Basalt Creek Parkway Plan Raises Questions

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The proposed $31 million Basalt Creek Parkway extension would bring that road east from Grahams Ferry Road and connect with Boones Ferry Road near Greenhill Lane. (COURTESY/WASHINGTON COUNTY)

Tualatin City Councilors object to traffic, environmental impacts

A planned extension of the Basalt Creek Parkway is drawing criticism from City of Tualatin officials who say it will severely impact residents along Lower Boones Ferry Road. 

Under current Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation plans, the new road would extend the Basalt Creek Parkway from Grahams Ferry Road east to Boones Ferry Road. It would feature a 700-foot-long bridge over Basalt Creek and connect its eastern end with Boones Ferry Road just south of Greenhill Lane. 

County officials say the estimated $31 million project has long been planned for the area as part of the steady growth of both Tualatin and Wilsonville. A road at this location has been identified as part of a wider connector between Interstate 5 and Highway 99W since at least 2003. That concept was solidified by the Basalt Creek Transportation Refinement Plan adopted by the City Council in 2012. 

“This is an urbanizing area, but there wasn’t really much of a transportation system,” said Erin Wardell, a transportation planner with Washington County. “So, part of this is building that system, building multiple routes and building redundancies. Day Road also needs to be rebuilt someday.” 

Wardell noted that the project has been a part of the Basalt Creek Transportation Plan since 2013 and was subsequently added to the county’s Transportation System Plan. These things were done following joint planning work carried out by both Tualatin and Wilsonville. 

“The longer-term vision is for there to be an overcrossing over I-5 here and at Day Road,” Wardell said. “Tualatin, Wilsonville, the county and Metro, they all agreed that this is where that roadway is going to land and that we agree on this future vision for the area.” 

Despite that, Tualatin City Councilors are skeptical of the most recent plan, which they say would bring excessive traffic to neighborhoods along Boones Ferry Road. 

“It’s very controversial here, it’s very unwelcome by some people and there have been some issues with managing the road buildout,” Councilor Bridget Brooks said at the Council’s Feb. 22 meeting. She noted that flooding, stormwater, dead trees, fish passage and other environmental issues have also been raised as potential problems. 

The Basalt Creek Parkway would connect Grahams Ferry Road with Boones Ferry Road using a 700-foot long bridge over Basalt Creek. Critics of the $31 million plan say it would have an adverse impact on stormwater runoff and fish passage, as well as on traffic. (COURTESY/WASHINGTON COUNTY)

“I’m not understanding why we have a road that will dump onto Boones Ferry,” Councilor Valerie Pratt added. “It’s going to be a mess. I’m not understanding the thought process.” 

Russ Knoebel, Principal Engineer at Washington County, admitted that numerous concerns have indeed been raised by residents in recent years, with one of the biggest being stormwater runoff. 

“We have heard a lot of concerns from the neighbors,” Knoebel said. 

At this point, the project is well into design and engineering work. Public engagement is ongoing, Knoebel said, and will include open house events in summer 2021 and early 2022. 

Next steps will include a final design that will need approval from the Oregon Department of Transportation, as well as securing construction funding. In addition, because the proposed roadway crosses a sensitive wetland, permits are needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. 

But the biggest hurdle may yet be public opinion. 

“I know a lot of work has gone into this. but I feel like this is a big project and I want to do the right thing for our community,” said Councilor Christen Sacco. “I want to feel good about that. I am concerned about these environmental impacts and the other impacts that were brought up today.”