If you were bummed that NW Newberry Road is closed for repairs until April, you won’t be happy about the news I’m about to share.
A major reason Multnomah County needs to fix the landslide that’s made Newberry carfree since January 2017 is because they need to use it as the primary detour for a separate project on nearby Cornelius Pass Road. Starting July 8th, a major project on Cornelius Pass will require it to be closed for thirteen weeks between Highway 30 and Germantown Road.
The recommended detour for the estimated 10,000 daily car and truck drivers will be Newberry to Skyline to Old Cornelius Pass Road — all three of which are very popular cycling routes because of how quiet and low-stress they are.
The impact of all these additional drivers will be very significant. (Keep in mind that large big-rig trucks will be detoured to highways.) And keep in mind that not everyone will opt for Newberry. There’s very likely to be much more traffic on other popular cycling routes like NW McNamee, Logie Trail, and Rocky Point Road as well. Suffice it to say there’s already serious concerns from bike riders and drivers about the impact of this closure.
Because of the impact to cycling routes, I’ve been in touch with the County to make sure they do everything they can to minimize negative impacts and safety hazards to bicycle users. Narrow, winding, rural mountain roads are difficult enough for some road users to share. Adding 10,000 more daily drivers — already frustrated by the detour — could be a recipe for disaster.
To mitigate impacts, members of the County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee have floated the idea of speed bumps on NW Newberry during the detour. “Generally, if speed bumps are spaced out enough, the Committee felt that bicyclists would be fine with occasional speed bumps,” read minutes from the November 2018 meeting. Speed bumps on west hills roads aren’t unheard of. There are several on NW Germantown.
Also discussed at recent BPAC meetings was the possibility of the County creating/improving vehicle pullouts on NW Newberry specifically so bicycle users could use them. Some members also suggested that the County leverage relationships with large employers like Intel to educate their staff about detour safety issues and encourage them to carpool or use a shuttle during the closure.
The County says they’re still working on a detailed traffic plan for all modes. “We know we need to get out the word to drivers and cyclists to share the road this summer,” County spokesman Mike Pullen shared in an email this week.
(As an aside, the Cornelius Pass Road project won’t include major improvements to the intersection with Skyline, even though a safety audit found that it accounted for far more collisions than any other location along the corridor. There was a recommendation for a roundabout at Skyline but it won’t be a part of this current project.)
See the County’s website for information about the traffic plan and stay tuned for any updates related to cycling safety concerns.
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