There’s been important progress on a project that will build a carfree path on a six-mile stretch of an abandoned railroad line between Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove. The Council Creek Regional Trail has been a dream for decades and planning began in earnest after Metro published a master plan in 2015. Now Washington County has opened an open house for the project and hopes to add public feedback to ongoing discussions about the project by local elected officials and agency staff via various advisory committees.
On March 20th, the project’s Elected Officials Steering Committee (EOSC) decided on an alignment for the project. They’ve chosen to run a public path ride along the center of the existing railroad right-of-way. The path itself will vary between 10 and 16-feet or so (depending on the segment) and it will feel very similar to other regional paths like the nearby Banks-Vernonia State Trail.
The alignment is just a quarter-mile north of Tualatin-Valley Highway, a major east-west arterial that has a terrible record of traffic deaths and injuries. While there are many efforts afoot to make TV Hwy safer and its transit offerings, TriMet also wants to make sure the rail corridor — and its full 60-feet of usable right-of-way — will also be available for them to extend the MAX from Hillsboro in the future.
At the January 23rd meeting of the EOSC, TriMet’s Director of Government Relations Tom Markgraf said, “I think you all know, TriMet’s interested. When a corridor becomes available, it’s really important to grab it quick and hold it for the future, and make sure that any improvements you make don’t jeopardize the ability to turn it into a transit corridor later on.” Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez echoed that sentiment. “I think it is important for us to be able to act swiftly; to be able to preserve that future opportunity,” he said. “There’s strong alignment at Metro with this project.”
But any MAX extension is a long way off. The near-term plans are for a walking and rolling path that spur active travel and community development along the entire corridor (and also offer people an alternative to TV Hwy.) So far, $19 million has been committed to the project and the total price tag is estimated at around $28 million.
While the corridor is already designated as a high capacity transit route in Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan, there are already signs that some people who live along it will oppose any public access.
At that January meeting, Washington County Planner Julie Sosnovske revealed her team has heard that an attorney has already sent letters to people who live adjacent to the rail corridor, “Telling them that they may have reversionary rights and telling them that the right‐of‐way is theirs.” “We don’t believe that’s true; we believe that ODOT owns the right‐of‐way, but there are people receiving advice from an attorney and being signed on to a lawsuit,” Sosnovske continued.
It will be very interesting to see how this project evolves in the coming months and years. For now, you should consider spending a few minutes with the online open house and be sure to click to the last part where Washington County asks for your specific feedback about how you’d use the trail, what type of features you’d like to see, where trail access points should go, and so on. Comments will be accepted through May 14th.
If all goes according to plan, the project will finish design and engineering in 2024 and construction would begin in 2025. Washington County says they are shooting for an opening date in 2029.