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“Emergency improvements” coming to dangerous intersection

Posted by on October 18th, 2006 at 9:37 am

Yesterday I posted some unconfirmed information about safety improvements coming to the intersection of West Union and Helvetia Roads in Washington County.

This intersection recently claimed the life of a cyclist and has been a notorious place for close calls.

Shortly after my post I contacted Washington County transportation planner Gregg Leion. Turns out Gregg is an avid cyclist and regular reader and commenter here on BikePortland.org (that’s always nice to hear).

He confirmed that this intersection has “a very high accident rate,” and that because of this, combined with the recent fatality, Washington County planners have decided to make some safety improvements. According to Gregg,

“The county’s traffic engineer and the director of the land use transportation department has moved it up in the queue as far as doing some emergency improvements to it to make it safer.”

Gregg sent me the official details of their plans to improve this intersection along with a diagram (below)

And here’s the scoop from the press release:

“Washington County engineers have decided to change the traffic pattern at the intersection of West Union and Helvetia, north of Hillsboro, making it a four-way stop

The traffic pattern changes will be in place as soon as new signs and warning rumble strips are installed. A red solar-powered flashing light will also be installed as soon as it arrives from the manufacturer…

This intersection is slated for a major capital improvement via the county’s Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program by 2013. The planned improvements will accommodate all modes of traffic, including that expected from new urban development to the southeast, an area being master planned by the City of Hillsboro. The county decided not to wait for that eventual solution, but to implement needed safety features immediately due to increased traffic volume and number of accidents.

For more information, please contact Tom Tushner, County Traffic Engineer, 503-846-7950.”

I commend Washington County for addressing this issue so quickly and hopefully these interim improvements make this intersection safer while we wait for major upgrades in 2013.

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  • […] [UPDATE: Improvements have been confirmed. Read this post for all the details.] [Intersection of WestUnion and Helvetia Rd.] […]

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  • Cate October 18, 2006 at 10:42 am

    It’s great that they’re making improvements to that intersection. I wish it didn’t take someone dying to prompt them to make needed improvements (not unique to Washington County).

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  • Matt G. October 18, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    Rant on…

    Gratuitous rhetorical question of the day:

    Why must people die before changes are made?

    Part II: If a death is enough to cause a change in safety measures at an intersection, how can it be fair or legal to say “the sun was in my eyes” when someone kills them in the first place?

    Maybe they should argue that the intersection isn’t safe? Maybe there’s a relationship here? Is the County trying to weasle out of its complicity in the recent fatality?

    Rant off…

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  • SKiDmark October 18, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    “Why must people die before changes are made?”

    Sometimes people can die and it still doesn’t matter. Look at Broadway’s bike lane.

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  • Nick October 18, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    I grew up only a mile from this intersection. It was always safe then. The intersection over 26 didn’t even have an overpass back then.

    However, now, with Hillsboro growing toward the freeway, this is long overdue.

    I ride this road frequently and am excited to see the road getting an upgrade in the next few years.

    “The Boro” has sure grown up since I left. 🙂


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  • HillSlug October 18, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    At the end of the day we are nothing more than a datapoint.

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  • Cate October 19, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    From today’s Oregonian:


    “The county sheriff’s office has reports of 19 serious accidents at the intersection in the past six years, said Ian Amweg, a county engineering technician. That includes the death last month of Michael Kalan, 35, of Portland. He was riding his bicycle east on West Union when a woman driving west turned into his path. The woman told deputies that she was temporarily blinded by the sun.”

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  • Cate October 19, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    I think I’m going to send this link:


    to every driver “blinded by the sun”. It will be my personal I Share The Road marketing effort. (Sorry for the sarcasm.)

    If some creative people in Portland could come up with an irreverent message like Bob Fuller’s Roadside Memorials, a marketing effort might actually work here.

    Maybe we could help drivers think of good excuses: for summer, it’s “blinded by the sun”; for winter, it’s “couldn’t see them in the rain”…

    Sorry, Jonathan, to go way off-topic. Again. 🙂

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