Highway 43 improvements still years out
Recent tree removal along the West Linn portion of Highway 43 after February's ice storm reduced the roadway to one lane, causing major traffic delays and demonstrating the highway's importance to regional travel.
People throughout the metro area, not just locals, use the artery when driving between south Portland and I-205.
"Significant growth within the region along with (the) 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," an initial concept plan for the Highway 43 project released five years ago stated.
The Oregon Department of Transportation and city of West Linn began planning improvements for the highway several years ago, but construction is still at least a year and a half away.
West Linn Public Works Director Lance Calvert estimated that ODOT would finish planning phase one of the project, between Arbor Drive and Hidden Springs Road, by the end of 2021.
After planning is complete, the state agency will begin acquiring rights-of-way along the corridor and solicit construction bids sometime in 2022. Calvert said construction would likely begin in late 2022 or early 2023.
Because the road is a state highway, ODOT is leading the project.
The first phase of the improvements, which will cost about $7 million, includes reworking the traffic signal at Hidden Springs Road and removing the traffic signal at Cedaroak Drive. Along with a city of West Linn project to extend Old River Road, the Highway 43 improvements will turn Hidden Springs into a four-way intersection.
Calvert explained that the traffic signals currently at Cedaroak and Hidden Springs are too close together. Because of this, he said, that stretch of Highway 43 sees the most traffic accidents in the city. According to Calvert, the city plans to start work on Old River Road near the end of this year to be done by the time ODOT begins working on 43.
Phase one will also see improvements to the right-of-way along the section of the corridor Arbor Drive to Hidden Springs Drive.
Originally, phase one incorporated more infrastructure work and bike-pedestrian improvements for the corridor, but rising costs forced ODOT to narrow the project scope.
Calvert explained that because some of the funds for the project are from the federal government, the planning process is required to be more comprehensive, adding to the overall project cost.
Of the $7 million total project cost for phase one, $4.1 million is coming from grant money — including $3 million from Metro's flexible funds that are derived largely from federal grants according to Calvert. The remaining $3 million comes from city's 2018 general obligation bond funds, system development charges (fees charged to developers to pay for public infrastructure) and street funds. Originally, the city was supposed to pay $2 million, but as costs rose from $6.1 million to $7 million the city agreed to pay another $1 million.
The city and ODOT are also planning improvements further down the road, between Hidden Springs and I-205. Calvert mentioned that there are many moving parts at the south end of Highway 43, making planning for phase two trickier.
ODOT is planning improvements to that section of I-205 and exploring the possibility of a bike-pedestrian bridge across the Willamette in that vicinity. The city, meanwhile, is planning waterfront development and improvements to Willamette Falls Drive. All these moving parts complicate the Highway 43 project.
Calvert said preliminary work for the second phase is complete, but the project is still unfunded.
ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton said there currently is no timeline or estimated cost for the second phase.
The city, ODOT and Metro are working with West Linn's federal delegates, particularly Rep. Kurt Schrader, to have phase two earmarked for funding in President Joe Biden's infrastructure package.
"We have a good plan," Calvert said. "We just need infrastructure funding."
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