A transportation budget recently approved by the Oregon State Legislature includes funding for access roads to the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center and will cede ownership of Cornelius Pass Road to the state.
Cornelius Pass Road, which connects Washington County to Highway 30 and runs through parts of Multnomah County, serves as a heavily used route for large tractor trailer trucks and commuters.
Much of the road remains a narrow, steep stretch through forests, making it a dangerous and often cumbersome route.
The road is currently jointly owned by Multnomah and Washington counties.
"It's a very winding and twisty road," Don Hamilton, a media representative with the Oregon Department of Transportation's Portland Metro region said Wednesday. "It's also become a significant route for Haz Mat materials, which are not allowed in the Vista Ridge tunnel."
Hamilton said ODOT hasn't made any specific plans for safety improvements or maintenance yet.
"It's a little too soon to know what procedures, if any, would be different," he notes, but Sen. Betsy Johnson (D—Scappoose), says any projects along the road will be moderate upgrades.
"Nothing dramatic is going to happen right away, but it transfers this dramatic and complicated safety fix into the state's portfolio," Johnson said. "This is the beginning of an incremental series of improvements to make Cornelius Pass safer and more viable as a transportation link between Washington and Columbia [counties]."
She suspects having single ownership and maintenance responsibility will lead to more expedient upgrades and repairs.
"Cornelius Pass is owned by two counties. What has made this complicated is those are two very significant counties and Cornelius Pass is not a priority for either one of them," she added. "The state is not thrilled about having Cornelius Pass. Cornelius Pass requires a lot of work."
New access roads also called out in state budget
To accommodate a new influx of traffic to a budding research and development center in Scappoose, lawmakers carved out a line item for the OMIC in a $202 million pot of money earmarked for roads, highways and other street projects.
That money will help pay to upgrade a former private access road off West Lane Road, recently named Charles T. Parker Way. In addition, an access point from the Scappoose Industrial Airpark will allow vehicles to get to a forthcoming Portland Community College building slated to be built at the airport.
Johnson says the new road will intersect the Crown Zellerbach Trail, but have minimal impacts.
"As we continue to build out the OMIC campus, we need a road to the new PCC facility," Johnson said Wednesday. "This opens up the eastside of the airport, coming off Crown Zellerbach, and will be engineered in such a way to protect the walking trail."