County project will mean more traffic on Newberry, Skyline (again) this summer

(Graphic: Multnomah County)

Remember last summer when Multnomah County closed NW Cornelius Pass Road for a major project and the detour sent thousands of drivers onto popular and usually quiet roads like Newberry?

Unfortunately they weren’t able to finish the project as planned and it’s about to start up again for round two. Fortunately, the County says things might not be as bad this time around.

From July 19th through the end of September, the County plans to close Cornelius Pass Road between Highway 30 and Skyline in order to complete a road safety project. No one rides Cornelius Pass Road because it’s such a busy highway and there are much better options nearby. Unfortunately, all the car and truck drivers need to find options too — which means rural roads in the general area are likely to see extra motorized traffic the closure. (Last year the detoured traffic on Newberry was especially hard to swallow because it came right after it was carfree for many months due to a landslide repair.)

The good news is this project shouldn’t create as many hazards and headaches for bicycle riders as last year.

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County shares plans to address cycling safety during major road closure

County will install signs advising drivers to use caution around bicycle riders on roads like NW Skyline Blvd.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we reported on a project that will close NW Cornelius Pass Road between Highway 30 and NW Germantown Road to through traffic for 13 weeks starting July 8th. Cornelius Pass is a major highway that connects Washington County (near Highway 26) with Scappoose and other destinations along Highway 30.

This is a big deal for bicycle riders because the project will detour thousands of people driving cars and trucks onto what are usually quiet, rural roads that happen to be on very popular cycling routes.

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Cornelius Pass project will route thousands of cars and trucks onto popular bike routes

Source: Multnomah County

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.

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Construction begins next month on NW Newberry Rd

Beautiful, isn’t it?
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Next month will be two years since a landslide wiped away a big chunk of NW Newberry Road. Multnomah County closed the winding, mountain road to through traffic in January 2017 and it has since become even more popular than usual for cycling. Newberry is one of a handful of climbs that take riders from Highway 30 up and over the west hills. It’s a welcome respite from the loud and fast traffic on “Dirty 30.”

With the closure, Newberry has become a de facto carfree climb. That is, for those people who’ve ignored the closure signs and were willing to ride around the jersey barriers.

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County says NW Newberry road will be fixed by summer/fall 2018

Landslide and damage to NW Newberry.
(Photo: Multnomah Countyu)

Multnomah County issued advisories for two roads in the west hills that are popular with local riders.

They’ve released a date for when NW Newberry will be fixed and re-opened. And they’ve announced a new, upcoming closure of the west side of NW Germantown.

Winter storms pummeled NW Newberry Road into submission, causing a major landslide about a half-mile up from Highway 30. The landslide caused the pavement of the northern (uphill) lane to completely split apart and fall down a hill. As a result, Multnomah County closed the road on January 18th. Concrete jersey barriers were placed across the road in both directions. While the road is technically closed, bicycle riders have continued to use it by going around the barriers to enjoy a quiet and safe, carfree road.

At a recent public meeting, County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson said a federal grant has helped with the repair project. Yesterday, the County issued a statement saying they’ve begun working on a retaining wall needed to support the new road. Construction is set to begin in late spring 2018 and the road should reopen to all users by late summer/early fall of the same year.

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