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Fanno Creek Trail will pass under, or fly over, Hall Blvd

Posted by Will Vanlue (Contributor) on February 28th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

THPRD showed four options for the crossing
at an open house last September.
(Photos: Will Vanlue/BikePortland)

On Thursday, the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District (THPRD) will host another open house to discuss improvements to the intersection of the Fanno Creek Trail and Hall Boulevard. As this project has evolved, the two current options being considered are a tunnel or a bridge.

Anyone who uses the Fanno Creek Trail knows how much of a hassle it is to cross at Hall. The intersection is one of the last gaps in a trail system running for about 10 miles between Tigard, Beaverton, and Portland.

(If you aren't familiar with the area, check out this video of the trail from the Westside Transportation Alliance. The crossing at Hall is featured at about a minute in.)

Back in September THPRD presented four options for the project: raising Hall Boulevard and installing a tunnel for the trail, constructing an on-street crossing for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, or building a bridge over Hall with either straight or spiral ramps at either end.

In January the list narrowed further when the project committee eliminated the option of an on-street crosswalk.

That option was viewed unfavorably at the open house in September because motor vehicle traffic at a nearby intersection would likely back up and block any on-street facilities for bikes and pedestrians.

Opinions were mixed on the remaining options.

Diagrams and 3D animations showed what a bridge over Hall Boulevard could look like at an open house last September.

Visitors to September's open house expressed concerns about ramps for a bridge being too steep or too tightly curved for two directions of traffic to pass safely.

Project representatives explained those concerns were already being addressed. As an example, they explained ramps leading to a bridge over Hall would be wider, have a shallower grade, and (in the case of the spiral ramp) also have a wider radius than the ramp connecting the Morrison Bridge with the Eastbank Esplenade.

The option of tunneling under Hall Boulevard presented the largest change to the landscape around the Fanno Creek Trail.

To prevent Fanno Creek from flooding the tunnel (like it constantly does in the tunnel under Schools Ferry Road) Hall Boulevard would need to be raised up enough to keep the tunnel at the current level of the trail.

Most everyone I spoke in September with agreed a tunnel would be the best option for bikes and pedestrians on the trail but many were concerned about the impact raising Hall would have on motor vehicle access to nearby parking lots and businesses.

Now that the options have been narrowed down to a tunnel or a bridge it will be interesting to see how THPRD and project staff are addressing the challenges associated with each option.

You can learn more about the remaining options for the intersection of Hall Boulevard and the Fanno Creek Trail this Thursday, March 1st from 6-8pm at the Elsie Sturh Center or by visiting the project's website.


Check out more of our Washington County coverage here. Send feedback and tips to will [at] bikeportland [dot] org.

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Comments
  • wsbob February 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    A tunnel, or rather...an underpass beneath Hall Blvd makes the most sense, practically and aesthetically for Fanno Creek Trail Park. The right way to do this to provide sufficient elevation for the trail and overhead clearance would be to raise Hall Blvd.

    This most likely would be expensive. The question of whether to provide for the expense boils down to how important people consider their park to be for now and the future. I'd say the park is very important. There's no other park as large or as unique, anywhere nearby. I wish the park were wider than it is, but it's linear travel supporting configuration has a lot to speak for.

    Some months back, I located on the internet, pictures of some of NYC's Central Park Bridges, whose faces would be choice selections for a Fanno Creek underpass. Posted them in the forums. Not sure which thread. I think if the public thought it could get something like that in Fanno Creek Park, it would be delighted. Needs to be natural stone. Basalt, like some of the retaining walls Cornell Rd and the Scenic Columbia Gorge Hwy uses.

    I expect ways can be arranged to mitigate the impact from construction to to nearby businesses and their parking needs. The DOT would hopefully, not use the construction of such an overpass as an excuse to somehow increase Hall Blvd's capacity or raise speed limits. The road already is used to excess, and if anything, posted speed limits over the park should be considered and possibly reduced somewhat.

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  • Matt February 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I'm as big a fan as anybody of the Fanno Creek trail as I use it almost daily and its right in my back yard (so to speak). But I just can't imagine how a tunnel is going to really be feasible. A bridge would also seem out of place there, but in my opinion much better than raising the whole road. Seems like an awful lot of money and work.

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  • Paul Johnson February 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Seems silly to build an overpass at this location without a proper interchange to get on/off Hall in either direction, and not just something that dumps on the sidewalk, but a real proper intersection. In which case, it's still silly to build a bridge or underpass when it'd be easier and less expensive to put in a traffic signal.

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  • Nate February 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    A tunnel would be useless in the wintertime, just look at the tunnel under Scholls further down the path. It floods any time there is significant rain and is basically a flooded path all winter long. The water table is simply too close to the trail level to do a tunnel and make it useful year round.

