Crews have encountered challenges but continue to make progress on the Cornelius Pass Improvement Project.
The project began in late July and is expected to be completed in late September. The pass is closed to through traffic between Highway 30 and Germantown Road in Washington County. This will detour about 13,000 vehicle trips each weekday onto other roads.
The steep, winding and narrow section of Northwest Cornelius Pass Road has a long history of crashes. The project will reduce some of the rural road’s sharp curves, increase sight distance for drivers, improve road shoulders, and install caution signs, guardrails and barriers.
The following is a conversation with Multnomah County Communications Officer Mike Pullen about the project.
The Chronicle: Is the improvement project still on time and on budget?
Pullen: There have been schedule challenges and we are working with the contractor to make changes to keep the work on schedule as much as possible. We are still targeting to reopen the road in late September.
The Chronicle: Over the next two weeks, what significant and specific work will take place?
Pullen: The contractor is working on some Saturdays and may work the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. In the next two weeks we expect the contractor will excavate to remove the culvert under Cornelius Pass Road near Northwest 8th Avenue and begin installing the new culvert. They should also be proceeding with excavating the cut slope above the S curves. These work items are to realign the curves to be less sharp.
The Chronicle: What traffic issues have been consistent; how have they been dealt with and by whom?
Pullen: Some of the best news is that car traffic on the detour route over the West Hills has flowed fairly well and traffic delays have been manageable. Truck drivers continue to illegally use truck restricted roads in the West Hills. The Sheriff’s deputies in Multnomah and Washington counties have issued citations and signs are installed about the truck restrictions. Trucks should use the highways during the closure.
The Chronicle: Are there issues that have developed along the alternative routes? What are those issues and how are they being resolved?
Pullen: We have received comments about short term traffic delays at the signal at Highway 30 and Northwest Newberry Road. The project team has responded to these comments and have made adjustments as needed the project made a number of changes to traffic control along the detour route, including adding signs and removing vegetation to make signs more visible to drivers.
The Chronicle: What worries or concerns you the most at this point?
Pullen: The contractor still has some work items to complete before the road is reopened to traffic. We have an experienced contractor and we are working to resolve issues as quickly as possible. It is exciting to see photos of areas where sharp curves will be realigned to be easier for drivers to navigate. And county maintenance crews have been able to repair potholes and degraded pavement areas during the road closure.
Pullen also provided the following information in his weekly update about the Cornelius Pass Project.
Recent construction paving
Paving has been completed for vehicle pullouts and for the intersection improvement at Kaiser Road.
NW 8th Avenue
The diversion pipe for the creek under Cornelius Pass Road has been installed. The creek will be diverted while the old culvert is replaced. A larger pre-cast box culvert is being constructed offsite and will be installed after the old culvert is removed. Removal of the old culvert starts late this week or early next week.
Meanwhile, crews are realigning the sharp curve in the road near the culvert.
The contractor is evaluating the best method to remove rock above the road so that the S-curves can be realigned. Flashing warning beacons are being installed on the curve approaches.
Permanent safety signs and guardrail are being fabricated for installation. Guardrail installation will begin in the next two weeks. Guardrail will be installed between Plainview Market and the top of the S-curves and on the curve near Northwest 8th Avenue.
Illegal truck trips on West hills side roads has been a problem during the road closure. Sheriff staff from Multnomah and Washington counties have cited truck drivers for illegal trips on side roads and for speeding.
Only trips to a destination on a side road are allowed by trucks. Trucks need to use the highway for through trips. Skyline Boulevard can be accessed legally by trucks from the west side via Germantown and Springville roads. There are no legal truck routes between Skyline and Highway 30 until Cornelius Pass reopens.
Dump trucks have been reported illegally using Northwest Newberry Road to reach a Metro-owned property. Metro (503-797-1700) has been contacted to get their contractor to stop this practice.
To report an illegal truck trip, call the non-emergency number for Multnomah Countys Sheriff’s Office (503-823-3333, Dial 5).
Provide the location, date/time, license plate (if known) and vehicle description.
Back to School Traffic
Portland Public Schools reopened on Wednesday, Aug. 28. There are changes in K-12 school bus routes while NW Cornelius Pass Road is closed. School bus routes for each school are listed at the PPS Transportation website.
Skyline Elementary School: Please drive with caution and obey the school speed limit when driving by Skyline Elementary School on Northwest Skyline Boulevard. The school is on the main detour route. The school is busier than usual, since it is serving as a bus stop for middle and high school students during the road closure.