BikePortland

Cities poised to plan a carfree connection between Forest Grove and Hillsboro


This map of Council Creek Corridor path is why the term “game-changer” was created.

A very exciting and important rail-to-trail project on the west side is all queued up and planners say design work could begin in earnest this coming fall.

“The vision to connect the end of the TriMet MAX line in Hillsboro to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail… has been a part of city and regional plans for many years.”
— Metro

The Council Creek Regional Trail (that’s the official name, but I really don’t like the term “trail”) will provide a safe, east-west alternative to Tualatin Valley Highway (Highway 8), one of the most dangerous and stressful places for vulnerable road users in the region. The idea is to create a six-mile long carfree path just north of the highway that would connect Forest Grove (near Pacific University) with the MAX station in downtown Hillsboro.

The idea was hatched in the 1990s, the concept was adopted by Metro in 2002 and a master plan was completed in 2015. In 2019, Portland & Western Railroad issued a notice of intent to abandon its perpetual easement of the defunct rail line, opening up the possible to re-imagine the right-of-way. That same year, Washington County won a $1.6 million Metro grant for preliminary design work on the project. The first segment will be planned by the County in collaboration with the City of Forest Grove.

“The vision to connect the end of the TriMet MAX line in Hillsboro to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail and communities in Cornelius and Forest Grove has been a part of city and regional plans for many years,” states Metro’s project website.

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A regional Council Creek Corridor Working Group that includes Metro, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet, Washington County and the cities of Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove was established in 2020, “to help shepherd the shared community vision.” That vision will include not only a new path but also, “a possible extension of light rail or other form of innovative high capacity transit from Hillsboro to downtown Forest Grove,” according to a working group document.

Potential benefits of the project that excite members of the working group include:

• Freedom to travel car-free, reducing climate impact and lowering transportation costs especially for lower-income households.
• An alternative to TV Highway that accommodates people of all ages and abilities — whether for fun and fitness or for getting to work, running errands, or catching a bus or MAX.
• Economic prosperity and vibrant neighborhoods along the Corridor.
• Opportunity to pilot new and innovative design and technologies for public transport.

One local rider who commutes to work by bike along this corridor on Hwy 8 said he’s “longing for this connection.” “Having a multi-use path from Forest Grove to Hatfield MAX station in Hillsboro could turn my bike commute into a year-round thing. There is no way in hell I am riding Hwy 8 in the dark/wet months of the year.”

An engineer with Forest Grove recently shared that the hope is to get the new path built within the next 5 years.

While the narrative and foundation of this project is solid, planners will be very cognizant of the debacle around the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, a project in adjacent Yamhill County that suffered a massive setback last month after stiff opposition from farmers led a majority of county commissioners to walk away from it.

Hopefully that outcome will be avoided here. Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved in the planning process and advocate for this project.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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