Washington County leaders decry deadly Hall Blvd, another ODOT-owned orphan highway

“I’m disturbed and angry… This road no longer serves our community… We simply cannot afford to wait any longer.”
— Jason Snider, Mayor of Tigard

(Photo: City of Tigard)

All over Oregon there are state-owned urban arterials that used to be major highways but are now neglected by the Department of Transportation as bodies continue to pile up. In planning parlance these are often called orphan highways because ODOT pays much more attention to bigger and shinier interstates and freeways.

Red marks spot were Karen Kaine and her mom where hit by a driver. That’s Hwy 217 at the bottom, where ODOT is current spending $158 million to add more lanes.

These old highways don’t get the necessary safety and maintenance investments they need to reflect their new, more urban uses. Put simply, they are not fit for human habitation and the result is too often death and destruction.

The best local example of this tragic phenomenon is 82nd Avenue where two deaths in spring 2021 finally tipped the political balance enough to create a breakthrough.

82nd Avenue is to Portland like Hall Boulevard (OR 141) is to Tigard. And now — after another death — elected officials in Washington County are also pushing the state for funding and actions to take more responsibility for the mess they’ve created.

On March 4th an 86-year-old woman was walking across SW Hall near SW Lucille Court with her 57-year-old daughter. Police haven’t released all the details, but we know they were struck by the driver of Jeep Renegade. After the driver hit these two women, they didn’t stop to help. The younger woman, Karen Kain, died at the scene and her mom is still hospitalized. Police found the car four days later and are still searching for the suspect.

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This crash was met with outrage by Tigard Mayor Jason Snider, who has already worked for years with city staff to get the road transferred to local ownership. At the Oregon Transportation Commission meeting on March 10th, Snider gave ODOT leaders and OTC members a piece of his mind. “One of our community members was killed and another critically injured in a hit-and-run crash on SW Hall Boulevard, an ODOT owned and maintained urban arterial in Tigard,” he said, in a nod to his audience.

Here’s more from Snider’s comments:

Crash scene at SW Hall and Lucille Court.
(Photo: Tigard Police)

“I was deeply saddened to hear about this fatal crash… However, I’m also disturbed and angry. While the actions of this negligent driver are certainly to blame. We cannot ignore the fact that Hall Blvd, like many of the Portland region’s urban arterials has been subjected to deferred maintenance and lack of critical safety investment for years with insufficient crossing opportunities, incomplete sidewalks, inadequate bike facilities, deficient public transit stops and general poor surface condition. This road no longer serves our community… This most recent crash and loss of life is a heartbreaking reminder to all of us that immediate action is needed to actively and collaboratively pursue investments and improvements along this roadway. Commissioners, as you deliberate on allocating new flexible federal dollars toward transportation needs throughout the state, I implore you to direct ODOT to maximize investment of this funding on Hall Boulevard. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer.”

OTC Chair Bob Van Brocklin responded to Mayor Snider by saying the commission understands his feelings about the “terrible situation” and added, “we’ll attempt to take action.” After sharing sympathies for the victims, Van Brocklin said, “Unfortunately, we we have far too many [deaths] around the state in an era of frankly, limited resources.” “The frank truth of it is,” he continued, “we have a lot more needs around the state than we have funding for and it puts us all in an untenable position and leads to the kind of safety issues that you’re describing to us.”

Later in that meeting Chair Van Brocklin would get an update on ODOT’s work to expand I-5 between Oregon and Washington, a project that is estimated to cost well over $4 billion and has accrued nearly $300 million in planning expenses already without turning one shovel of dirt.

To their credit, thanks in large part to the advocacy around 82nd Avenue, ODOT has finally responded to the orphan highway issue in a new, more substantive way than ever before. As they work with the OTC to allocate around $400 million in flexible federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), they’ve created a new funding category called “Great Streets.”

In their definition of Great Streets ODOT acknowledges the problem, but passes the blame to the federal government. “Many of these roads need significant improvements,” reads a slide from a recent ODOT presentation, “but the way the federal government and ODOT break funding into siloes makes it difficult to meet the comprehensive needs of these critical routes.” Either way, it’s a step forward to fund orphan highways.

But it’s still not enough, given the urgent needs expressed by Mayor Snider.

Ironically there is one part of Hall Blvd ODOT is spending a lot of money on: the overcrossing of Highway 217 as part of their $158 million widening project. Unfortunately it’s about 0.2 miles south of where Karen Kain and her mom were hit.

UPDATE: Another person was killed this morning (March 15th) in a separate hit-and-run crash on SW Hall Blvd. Police say the person was hit by a driver while walking near Farmington Road, about 4.5 miles north of where Karen Kain and her mom were hit last week.

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rick
rick
3 months ago

Tigard’s mayor Snider is the Tigard mayor who didn’t want the SW Corridor project to put a road diet (street buffet) on 99W. This somewhat clear morning of Tuesday, March 15th of 2022, a person riding a bicycle was killed by a person driving an automobile along Rood Bridge Road in Washington County between SW Farmington and SW Burkhalter. One person on twitter says he was injured while riding a bicycle on the same road in 2016 when he was hit by a person driving a car on Rood Bridge Road. Rood Bridge Road is an Oregon Scenic BIKEWAY.

X
X
3 months ago
Reply to  rick

Mayor Snider was on the city council 2013-2018 before being elected Mayor. He’s had some time to notice what state Hall Blvd. was in. It’s unfortunate that busy people like officials, police officers and medical personnel (Snider is also a doctor) mostly see our streets through a car windshield so if a street has problems they experience that as a driver or passenger.

