A Bridge to Nowhere?

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    In the world of national politics there are many times when politicians have winced while talking about a “Bridge to Nowhere.” Perhaps the most famous was an Alaska project to replace a ferry to an island with 50 residents. The ferry ran on a regular schedule. The Gravina Island Bridge would have cost around $400 million to replace the ferry, but cooler heads prevailed over time and it was never built.

    We are facing a similar situation here in Tualatin. As the president of the Byrom Community Involvement Organization (CIO), I try and stay on top of the Basalt Creek development area. It is a large and complex project with elements being controlled by Tualatin, by Wilsonville and by Washington County. There has been a great deal of discussion around the first housing development on the northern side of the project by Norwood Road, and much discussion about tree and other habitat loss, road noise and, of course, traffic.  

    Traffic is a constant source of concern in seemingly every conversation I have in Tualatin. I live right off Boones Ferry Road and can certainly attest to the issue of a seeming solid line of cars. And now that we are starting to emerge from our Covid-19 cocoon, the cars and trucks are back. Part of the Basalt Creek development includes the extension of SW 124th and the Basalt Creek Parkway linking Tualatin Sherwood Road to Grahams Ferry Road and ultimately to I-5.

    What many of our residents may not realize is that there are additional plans for the Parkway which include a five-lane bridge across the beautiful Basalt Creek ravine area and thus extending the 124th link all the way to Boones Ferry Rd. There is an additional plan to extend this even further across I-5 with road connections on the east side of the freeway, but that project is still a long way out and definitive funding hasn’t been identified yet.

    I have some serious concerns about the bridge, as do many of my neighbors. First off, it will be a five-lane bridge designed for heavy truck traffic across a pristine natural area. It is also currently designed with a four percent grade, which is significant for heavy trucks. In fact, one of the plans is to have the light between the bridge and Boones Ferry have a sensor to prioritize or support turning truck traffic. How this will work in practice, considering the heavy traffic already on Boones Ferry, is something I have not been able to understand. In addition, the bridge will be expensive – around $31 million.  

    But my biggest issue is that, like the Gravina Island Bridge, the Basalt Creek bridge is not needed. We already have Day Road connecting Grahams Ferry to Boones Ferry to I-5.  Rather than ruin a pristine area of Tualatin and build a bridge, we should be spending a smaller amount of that budget on improving and widening the existing roads to cover the additional traffic. This is also a much less complex solution. While previous Tualatin and Wilsonville city administrations agreed on this current plan, there is certainly no unanimity on the current Tualatin City Council, and the affected neighborhoods are absolutely against this, as am I.