Wilsonville eyes Frog Pond transportation improvements
The development taking place to the north of Boeckman Road near the intersection with Stafford Road is just a glimpse of what's to come.
There, developers are building homes in the Frog Pond West residential neighborhood — one of Wilsonville's three planned neighborhoods in the area. Overall, according to the Frog Pond Area Plan, nearly 2,000 homes are projected to be added to the Frog Pond West, South and East neighborhoods in the coming decades.
With development comes more strain on local roads and City of Wilsonville Community Development Director Chris Neamtzu says the City will try to ensure that additional homes don't lead to a clogged transportation network.
"Our goal is to ensure an adequate transportation system that meets the needs of citizens of the community," Neamtzu said. "City code requires us to maintain concurrency standard, which means transportation improvements are being provided commensurate with or in a short time following when development is occurring. That allows the system to function at an acceptable level."
Like other jurisdictions, the City uses a level of service (LOS) analysis to determine whether a particular development adequately meets transportation standards. The analysis is graded on a scale from A to F and if a project meets at least a D threshold, it can go forward. A level of D service means there can be 35- to 55-second delays at a signaled intersection and 25- to 35-second delays at an unsignaled intersection.
If a development doesn't meet that requirement, mitigating steps such as improving signal timing, road widening or adding street lights, need to be added prior to development.
For instance, according to a 2018 application, a nearby development caused the intersection of Canyon Creek and Boeckman roads to fall to a LOS grade of E. For a signaled intersection, a level of service grade of E means there are delays between 55 and 80 seconds to get through the intersection. Therefore, the City requires improvements to be made and recommended that a traffic signal be added to that intersection to minimize impacts to the overall transportation system. That project has yet to be completed.
"The code allows for a temporary decline in the level of service provided there is a funded capital project to address it," Neamtzu said.
Other intersections identified in the development application included the Boeckman, Stafford, Advance and Wilsonville roads intersection, which was projected to maintain a C grade before and after the Frog Pond West development, and at the intersection of Boeckman Road and Parkway Avenue, which was projected to maintain a D grade before and after the development.
Neamtzu said the City both tries to avoid the highest and the lowest grades, preferring a grade somewhere in the middle.
"It's always a delicate balance when you are funding and building a transportation network. Ideally you don't construct roads that are so wide that they are lightly used," Neamtzu said. "The point is you wouldn't want to spend millions of dollars that had wide roads and no capacity issues. There is a sweet spot where you are trying to keep that balance."
Neamtzu said improvements to Boeckman Road will be the first major project to increase traffic capacity in the area.
The City plans to convert Boeckman Road to three lanes and add sidewalks and bike lanes and is in the process of planning a project to add a Boeckman "dip" bridge to improve accessibility and safety. The City also plans to add similar improvements to Stafford Road once development on that street accelerates.
The bridge project is funded through urban renewal, which uses the taxes associated with increases in property values to fund public infrastructure improvements. The City also will implement a per-door charge to pay for infrastructure improvements along Boeckman and Stafford roads and Neamtzu said the charge can cost upward of $17,000. System development charges, one-time charges to developers for the impacts to public facilities, also pay for such improvement projects.
Neamtzu said the "failing" freeway system often is to blame for cars that increasingly use rural roads like Stafford to cut through the area. And he acknowledged that the factor combined with the added development could be a cause for concern.
"That's when we see challenges in the Stafford area. It's not designed to handle large volumes of cut-through traffic. As you come into the city, it's more urbanized," Neamtzu said.
The City also recently added signals and turn lanes to the Boeckman, Stafford, Wilsonville and Advance roads intersection and Neamtzu said congestion can be mitigated to a certain degree by optimizing signals and adding yellow flashing lights.
Neamtzu said he hopes that through Clackamas County's vehicle registration fee, which charges vehicle owners $30 annually to fund road improvements, the congested intersection of 65th Avenue and Elligsen Road will be improved as well.
"We've talked about that. You might see that type of project move up the priority list more quickly, which would allow us to address transportation concerns," Neamtzu said.
So far, Neamtzu said Frog Pond West is developing about as fast as expected, with about 200 homes having been approved for development so far. The pace of development, Neamtzu said, determines the pace of public improvements.
"Because (system development) fees are tied to the building of homes, on the revenue generation side of it, you need revenue before capital improvements come in," Neamtzu said.
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