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Washington County to add a dozen mid-block crossings in 2012

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

In situations like this, where
the Fanno Creek Trail meets a busy street,
mid-block crossings are key.
(Photo © J. Maus)

When you’re riding around Washington County, off-street trails and paths serve as an important alternative to wide arterial roads with freeway-speed traffic. The only trouble comes when a trail or path intersects a road mid-block, away from signalized intersections and marked crosswalks.

The County has recently installed three “mid-block crossings” — at West Union east of 185th, at Bethany Boulevard and St. Andrews, and on Cornell Road at Sunset High School — and a dozen more are planned for installation (both by Washington County and Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District) in 2012.

Mid-block crossings have been taboo for years in Washington County. But times are changing. Shelley Oylear, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for Washington County, explained more to us via email:

“In the past, Washington County has approved pedestrian crossings only at road intersections with few exceptions. This was based on the belief that this was the only safe and practical system for drivers and pedestrians/bicyclists.”

Based on feedback from citizens and results from an engineering study, Oylear continued, the County now understands how important mid-block crossings are for the region’s transportation network (emphasis mine):

“The County recognizes the primary need expressed by bicyclists and pedestrians in Washington County is the need for a connected network, and those connections need to be safe and convenient. However, there are many existing and proposed trails and destinations that connect in the middle of blocks, between roadway intersections, and the ability to create crossings at these mid-block locations are an important step toward meeting the needs for safe, convenient connections.”

Map shows mid-block
crossings coming to Beaverton.
(Full map: PDF)

The crossings planned for 2012 are scattered around Beaverton and Hillsboro near Bethany Boulevard and Highway 26. You can have a look at all of the planned crossings in this PDF to see which ones will make your ride a little easier.

It’s a positive sign that Oylear and her colleagues in Washington County are embracing the notion that a safe, connected network is as important for traveling on foot and by bike as it is for traveling in a car. (There’s an argument to be made that it’s even more important for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.)

It will be interesting to see what additional crossings are planned and prioritized, now that mid-block crossings are recognized as a safe and viable option.

— For more on Washington County transportation news, check today’s edition of The Oregonian: Washington County has millions for transportation; debate turns to type of work: roads, walkways or bike paths?