Mr Snider didn’t invent this situation and it is not unique to him. The average state of affairs is that people die before we take notice that a street is dangerous. The thing I have to say to anyone who rolls down their car window is “there are people out here.”

fishyfishy123
fishyfishy123
3 months ago
Reply to  rick

Yeah, the mayor’s comments smell of hypocrisy to me too. There are plenty of streets in his purview that can be improved for bikes/peds. In this case, he found an easy scapegoat.

igor
igor
3 months ago

I’m happy to see that the 217 project also includes widening the Hall overpass between Cascade and Scholls Ferry. Currently the bike lane westbound disappears in favor of a second driving lane, which then becomes the slip lane for 217.

Given the number of driveways on Hall close to Washington Square, and the bike lanes on both sides, the speed limit should be lowered. That’s certainly harder to do when it’s owned by ODOT.

austin
austin
3 months ago

Mayor Beaty posted about this morning’s death, and used it as a moment to bring attention to what Beaverton is trying to do with the “Loop” (return some space back to cyclists and pedestrians)

ivan
ivan
3 months ago

OTC Chair Bob Van Brocklin responded to Mayor Snider by saying the commission understands his feelings about the “terrible situation” and added, “we’ll attempt to take action.”

Who wants to make t-shirts with the ODOT logo and their new slogan, “We’ll Attempt to Take Action”?

Also, I’ve always wondered, why does ODOT even *want* these roads? It seems like they’d prefer to put all their focus (and dollars) on shiny interstates; what’s keeping them from offloading all these orphaned highways? At the very least they could become county roads if not outright municipal ones.

Let's Active
Let's Active
3 months ago
Reply to  ivan

ODOT does not want these roads. The only thing keeping them under ODOT’s jurisdiction is the transfer of money that is required when they are turned over. It’s hard for ODOT to come up with the funds to make that happen. Like with 82nd Ave: took more than $100 million. Like with Outer Powell Blvd/US 26: took projects worth $135 million. At some point the funds for jurisdictional transfer run dry. And that’s likely the case with Hall Blvd.

fishyfishy123
fishyfishy123
3 months ago
Reply to  Let's Active

Thank you, I was wondering about that process. Do you know why the turnover has those big costs attached? Why does ODOT have to handover funds? Seems like maybe the city could waive the funds if they really wanted jurisdiction.

Let's Active
Let's Active
3 months ago
Reply to  fishyfishy123

The city (or county in some cases) always wants the highway brought up to current “standards” before they take it on. Otherwise, it will be a maintenance nightmare for the new owner. So on most roads that means new pavement, new lighting, new sidewalks, new drainage (very expensive) and other improvements. Sometimes that requires buying right of way from landowners along the corridor (like in the Outer Powell project). It all adds up. It would be great for the city who wants the highway to just take it on, but that hasn’t happened in my experience. The negotiations can take years and years!

Luke
Luke
3 months ago
Reply to  Let's Active

Shouldn’t this all call attention to the unsustainable financial situation road building creates? And yet, e.g. in Hillsboro’s new transportation plan, there’s little about serving greater density in downtown around MAX stations, and loads about building new roads in the south of the town to serve new suburban development. Stuff like this just further strengthens the Strong Towns argument: suburban development is ultimately unsustainable–for the environment and society, yes, but for municipalities’ and states’ finances, too.

Good to see the “progressive” Portland metro area is just like everywhere else in this country.

rick
rick
3 months ago
Reply to  fishyfishy123

ODOT required MultCo to do repairs and replace a culvert on NW Cornelius Pass Road from around Skyline Boulevard to Highway 30 before transferring it to ODOT. WashCo gave their section of it to ODOT to the north of freeway 26.
Corn Pass can be nice in the shade if pedaling fast northbound from Skyline if the rare farm tractor or very giant semi load is slowly using Corn Pass going north of Skyline. It gives a buffer.

ivan
ivan
3 months ago
Reply to  Let's Active

That makes sense, thanks.

Dave
Dave
3 months ago

Tigard seriously lacks sidewalks, bike lanes, and has lots of goofy, unsafe roads. Perhaps he should fix his owns cities roads before pointing fingers elsewhere. But it is an election year and this gets him publicity and headlines.

Political Scientist
Political Scientist
3 months ago

Most of Hall has a bike lane, so it isn’t too bad. Of course a drunk, or texting driver, could ruin your day if they drive into the bike lane. Otherwise, it’s a good way to get from Beaverton to Lake Oswego and back. They aren’t joking about the poor condition of the road surface – potholes, rough pavement; it definitely needs resurfacing between the Washington Square area and HWY 99.

Another Engineer
Another Engineer
3 months ago

Its not enough and it does come down to funding having been in the meetings. An example there wasn’t enough money to fix the NB bike lane at Hall and Locust. Limited improvements are being made along Hall for ADA. https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Projects/Project%20Documents/K19267-OR141-HallBlvd-ProjectMap.pdf

Also, thermal camera detection for cyclists is being installed to cross 99W at Hall Blvd. https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=20435

rick
rick
3 months ago

The metal-studded car tires don’t help Hall Blvd, but there is no fee on them in Oregon unlike Washington state.

rick
rick
2 months ago

Well, a second version of a takeover from ODOT after East 82nd’s forward more?

https://www.koin.com/news/protesters-claim-tigard-street-is-unsafe-in-wake-of-fatal-collision/