November 2020 Saltzman improvement update

by Vicky Siah, CMN student intern, and Virginia Bruce

Final meeting Wednesday, November 4, 5:30-7:30 pm, zoom

Washington County engaged JLA Public Involvement to manage a community discussion on alternatives for improving the northern end of Saltzman Road. The third meeting of the Saltzman Road Public Advisory Committee (PAC) was held on October 22, 2020. Time was allotted for public comment, PAC member Asif Rahman’s presentation, design review, and PAC discussion. 

Andrew Paul, grandson of Odus and Lillian Bales (Bales Thriftway’s founders), provided his statement at the start of the meeting: if the county proceeds with the Eastern alignment, his house is set for demolition. Paul argues that the mid-century house is a historic part of the community. The impact each alignment has upon residents and the environment remains a key point of consideration.

Asif Rahman, representing the Bethany Neighborhood Coalition (BNC), highlighted the goals and challenges of past meetings. Cost and time have been primary sources of debate during the August and September meetings, as planning refinements unveiled new expenses. 

To address costs, the BNC favors the implementation of a Western alignment using a “Pre-fabricated Elements Bridge System (PEBS).” This option would utilize a geosynthetic reinforced soil integrated bridge system to create a stable surface. To address the length of the span, BNC recommends that this proposed bridge be constructed in three prefabricated sections. Rahman asserts that the finished product will be ODOT-compliant and would be much less expensive to implement.

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There is significant pushback by the Washington County Land Use & Transportation (LUT) engineering staff against the BNC suggestion. A link to Rahman’s presentation is included on the Washington County website.

Following Rahman’s presentation, LUT planning partner Murraysmith’s Terry Song led a walkthrough of the alignment revisions. The design of the Eastern alignment has not been notably altered since September’s meeting, but the center turn lane on the Western alignment design is now removed to reduce the estimated cost from $21 million to $19 million. In addition to decreasing the lanes of the Western bridge, changes to the beam size, bridge girder height, and the width of the bridge deck have been implemented in the preliminary plan. 

If the western alignment is chosen, it could eventually be extended to Springville (pink line). That would require changes in the Metro Rural Reserve designation for that part of Multnomah County. It’s a long-term option but one that many would like to see kept open.

PAC members and others have also suggested that the bike and pedestrian lanes could be removed from the Western alignment and added to the existing Eastern alignment, which would remain if the Western alignment is chosen. At least one PAC member is suggesting that the existing alignment become a dead-end for cars, only leading to the two homes below the ridge on Saltzman.

Murraysmith affirms that the Eastern alignment has a greater impact on surrounding neighborhoods, and will include a complete closure of the road during parts of construction; however the Western alignment would require more time for permitting. 

Several PAC members raised questions about water treatment. Rahman brought attention to the issue of water pipelines rupturing in Bauer Highlands. Song asserted that “the area is fairly flat so [we] can pipe to a different elevation.” Stormwater management and other water-related questions are likely to be further discussed at a later date.

In 2004, before the area north of Laidlaw was developed, the county embraced the idea of maintaining a corridor for an eventual extension of Saltzman north to Springville Road by adopting Ordinance 626, which was incorporated in the 2015 update to the county transportation plan. Only the Western alignment would make that practical since it would directly align with 130th. It’s an open question whether the road would ever extend to Springville or further north because it would cross a portion of Multnomah County’s Rural Reserve. This article from 2007 discussed future plans for Saltzman. 

Assuming that there are no unforeseen impacts by flood plains and other factors, the Saltzman Road realignment design will be completed by 2021 and bidding will be opened in 2022. Construction would be finished by 2023 for the Eastern alignment, and after considering time for additional review and bridge design, the Western alignment may take three to 12 months longer, or more, assuming permits are approved by the US Army Corps Engineers, Department of State Lands, and Clean Water Services. At this stage of planning, Murraysmith can’t provide an estimate of how long the road would be completely closed for the Eastern alignment, but the time frame for building the Eastern and Western roads are comparable. With either alignment, the road and bridge will be county-maintained.

THPRD representative Bruce Barbarasch stated his position as “leaning towards endorsing the Eastern alignment” because of a smaller environmental footprint and the prospect for better park accessibility.  The introduction of a new Western alignment results in more paved area, which he said would affect wildlife through habitat fragmentation, and increased road noise.

THPRD properties are outlined in green. The large parcel to the west is currently planned to be a natural area that will require extensive restoration after having been used as grazing pasture. The “NE Park” is steep along the banks of Ward Creek. The recently acquired “Su Property” has some flat land but it’s unclear what the district plans for it.

Trace Richard, the TVF&R representative, has no current preference towards the Eastern or Western alignment. “TVF&R has had a couple of close calls on the East alignment as it is right now, so any upgrade will be appreciated,” Richard said. Regarding the road closures, TVF&R will be able to adapt as necessary.

CPO 7’s Mary Manseau requested that, “quality of life” and “short/long term impacts” be added to alignment evaluation criteria. PAC members have already been asked to vote on their alignment choices. This recommendation will be sent to the County Board of Commissioners, who will make a final decision. 

The next (and final) PAC meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 4, 2020 from 5:30-7:30 pm. The community is welcome to join the meeting and provide comments during the Zoom meeting. Visit the website for instructions. Comments can also be emailed to Washington County Senior Project Manager Ben Lively at