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ODOT officials says traffic pattern monitoring will beginimmediately after the new highway is opened to the public

GARY ALLEN - Decorative screens are one of the remaining few additions that must be made before the Newberg-Dundee bypass can be opened, officials said.

The Newberg-Dundee bypass is on its home stretch of construction work before opening in mid- to late-December.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the first phase of the thoroughfare, painting the road striping as well as completing the artistic designs on some of the bridges. They are installing the last signage and completing guardrail work in some spots. The two new signalized intersections are all but ready to be activated and ODOT will be installing TripCheck cameras to show road conditions online.

"It's mainly just getting things to the point where we're ready to open it for traffic," said Lou Torres, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT).

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 18, at a yet-to-be-determined location. Gov. Kate Brown and ODOT Director Matt Garrett will speak at the event.

Soon after the event, the highway will officially open to the public. Torres said ODOT plans to open it "as soon after the ribbon cutting as possible," but said the exact timing is not yet certain.

What's next?

Once the highway opens, ODOT will begin monitoring traffic patterns immediately, Torres said.

"We're going to really need to get a good feel for it for about a year," he said. ODOT will look at what's working and what's not, he said, adding that "we may even have to tinker with the lights, the signals, stuff like that."

For example, from Highway 219 up to Highway 99W along Springbrook Road, there are three major signals, and ODOT wants to make sure traffic is moving through that area, Torres said.

The department doesn't have projections for the number of vehicles that will begin using the bypass right away, but it has estimated both Newberg and Dundee will see a reduction of between 30 and 40 percent in overall vehicle traffic through the areas circumvented by the new highway. For heavy truck traffic, ODOT estimates the reduction will be between 50 and 75 percent.

"We were able to make those projections because we know this is going to be really a smart way for trucks, for example, to utilize less fuel, less travel time. Trucks are going to find it very, very popular," Torres said. "Cars will too. People going from Portland to Grand Ronde or the coast, it'll be a faster way to bypass Newberg and Dundee. They want to get to a destination further away, so the bypass is going to work really well for them."

Looking ahead

The final budget for phase one hasn't been fully tallied yet, but Torres said ODOT is still using the $252 million figure that was considered the fully budgeted project at the beginning.

"We're thinking it's going to come in under that," he said. "We've been able to utilize several million dollars to do some right-of-way acquisition on the phase two project."

Torres described the land purchases as "strategic," noting there was talk of imminent development on some of the parcels, which could have complicated future acquisitions for the next phase of the highway.

State legislators also this year approved a transportation package that included $22 million for the design of phase two. Torres said any other savings from the first phase would likely go into that pot of money as well.

In the ­future, should the entire bypass get funded and constructed, the phase one roadway could see expansions as well. The full design is a four-lane road and ODOT allowed enough room to expand the current two lanes out if the full design is implemented.

But for now, ODOT is wrapping up work on the first phase of the project, which is virtually alone in its scale compared with other ODOT highway projects. The rebuild of Highway 20 and the Sunrise Corridor project in the Portland area come the closest, Torres said, but there's "nothing quite as big as the bypass."

"This will go down as one of the biggest projects, probably since we did the expansion of (Interstate) 205," Torres said.

For more information about the ribbon-cutting ceremony, visit www.newberg-dundee.org.

Design of intersection barriers proving unpopular

Designs for the Newberg-Dundee bypass have been debated and discussed for decades. But once the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) settled on a design and started construction in 2013, it has stuck to that plan almost exactly.

The only major change was made in 2016, when ODOT agreed to modify the eastern portion of phase one. The highway was designed to connect to Highway 219 and direct eastbound travelers toward Highway 99W to continue their eastbound travel.

But the bypass/Highway 219 intersection was designed to also connect the bypass to Wilsonville Road and allow traffic to come straight off the bypass onto the winding rural road that ends up near Interstate 5 in Wilsonville. This design raised concerns among property owners along Wilsonville Road and beyond about the possibility of increased traffic that would come straight off the bypass onto Wilsonville Road as an alternative route to the freeway if there was heavy congestion preventing quick access to Highway 99W.

Opponents of the design pushed for a change that would force vehicles left or right when coming off the bypass. But that raised concerns among residents of some Newberg streets that could see diverted traffic attempting to access Wilsonville Road.

After a long process involving neighborhood representatives and city, county and even state officials, all groups agreed to a compromise that altered the bypass design, which is still the current plan.

Under the new design, Wilsonville Road will not connect to the bypass at Highway 219 as previously proposed. ODOT has agreed to instead construct a new intersection connecting Wilsonville Road to Highway 219 south of Wynooski Road's intersection with Highway 219. The existing Wilsonville Road connection to Springbrook Road will be disconnected. Essentially, the goal is to make it inconvenient to access Wilsonville Road from the bypass.

"It's really going to get changed significantly," Torres said. "That was part of the agreement with the community there. It wasn't what we planned originally, but we were willing to make that change to essentially keep the project moving ahead."

However, it's going to take some time to build that intersection and ODOT didn't want to delay the bypass from opening. ODOT plans to have the new intersection built by mid-2020. So until the new intersection is built, a temporary measure has restricted traffic movement at the intersection of Springbrook and Wilsonville roads. The new restriction was planned due to the increased traffic that will be coming from the bypass north on Highway 219 and Springbrook Road to Highway 99W.

Vehicles could previously freely turn left or right coming off Wilsonville Road, and turn left or right onto the road from Springbrook Road. But since there will be much more traffic on Springbrook Road, ODOT was concerned it would become difficult and dangerous for vehicles to turn left from Wilsonville Road. ODOT also predicted it would become hard for traffic to turn left onto Wilsonville Road against the oncoming traffic congestion.

So, that intersection has been restricted to only allow right-in, right-out access to and from Wilsonville Road, and will remain that way until the new intersection is built. ODOT has installed a median at the Springbrook-Wilsonville roads intersection to restrict the traffic from making left turns.

"It's a little awkward right now," Torres acknowledged. "It's been kind of controversial, to be honest with you. It hasn't been accepted very well. … In all the years I've been at ODOT, I haven't seen medians that restrict left turns be very popular."

But it was necessary, Torres said, to ensure safety and prevent even more traffic congestion in that area. The median will be removed when the new intersection is built.

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