    A bridge, though cumbersome, is really the best option. I wish there was a better way to do it and I really wish a tunnel was feasible, but it simply isn't.

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  • K'Tesh February 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    A tunnel would be excellent even in winter time... the set back from the creek to the trail would be quite a bit farther (like 30+ feet further) than the underpass at Scholls. The mud issue with Scholls would be a rare event, and the design would have drainage built into it to help clear it after a flood event.

    A bridge would be the worst option. Besides being an eyesore, when skateboarders discover that they have a 350-400ft ramp to go down, they'd be taking out themselves and other trail users.

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    • Nate February 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      I don't disagree that a bridge would be a bit of an eyesore, but raising the entire road grade enough to put a tunnel underneath that won't be affected by the rising water table seems a bit much. Especially when you consider that 30-40" from the existing trail, you still have that marshy area that you can't go any lower than, grade-wise, otherwise the tunnel will still flood. You can't drain when you're level with the water table.

      It would affect the existing bridge, the entrance into the Albertson's parking lot, and probably the entrances into the strip mall on the other side of the creek, as well.

      I agree with you, in principle. I'd rather there just be a simple tunnel instead of a large bridge, but I'm not seeing how it would be more cost-effective to do so. I guess I'll find out more at the meeting on Thursday...

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      • wsbob February 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm

        What is the high flood point, and when it occurs, how long does it last?

        Just on memory, I recall the creek at times being very close to the road grade, which probably had something to do with the road already having been raised quite a few years back, but the rise is seasonal and cyclical. Not frequently enough, I would think, to preclude the use of an underpass...(not a tunnel, because it's just passing under the roadway, rather than burrowing through a hill or mountain)...to allow unobstructed use of the creek trail.

        Residents of the area and beyond need this park to not be cluttered up with road crossings that are stressful and dangerous to negotiate.

        The fact is, presence of the road and the huge volume of motor vehicle traffic on it is what's compelling the design and construction of some means to get past the road. If the road were still a slow speed, moderately traveled two lane country affair, it would be no big deal to stand and wait for a break in the traffic, cross the road and go back into the park. The road is a long way past being that, and may never be that type of road ever again.

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        • Will Vanlue (Contributor) February 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm

          The renderings of the underpass/tunnel at the September meeting were more tunnel-like than underpass-like. They showed a passage, dug through the ground used to raise up Hall, passing at the same level as the existing trail.

          If the passage under Hall is kept at the same level as the existing trail my guess is that it would flood infrequently and briefly, if at all.

          From personal experience riding through the area and from stories I've heard, I don't think the creek floods to the level of the trail at Hall very often and when it does it's only that high for a short time. (Feel free to correct me if you've seen the creek behave differently at Hall.)

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  • K'Tesh February 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    correction... should have wrote that as "a mud event, like Scholls"

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  • Brian E February 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    A tunnel would be quiet, private, and fit the nature of the regional trail it is supposed to be. A bridge would be an uncomfortable wart.

    BTW- I use the detour/crosswalk at the nearby intersection and it is an unpleasant experience, especially at rush hour in the dark. Really stupid setup right now.

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    • Nate February 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      I stopped using the trail altogether (most of my commute follows Hall, anyway) because of the crossing at Hall and the flooding at Scholls. It would be nice to be able to use it again without the hassle, whatever they decide on.

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  • Spiffy February 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    a tunnel would be the best option... less of a grade for trail users... less of an eye-sore... even if it costs a little more I'd go with that...

    unless, as people say, there is a real issue with the tunnel ever filling with water... it would need some real drainage and not just a single token street-style grate...

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  • was carless February 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Really? Tunnels usually get covered in graffiti, filled with trash, camped with homeless, and raising a road up 14-18 feet would have a huge impact. There are some beautiful pedestrian bridges. What about the ones on the springwater trail?

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    • wsbob February 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Again...this shouldn't be a tunnel, but rather, an underpass. That means rather than a narrow entrance modestly bigger than is necessary to allow people to pass under the road...a big, wide opening that would allow the experience of the park to be sustained as people pass under the road.

      The entire Fanno Creek area is a flood plain. Of course the water is going to rise on occasion, preventing people from using the park. This is real life, not Disneyland. After awhile, the water goes away and people are back in the park.

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    • Seth Alford February 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      What about a wooden bridge similar to the pedesttrian bridge over Greenway? That's about a mile from where the trail crosses Hall.

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      • Paul Johnson February 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm

        How do you turn from a bridge?

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  • scaryseth February 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Hooray. Tunnel sounds like the best option, both functionally and aesthetically. As long as it is far enough away from the creek to prevent mud and water over flow like at the Scholls ferry tunel.

