NW Cornelius Pass Road was built in the 19th century to connect the Tualatin Valley to the Columbia River. Multnomah County maintains the northern section that crosses over the West Hills between Highway 30 and Washington County. The rugged terrain has combined with increasing traffic and high speeds to help make this five-mile stretch of Cornelius Pass Road the scene of many crashes.
Since 2008, we have worked with a range of partners to plan for a safer Cornelius Pass. We’ve talked with the local community and helped with state and federal safety reviews. We built one set of safety improvements in 2010, and the state built another set at the Highway 30 interchange in 2013.
Now it’s time for the next steps. In late spring and summer of 2019, we started a larger set of safety improvements. This project paves the way for us to hand the road over to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), as required by the Oregon Legislature.
In 2008, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conducted a safety review of Cornelius Pass Road. They issued a number of recommendations to improve the road network, make vehicles safer and change road user behavior.
In 2011, ODOT conducted a safety evaluation under the Jobs and Transportation Act. This report acknowledged the safety improvements we built in 2010 and recommended more improvements for the future.
After the ODOT review, we drew up a list of safety improvements we thought were practical and within our means. Then we recruited a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) including residents of Multnomah, Washington and Columbia counties. The CAC provided input on safety issues and considered possible improvements.
The 15-member committee met from 2013-2018. It included neighbors, a local business, commuters, and representatives from the trucking industry and the state legislature. Committee meetings were also open to the public.
In 2010, we used funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build several safety improvements. Some of these improvements were recommendations from the federal safety review in 2008.
The federal stimulus funds were used to add:
- Rumble strips along the outside edge of traffic lanes and the centerline to warn drivers when their vehicles are near the road edge or crossing into oncoming traffic.
- A flashing yellow signal approaching NW Sheltered Nook Road from the west, to alert drivers of stopped traffic around a blind corner.
- Vehicle speed readout signs to remind drivers of their vehicle speed. The speed limit on this section of the road is 45 miles per hour.
In 2013, ODOT built safety improvements to the intersection of Cornelius Pass and US Highway 30. These improvements included new traffic signals, turn lanes and reduced driveways in the interchange area.
In 2017, the state passed a law that will transfer all of our section of Cornelius Pass Road to ODOT’s control. Washington County’s section from Highway 26 to the Multnomah County line will also be transferred to ODOT. There is no timeline yet for the transfer.
A number of tasks must be performed before we can hand the road over to the state. The current safety improvements will help bring the road up to state standards and bring us a step closer to the transfer.