Bracing for Congestion

Law enforcement agencies throughout the region are encouraging commuters and others to plan ahead and be patient during the closure of the Cornelius Pass.

Over the next several weeks The Chronicle will present a series of reports concerning the Cornelius Pass Improvement Project.

The reports are an effort to help our readers understand the wide impact of this transportation improvement work during the closure from July to October of this busy roadway. The following is a conversation with Multnomah County Communications Office representative Mike Pullen.

The Chronicle: For those drivers that use Cornelius Pass every day, what is your message to them to prepare for this project now, and how do you suggest they do that?

Pullen: Drivers should plan for a longer trip, because all the alternate routes will be slower. Traffic conditions will vary, and we expect the delays will be worse the first week and then improve as drivers adjust. Drivers should probably expect the alternate routes across the west hills to take an extra 15 minutes at peak times. Some tips we are sharing with drivers:

Carpool

• During construction, if everyone carpooled just once a week, the detour route could see 20 percent less traffic, making the ride smoother for everyone. Find co-workers or neighbors to share the ride through www.drivelessconnect.com, Oregon’s carpool matching website. ODOT is promoting the website in Columbia County this summer to get the word out.

Transit

• From Columbia County, CC Rider’s #2 bus line can take passengers from St. Helens and Scappoose to PCC’s Rock Creek Campus in Washington County, Monday through Friday. The line will use an alternate route over the west hills when Cornelius Pass is closed. For information: https://www.nworegontransit.org/routes/pcc_rock_creek/

Bicyclists

• Rural roads in the West Hills are popular with recreational bicyclists. This summer those narrow, steep and winding roads will have a lot more traffic than normal, as commuters find new routes to work and home. Road users should be extra alert for other traffic on west hills roads this summer, especially bicyclists. Recreational cyclists may prefer to ride in less congested areas further from NW Cornelius Pass Rd.

One road to avoid

• All roads over the west hills are steep, NW Logie Trail Road is also the narrowest. One steep section is so narrow that two cars cannot pass. We recommend only local residents use this road.

The Chronicle: How are transportation planners working to ensure first responders (fire, law enforcement, medics) can navigate quickly and effectively through, or around, this project during emergencies?

Pullen: This month we convened a meeting of first responders from Columbia, Multnomah and Washington counties, plus the state agencies to brief them on the project so they can make plans to keep the public safe during the road closure. Attendees work for law enforcement agencies, fire bureaus, emergency medical services (ambulances), public works and emergency management departments. Our construction contractor also attended so that first responder agencies can make contact with the contractor.

This road closure does present some challenges. There will be a lot more traffic on west hills side roads during peak travel hours. The first responder agencies are aware of where Cornelius Pass Road will be closed and how they can access people and property from either side of the closures. Our emergency management staff are working on contingencies for emergency response. We know that Lifeflight has been used in the west hills for medical emergencies in the past.

For us, a key goal is to keep oversize trucks off of the west hills side roads where they are not permitted. This includes all roads between Hwy. 30 and Skyline Blvd. north of Portland. There are some exceptions for deliveries and permitted trips on Sunday mornings. Keeping big trucks off these narrow roads will keep everyone safer and allow first responders to more quickly get to an incident.

The Chronicle: During the scheduled public meetings about this project, what can we expect to see and hear from transportation officials?

Pullen: The public meetings in June will provide a briefing that will cover the history and purpose of the project, what it includes, the schedule, how we are planning for traffic and safety during the closure, and the plan to transfer the road to ODOT at some point after the project. The briefing includes maps showing the work locations and detour routes.

It is also a chance for road users to share their concerns and suggestions and ask questions of the project team. The meetings are in three different counties. In each location, we try to include local agencies so they are aware of public concerns.

The Chronicle: How will public patience play a key role in all of this?

Pullen: That is a great question. We know this project will test the patience of road users as well as the neighbors living along the side roads that will see big increases in traffic. We have worked hard to let everyone know this project is coming and why we are doing it. It is widely known that crashes and fatal accidents are too common on this road. Many people tell me they welcome these improvements for the long-term safety benefits they will provide.

We encourage drivers to allow for more time to get where they are going while the road is closed. The more time people allow, the less likely they are to get frustrated and engage in dangerous driving.

The Chronicle: Is there a main phone number and email address folks might use to access more details and to follow this project?

Pullen: The main phone number for project information is my phone number at 503-209-4111 and people can email me with questions at mike.j.pullen@multco.us. The project website is a good source to check first: www.multco.us/cornpass. At the website people can sign up to receive project updates and photos via email. Updates will also be posted at the website.

Cornelius Pass Closure Meetings

  • 6-7:20 p.m. June 5

Skyline Elementary School Gym, 11536 NW Skylie Blvd. Portland

  • 6-7:30 p.m. June 11

Scappoose High School Auditorium, 33700 SE High School Way, Scappoose

  • 6-7:30 p.m. June 17

Westview High School Cafeteria, 4200 NW 185th Ave., Portland

For more information see the stories at thechronicleonline.com, and call 503-209-4111.

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