This article is by new Washington County contributor Tina Ricks.
The City of Hillsboro and Washington County are planning a new road segment on Century Boulevard between Main Street and Lois Street. It will bring 8,600 cars a day through the middle of a quiet neighborhood and sensitive natural area next to Noble Woods Park. Washington County says the proposed road doesn’t go through the park. Technically, that’s correct. The new road would go next to the park, through what is currently designated as greenspace.
But beavers, muskrats, ducks, and birds don’t see property boundaries — they’ll see a three-lane noisy road through their home.
Noble Woods Park is forty acres of forest and wetland in the City of Hillsboro. In 1992, citizens made pledges, children saved pennies, and many other donations bought the land for the park and gifted it to the city. The park includes miles of trails; boardwalks for walking and viewing; and hosts birds, ducks, beavers, and other wildlife. Both the east and west sides of the park adjoin non-buildable wetland greenspace areas, following the courses of Beaverton Creek, Rock Creek and Dawson Creek — a continuous corridor of quiet and fresh air for human residents that provides habitat for animals.
The proposed new road would run along the eastern edge of the park, separating the park from the adjoining greenspace. A new bridge would go over Rock Creek. The north side of the park is East Main Street, a busy five-lane road. The proposed new road is a continuation of Century Boulevard through Hillsboro.
This project is one of Century Boulevard’s last unfinished segments. Once completed, it will be a major north-south connector across Hillsboro. In addition, the project would remove forty-seven trees from the greenspace next to Noble Woods. Currently, this stretch of Century Boulevard isn’t a boulevard at all, it’s a quiet, narrow neighborhood street.
Washington County’s online open house documents state:
“This project is identified in the Hillsboro Transportation System Plan as a priority to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections. We are building a sidewalk and raised cycle track the full length of the project, creating a new route between homes and businesses.”
Pedestrian and bicycle connectivity across the park is a problem, as the existing paths are narrow, winding, and some are unpaved. Currently, signs ask bicycle users to walk their vehicles through the park.
“If this road gets built, there will be a lot of new cut-through traffic. This is not a net benefit to the community.”
— Ben Fryback, neighborhood resident
The proposed cost for this road extension is $17.3 million. Washington County calls this an “improvement project”. But 8,600 cars a day through a residential neighborhood park call into question who this “improvement” is for. The added traffic will be noisy, dangerous, and not welcoming to wildlife and other vulnerable road users.
A different option would be a wide, multi-use, pedestrian and bicycle path along the route of the proposed new road, with a raised non-slip-surface bridge for bike riders and walkers over Rock Creek, Beaverton Creek, and wetland mud. A path plus a footbridge would connect pedestrians and cyclists from south to north, beginning at the corner of Borwick Street and Century Boulevard, and ending at the existing traffic signal (with sidewalks and bike lanes) at East Main Street and Century Boulevard.
Noble Woods Park is quite literally a gift to the City of Hillsboro. Just ask the donors, the Girls Scouts, and the schoolchildren who raised the money in 1992. While Washington County is not technically violating the park boundaries, they are violating the intent of the children and adult donors who made the park possible.
Ben Fryback grew up in this neighborhood, still lives near it, and commutes to work through it on his bicycle every day.
“There are kids playing and using these roads to get to school. It’s quiet. If this road gets built, there will be a lot of new cut-through traffic,” Fryback shared with me. “This is not a net benefit to the community.”
You can learn more about this project or leave a comment for Washington County Roads at the Century Boulevard Online Open House. You can learn more about other transportation projects in Hillsboro in the Hillsboro Transportation System Plan. The deadline for comments isApril 4th.
— Tina Ricks
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