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U-turns on Tualatin-Sherwood Road? They're darn likely

Road widening planned amid concerns about traffic signal removal


by: WASHINGTON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT - Here are the highlights of plans to widen Tualatin-Sherwood Road including likely U-turns and removal of a traffic signal at the entrances of Regal Cinemas and Albertson's.  An extensive widening of Tualatin-Sherwood Road near Highway 99W, which includes the removal of a traffic signal at the Albertson’s/Regal Cinemas intersection, contains a unique concept for Sherwood motorists – the likelihood of allowing U-turns.

That’s what residents attending an Oct. 16 open house heard from traffic engineers and Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation officials.

The $12 million county project will widen Tualatin-Sherwood Road from Borchers Drive to Langer Farms Parkway. Once completed, Tualatin-Sherwood will have two continuous westbound through lanes from Langer Farms Parkway to Borchers Drive. The project will ultimately result in a continuous center turn lane between those two streets as well and two left-only southbound turn lanes from Tualatin-Sherwood Road to Highway 99W.

At Langer Farms Parkway, eastbound Tualatin-Sherwood Road will taper to three lanes shortly after it crosses the intersection.

In recent weeks, some residents have expressed concern about what they believe will be problems caused by the removal of the traffic signal on Tualatin-Sherwood Road at the entrance to the cinemas and the Sherwood Market Center, which contains Albertson’s (see sidebar).

The removal means that traffic exiting the Albertson’s complex will only be allowed to turn right onto Tualatin-Sherwood Road. The same will be true for those coming out of the Regal Cinemas.

A six-inch-tall center median at that intersection will prevent crossing the road in either direction, traffic engineers say. However, a pedestrian signal will allow for crossing at the intersection, according to Peter Coffey, a principal with DKS, a transportation engineering and consulting firm.

Meanwhile, the county is planning to allow U-turns, a traffic maneuver familiar to drivers in the state below Oregon, all but unheard of here.

Current designs call for a U-turn on Tualatin-Sherwood Road at Baler Way, allowing motorists heading east to flip around and head west.

“If the businesses think this U-turn will help, I’ll build it,” said Dan Erpenbach, project manager for the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation.

A U-turn also could be placed on Tualatin-Sherwood Road at Highway 99W, a plan that might prove trickier because the county will have to approach the Oregon Department of Transportation for its blessing, said Erpenbach.

Otherwise, Albertson’s shoppers can go through the parking lot, hit Langer Drive and head to the signal at Baler Way to make a left-hand turn onto Tualatin-Sherwood Road. In the same way, movie-goers leaving the cinema who want to turn left will now have to travel through the cinema parking lot and use what is expected to be the future northern extension of Baler Way. That roadway will run along the side of the Les Schwab Tires building before feeding into Tualatin-Sherwood Road.

“I’m making the promise I’m going to have (the Baler Way extension) built before I take the signal away,” said Erpenbach during the Oct. 16 meeting. The Baler Way extension will move forward once the city completes a transportation system plan amendment.

At the same time, Erpenbach said he’s not against the possibility of creating a right-turn only that would feed into the backside of Regal Cinemas from Highway 99W, something that again might be difficult because it involves ODOT permission and loads of safety concerns.

“But that’s a potential solution,” he said.

The signal removal and widening plans are expected to reduce congestion along Tualatin-Sherwood Road, officials say, a roadway that can resemble a parking lot many times during the day.

In 2012, traffic consultants projected that vehicle use on Tualatin-Sherwood Road (east of Highway 99W) will increase by 50 percent over the next 23 years, going from 20,000 cars to 30,000 in 2035.

The intersection of Tualatin-Sherwood Road and Highway 99W sees about 58,000 cars each day making it one of the most traveled intersections in the state.

Who will pay for the Baler Way extension is still under discussion but officials say it most likely would be a combination of some funding from the county along with help from private developers.

The project will begin in 2014 with completion set for 2015. Funding is through the county’s Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program.

Group forms to save T-S Road signal

A Save our Signal organization has been formed on Facebook to protest removal of the traffic signal on Tualatin-Sherwood Road at the entrance to the cinemas and the Sherwood Market Center (which contains Albertson’s).

During the Oct. 1 Sherwood City Council meeting, several area residents weighed in about their concerns if the signal is taken away.

Chris West, who has lived in Sherwood for 13 years, said he was concerned for the safety of his children if the signal was taken down, saying they will have to “jump a curb or backtrack” to cross Tualatin-Sherwood Road.

Katie Boedigheimer, general manager of the Rose’s restaurant, said removal of the signal would be detrimental to the business of her restaurant; the last Rose’s eatery remaining in Oregon.

“If the light’s taken out, we may not be in business,” she said.

Timing signals are in county’s crystal ball

In addition to the widening of Tualatin-Sherwood Road, Washington County officials also are working on what’s known as the Intelligent Traffic System project, a plan that will effectively allow traffic signals to talk with each other, providing less congestion along Tualatin-Sherwood Road from Borchers Drive to Interstate 5.

The signal improvements will result in motorists seeing a huge difference on how traffic flows along that road, according to Dan Erpenbach, project manager for the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation.

Other improvements along Tualatin-Sherwood Road include the addition of bike lanes on both sides of the road within the project limits as well as improvements to help the signal at Highway 99W function more efficiently.



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