Our Opinion: Invisible change could come to Hall Boulevard
Last week, The Times reported on a bill filed by a freshman state representative that would hand back local control over Southwest Hall Boulevard.
But it may have come as a surprise to many readers that Hall Boulevard, perhaps Tigard's most prominent north-south surface street, isn't already under local control.
After all, there are no highway signs posted. There's nothing at all to make it clear to motorists or pedestrians that Hall Boulevard is actually a state route. The Oregon Department of Transportation has not seen fit to put up route signs, label exit 4A on Highway 217 with a highway marker or do much of anything else to inform the public that Hall Boulevard belongs to the state of Oregon.
Read our Feb. 9, 2021, story on negotiations and legislative action centered on giving Tigard jurisdiction over Southwest Hall Boulevard.
Highway 141, as it is designated, actually runs from Beaverton to Wilsonville, from its northern crossing of Highway 217 near Washington Square down to where it crosses Interstate 5 in Wilsonville — an exit also devoid of a highway marker — as Southwest Boones Ferry Road. It passes through Tigard, Durham and Tualatin along the way, making a short jog east on Southwest Durham Road in Tigard before turning south as Southwest Upper Boones Ferry Road through Durham and then just Boones Ferry Road south of the Tualatin River.
In recent years, this newspaper has made something of a point of mentioning the highway designation when writing about Hall Boulevard and Boones Ferry Road. Of course, confusion persists.
City officials in Tigard had to field complaints from the traveling public a few years ago when ODOT roadwork temporarily shut down Hall Boulevard south of the library, city officials in Durham had to negotiate an arrangement with ODOT to allow them to upgrade LED streetlights along Upper Boones Ferry Road some time before that, and both Tigard and ODOT were defendants in a lawsuit filed by a young woman who was struck and seriously injured while crossing Hall Boulevard at a poorly maintained crosswalk in 2014, after a series of miscommunications and mishaps between the state and city governments resulted in the striping being worn and chipped away without the crosswalk ever being formally decommissioned. (ODOT finally restriped the crosswalk and installed a pedestrian-activated rapid flashing beacon in 2017.)
Back to this bill. It was filed by Rep. Dacia Grayber, a Portland Democrat whose House district includes most of Tigard, as House Bill 2515. It's one of 15 bills of which Grayber is chief sponsor, and it is assigned to a committee on which Grayber does not sit.
HB 2515 appears to be a long shot. Hundreds of bills die in committee every two years in the Oregon Legislature, Grayber is a new legislator without much clout in Salem yet, and this bill will be far from her first priority as she dives into what will be a challenging, high-stakes season of legislating.
Fortunately, Grayber says, she considers HB 2515 to be a legislative "placeholder," more of a statement of support than a priority bill she will be pushing. ODOT is already in talks with both Tigard and Washington County about possibly transferring segments of the highway to local control, and it could do the same with other such "orphan highways" across Oregon.
We do think what's being discussed now is deficient in one important way: It would transfer jurisdiction of Hall Boulevard to Washington County and Tigard, but it's unclear what that means for jurisdiction in Durham, Tualatin or Wilsonville, nor does it address the portion of Durham Road in Tigard that is part of Highway 141. Those other segments in this hodgepodge highway should be addressed as well.
Highway 141 has been a state highway for decades, yet it seems to exist that way only on paper — that is, until someone gets hurt.
If the highway does remain under state jurisdiction, despite these negotiations and Grayber's HB 2515, ODOT should put up highway signage to make sure the public is aware who is responsible for the road, and it should label exit 4A on Highway 217 and exit 286 on Interstate 5 as highway junctions.
For whatever parts of Highway 141 remain, the department should communicate proactively and work with cities along the route to ensure their needs are met. Durham, in particular, experiences daily traffic jams along Upper Boones Ferry Road. The city has a tiny budget and relies on the state and neighboring cities to provide essential services. If ODOT is responsible for the road, then it must also be responsible for how it affects public safety and quality of life for Durham residents.
If ODOT is unwilling or unable to handle its responsibility for this unsigned route, and the cities are able and willing to assume jurisdiction, then this transfer should move forward without delay. If someone is willing, at long last, to claim Hall Boulevard — then let them claim it.
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.