) and traveled north to Locust Street in the Metzger area. The group paused near the site where Karen Kain, 57, was killed in a hit-and-run collision March 4, while crossing Hall Boulevard at Lucille Court. Her 86-year-old mother, who was accompanying her, was severely injured.
Kelsey Anderson, a spokesperson for the Tigard Police Department, said the case is still active and a top priority for the department.
Tigard Mayor Jason Snider said during the news conference that he was appreciative of having ODOT on hand at the event, saying officials got "the full Hall Boulevard experience."
He pointed to several incidents that occurred during the short walk — which included horns honking as a vehicle backed up traffic as it tried to make a left-hand turn just south of Southwest Oak Street, and a close encounter between City Manager Steve Rymer and a vehicle as he crossed Hall at Locust Street — as examples of safety concerns that need to be addressed.
"Unfortunately, the conditions on Hall Boulevard, which include its high speeds, limited crossings, incomplete sidewalks, have all made travel on this corridor unsafe," said Snider, who also referenced the recent fatality. "The entire Tigard community knows that Hall Boulevard has been neglected for years."
That neglect, the mayor explained, is evident in the numerous potholes and cracks in the pavement along a roadway that runs past five schools.
While Snider has had some sharp words for ODOT over the past several years as talks over a jurisdictional transfer have dragged on, his comments Wednesday were more conciliatory.
"I'm happy to report our two agencies are collaboratively charting a path to a future city-owned Hall Boulevard that is designed, built and maintained to a standard that will equitably serve our community," said Snider.
Last week, the mayor was in Washington, D.C., meeting with Oregon's congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, urging them to support ODOT's request for federal road funding specifically for crossing improvements needed along Hall Boulevard at Southwest Hemlock and Spruce streets.
"Today's walk marks a significant milestone in our progress towards the city taking ownership of Hall Boulevard," said Snider. "While we have a long way to go, my confidence in our ability to deliver is bolstered by the diverse show of support on display here today."
Ben Bowman, who chairs the Tigard-Tualatin School District's board of directors and is unopposed in the Democratic primary for a House district representing most of Tigard, said improvements along Hall Boulevard are a huge priority for those in the Metzger Elementary School community as well.
"Metzger has one of the lowest socio-economic statuses collectively in our school district, and these kids deserve a safe route to school," he said.
Bowman told those gathered to imagine second- or third-graders walking, biking or riding a scooter to school, noting that "one wrong move, one pothole, one distraction and they're in the middle of the road with a car going 45, 50 mph by them."
The section of Hall Boulevard that officials walked Wednesday has some gaps between sidewalks, making it a hazardous journey for pedestrians and cyclists.
Ruth Harshfield, chair of Tigard's local transportation advisory committee, said Hall Boulevard is a road that garners frequent discussion among her group.
"It's a road that community members we represent tell us about, whether related to terrible pavement conditions, the lack of continuous sidewalks, pedestrian and bicycle facilities or the lack of safe pedestrian crossing opportunities," said Harshfield. "We hear loud and clear the need to invest in and improve this road."
While officials seemed to agree Wednesday that it's moving closer to reality, ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton said he can't provide a timeline as to when a jurisdictional transfer of Hall Boulevard might take place.
"There's a lot of things under discussion, but if you're looking for certainty, we're not there yet," he said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done, and that's clear."
Hamilton said one thing both sides need to agree upon before a transfer takes place is making sure the roadway is in a "state of good repair," an assessment that has to be agreed upon by both sides.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.