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  • Joseph E February 29, 2012 at 12:11 am

    The crosswalk option (with a traffic light?) would be cheaper and have fewer impacts on surrounding properties. It would also be the easiest and fastest route for bikes and pedestrians, if set up properly. If funding doesn't come thru for the underpass, I hope they reconsider an at-grade crossing.

    Only freeways or expressways should have overpasses or underpasses for pedestrians or cyclists, when a level crossing would do.

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    • K'Tesh February 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

      A crosswalk here would get people killed. I was at the early meetings, and by installing a crosswalk and an island would create a traffic nightmare, and eventually, a person who is crossing all 5 lanes will get clobbered by someone in the 5th lanes blowing through the crosswalk despite stopped traffic because they couldn't see the person due to all the stopped traffic (SUV's).

      Current traffic conditions are bad, and the forecast is for things to get worse. They are so bad in fact, that even a 2nd left turn lane (with a crosswalk installed) would result in backups reaching all the way to Hwy 217 soon.

      A tunnel allows trail users to cross Hall without a long steep climb/decent, and still not have to interact w/any automotive traffic.

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      • Paul Johnson February 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

        Crosswalks don't kill people. Bad drivers kill people.

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  • Lynne February 29, 2012 at 9:10 am

    The crosswalk was nixed because of the impact on the traffic - it would back the road up way too much, plus would require adding extra lanes on both Hall and Greenway.

    The rendering of the underpass is, indeed, plug-ugly. But, all things considered (besides the skaters descending, consider a small child whose bicycle got away from him...)

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  • Art Fuldodger February 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Hard to believe a signalized crosswalk with a center refuge wouldn't work here. The Springwater corridor has one at SE Foster (ADT approx. 25,000, which I'd guess is certainly as much if not more than Hall), bike/ped/equestrian activated so the traffic delay is probably 30 seconds, max. The only street that could be considered a nearby major intersection is Greenway - to the west about 400' . If you sync'ed the new path signal with the one at Greenway, it's hard to imagine you'd have a problem with traffic backing up.

    Plus, a signal is a fraction of the cost of either the bridge or tunnel.

    Will, any more info. on exactly why the signal option was discarded?

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    • Will Vanlue (Contributor) February 29, 2012 at 10:13 am

      It's my understanding that the on-street crossing was scraped because of it's potential impact to motor vehicle traffic.

      Engineers think cars might back up from Greenway through the crossing, causing a safety hazard. One way to get around that would be creating an extra turn lane from Hall onto Greenway to shorten the line but all the land acquisition and lane building required puts the cost of the project near the other options.

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      • Paul Johnson February 29, 2012 at 11:16 am

        Solution: Install median to avoid encroachment, add left turn pockets for cyclists. Heck, pavement sensors could even allow only half of Hall to get a red when someone wants to turn left on to Fanno Creek.

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    • wsbob February 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      "...The Springwater corridor has one at SE Foster (ADT approx. 25,000, which I'd guess is certainly as much if not more than Hall), bike/ped/equestrian activated so the traffic delay is probably 30 seconds, max. ..." Art Fuldodger

      Page 42 of the Beav Civic Plan says Hall Blvd ADT is "High (16,457–25,714)".

      I also wonder whether the use of a signaled crossing of Hall at the point where the park and Hall meet, synced with the signaled crossing at Greenway, might have merit. Do the traffic engineers have numbers for how such a signal could affect Hall Blvd motor vehicle traffic? I would think the park crossing signal wouldn't have to activate with the Greenway signal unless people wishing to cross, manually activated the park crossing signal.

      If I remember correctly, full red-yellow-green signals cost around $150,000. Most likely there'd be additional expenses, but overall, a signal would most likely be a far cheaper way to go than an underpass or overpass...however people choose to think of the crossing facility solutions being considered.

      It's important, very important...to consider how cheap it's wise to go for this park. What numbers of people visiting the park will have to divert from it to wait at Hall for the signal to change, cross the road and go back into the park? Does anyone think the present number of people needing to make this crossing will increase? By how much, 5 years, 10 years...20 or 50 years down the road?

      If the budget watchers are only going to support the provision of a confined, butt-ugly stinky tunnel, I'd choose the signal crossing instead. If people see a strong case for a span of some architectural beauty allowing a grand passage under Hall Blvd...absolutely go for that.

      Even the Hwy 217 overpasses crossing Canyon Rd and Beav-Hillsdale Hwy are more inspired and beautiful than those passageway renderings I saw posted by K'Tesh to a thread in the forums.

