A major improvement project along Cornelius Pass is underway.
NW Cornelius Pass Road was closed to through traffic between Highway 30 and NW Old Cornelius Pass Road in Washington County at 3 a.m. on Monday, July 22.
During the project, the pass will be closed to through traffic between Highway 30 and Germantown Road. The closure will send about 13,000 vehicle trips each weekday onto other roads. Over the past few months, transportation officials have been encouraging commuters to plan for the closure that will have an impact region-wide including Columbia County.
The closure will allow contractor Wildish Standard Paving to construct safety improvements on Multnomah County’s five-mile section of the road. The road is scheduled to reopen in late September.
This steep, winding and narrow section of NW Cornelius Pass Road has a long history of crashes. The project will reduce some of the rural road’s sharp curves, increase sight distance for drivers, improve road shoulders, and install caution signs, guardrails and barriers.
When the road is closed to through traffic, access will be maintained for local residents and emergency services. The contractor will set up hard closures on NW Cornelius Pass Road at NW Old Cornelius Pass Road (in Washington County) and just north of NW 8th Ave. (between Highway 30 and NW Skyline).
Officials urge drivers to use alternate routes:
Cars and pickup trucks
From Highway 30 take NW Newberry Road, NW Skyline Blvd. and NW Old Cornelius Pass Road to Washington County. A temporary traffic signal at NW Newberry Road will allow traffic to safely turn left onto Highway 30. Stop signs will be relocated along the detour route to create a free-flowing route.
From Highway 30 take I-405 south to Highway 26 west. Trucks Carrying Hazardous Loads: These trucks cannot use the Highway 26 tunnel in Portland. The detour is longer, taking I-5 south to Highway 217 north to Highway 26 west.
Road users are encouraged to:
• Allow more time for their trip, due to expected congestion on detour routes.
• Be alert for other road users, including cyclists, on alternate routes in the west hills. These rural roads are narrow, steep and winding with limited sight distance.
• Avoid NW Logie Trail Road, which has a steep section that is too narrow for two vehicles to pass.
• Consider car pooling. Find a ride at www.drivelessconnect.com.
The Oregon Legislature provided funds for the $5.65 million project. Funds are being spent at four key locations where crashes occur, as well as on corridor-wide improvements.
Columbia County Sheriff Brian Pixley said the closure of Cornelius Pass will have a big ripple effect for the residents of Columbia County.
“We have many people who commute to and from the west side from our county and this closure will definitely add to the congestion and commute time, he said.
Pixley said his agency will be utilizing traffic grant funding to enhance patrols in the county.
“The bulk of these issues will not be in Columbia County, but we will do our part to ensure people’s safety,” he said. “My best advice to commuters is one word-patience. This closure will be difficult for everyone, but we need to be patient because ultimately this construction will increase everyone’s safety in the end.”
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Deputy David McGarry said deputies will partner with other area law enforcement agencies to check drivers’ speeds and traffic habits along the alternative routes during the project.
McGarry recommends that motorists using Cornelius Pass impacted by the closure add more time to their commute, be patient and remain calm.
“Leaving earlier on your trip will cause the stress factor to go down, which in turn will stop drivers from taking aggressive actions,” he said. “Call 911 or the non-emergency phone number if you see people driving recklessly. Don’t engage by honking at the reckless driver or antagonize the driver.”
Oregon State Police Government and Media Relations Captain Timothy Fox said congestion from the pass closure will be the most widespread impact.
“OSP will do our best, with limited resources, to assist the construction crews and keep traffic moving as safely as possible,” Fox said.
Communications between regional law enforcement agencies and others about how to best deal with the traffic impact of the pass closure began months ago, Fox said. To commuters and visitors who will face the congestion, Fox said patience will be key.
“Plan ahead,” he said. “Realize for things to get better, this has to be done.”
See a series of special reports about the Cornelius Pass Improvement Project and its impact here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief. For more information and to sign up for project updates visit www.multco.us/cornpass.