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  • Art Fuldodger February 29, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Seems like you could just observe now whether traffic at peak hour backs up through the point of the proposed path crossing - since the signal at Greenway would presumeably not change. Plus, Greenway isn't *that* busy of a street (under adt 10k?) so it doesn't require that much green time. Plus it's only one leg of a 3 leg intersection.

    All of which is to say that the traffic engineering on this smells a little funny to me. Before i spent a ton of cash on a tunnel or a bridge I'd sure exhaust myself figuring out how to make a signal work at this location. To my mind the disadvantage from a path user's perspective (some delay with a signal) is balanced by the disadvantages of a bridge (grade change) & a tunnel (magnet for sketchy types, glass & debris).

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  • wsbob March 2, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Update report on discussion from the meeting?

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    • Will Vanlue (Contributor) March 4, 2012 at 10:56 am

      I wasn't able to make the meeting myself but I'm trying to get in touch with some folks who did.

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  • Kelly Skelton March 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    There is currently a survey on the project website and the project team would really appreciate receiving all this feedback and hearing your comments. Please visit fannocrossinghall.org and fill out an online comment card. Thanks!

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    • Nate March 6, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Read through it and filled out the survey. I was actually starting to come around to the undercrossing idea, but seeing the cost estimates and the preliminary designs threw me solidly back in favor of an overpass. Nearly half the price and aesthetically pleasing? Sign me up!

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      • Paul Johnson March 6, 2012 at 8:44 am

        Why an overpass when a grade crossing would better serve traffic in the neighborhood (which does legitimately need to enter/exit at Hall, based on my experience living in that neighborhood car-free for years) and an at-grade crossing would cost much less? It's not like it couldn't have loop sensors to detect approaching cyclists. Springwater Corridor once did (though now only has them oddly located beyond the stop line in the cross-street's sidewalk instead of where you're indicated to stop to avoid blocking the cross-street's pedestrian access while waiting for the signal).

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        • Nate March 6, 2012 at 9:19 am

          Did you read any of the material? Overcrossing and undercrossing were the two preferred alternatives chosen, discussed, and budgeted.

          Of the two, I happen to like the overpass. Partially because I think it would look nice and add to an otherwise bland area a pleasing structure, but mostly because it's much less costly than constructing an underpass. ($5mil compared to $9mil for undercrossing)

          In the end, I really don't care if the crossing goes over or under, as long as it gets done and is useable all year round. I've ended up diverting my commute due to the crossing at Hall and would enjoy using the Fanno Creek Trail on a daily basis again, instead of huffing car exhaust every morning and evening.

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          • Paul Johnson March 6, 2012 at 9:27 am

            Well, out of the two preferred alternatives, both are wrong. One shouldn't have to divert to Nimbus or Greenway just to connect to Hall when they intersect. We don't have to accept an inferior, higher cost alternative when a median and a signalized intersection is more in the $2 million ballpark.

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            • Nate March 6, 2012 at 9:37 am

              I disagree. Having a signalled, street-level crossing that close to the intersection at Greenway, the parking lot exit from Safeway, and the center turn lane would just create a cluster of traffic. Would the street-level signal match up with the light at Greenway? If so, then why have it at all, just bike up to Greenway and cross there.

              If it doesn't match up with the light, then you have a scenario where the light at Greenway could be green, but just 400 feet away the crossing is activated and cars have to stop again. During busy times of the day, you'd end up with vehicles stopped at a green light, and a bunch of frustrated drivers. Either way, it doesn't seem to make much sense at that juncture. If the light at Greenway was further away, perhaps, but I just don't see it with the way things are currently structured.

              You're certainly entitled to your opinion, and I think street-level crossings are a good plan of action for bicycle traffic crossings elsewhere, but I just don't see the feasibility for a street-level crossing at that area.

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              • wsbob March 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm

                "...just bike up to Greenway and cross there. ..." Nate

                By bike, it's not such a big deal to ride up to Greenway and loop around back into the park; annoying, detracts from the park experience, but not such a big deal.

                Many people using the park's MUP are on foot. It's kind of a long walk for them, which is why people attempt to risk life and limb running across Hall's voracious traffic at the point where park and road meet.

                I'd say go for an interim signalized grade crossing where park and road meet, synchronized with the Greenway crossing light, activated by park users waiting to cross the road, if the wish is to keep the budget as low as possible. At some point in time, the appeal of an underpass will become clearer, and people can decide to spend the money then.

                Those overpass curleycue thing-a-majigs are ugly, regardless of how they might look on some artists' rendering. Doesn't Powell Blvd, close to the river, have one? Or used to. The overpass from Cedar Hills Shopping Center to Sunset Transit Center isn't too bad. Is this the scale/expense of what's proposed as one of the options to be built at the park?

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