Road News February 2021

saltzman bridge

Thompson Road realignment bike-ped options

thompson alignment map

When the subdivision at the southwest corner of Thompson and Saltzman was built, the county required a roadway to be built diagonally through it in the expectation that Thompson Road would be realigned to remove the two 90-degree turns. The road, currently named Kenny Terrace, was built with no homes facing it. Then THPRD acquired the old Lehman farm property at the southwest corner of Thompson and Saltzman, with the understanding that it would be divided by the new Thompson alignment.

Now the county is preparing to design and build the realignment of Thompson. Commissioners were asked to indicate their preference for bicycle and pedestrian facilities at a recent meeting. The options provided were a standard six-foot sidewalk, curbs, and “buffered” bike lanes (the staff recommendation), or a multi-use path with buffered bike lanes. The multi-use path has a wider sidewalk (10 feet) that can accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. Most of the commissioners favored the multi-use path, even though it will cost more. We’ll find out the result next month.

More details were provided about the project during this presentation. The Commission meeting is available for viewing here with the Thompson Road discussion occurring at about 27 minutes.

Saltzman “Phase 2” improvements

A reader reminded us that another round of improvements to Saltzman, between Bauer Woods Drive and Thompson, had been on the plans after the widening and sidewalks were done south of that. Here’s what we learned from LUT. “The Phase 1 project was funded by MSTIP 3b and 3c. The Phase 2 “project” never cycled back to the top relative to other District 2 projects during the MSTIP selections. There was preliminary alignment work done but nothing more.”

We’ll try to learn more and see if that can be re-evaluated.

Cornell Road Improvement Project

Cornell is slated for a variety of improvements between Cedar Hills and 102nd. We just got an update from LUT on the timeline. “Right of Way acquisition has been in progress and should wrap up in May. Once ROW is completed, the next step is tree removal, followed by PGE powerline relocation, followed by the kickoff of project construction. We expect to go to bid for a construction contractor in July/August and then begin construction in September or October this year (starting with the open house). 

Fire gate at McDaniel & Ridge Road may be removed

Last fall, LUT heard from several residents in this area, requesting that we remove the temporary gate at Ridge Road to improve traffic distribution between Blackhawk Drive and Ridge Road. In December, we sent a postcard to 273 addresses in the affected area, asking for feedback regarding concerns, or support for removal of the gate. The selected addresses were based on a “travelshed” consisting of the most likely users of Ridge Road.

A bit of history:

Mid-1990s: The subdivision that includes Blackhawk Drive and 112th Place was developed and portions of Ridge Road, which was until then a gravel road, were improved to urban standards. A barricade was installed to prevent subdivision traffic from using the remaining gravel portion of Ridge Road (which extended to McDaniel Road).

2003-2005: As new subdivisions developed, the barricades on Ridge Road were relocated further to the east, closer to McDaniel Road.

2010: A temporary vehicle gate was installed on Ridge Road at McDaniel Road as part of the Spruce subdivision. This was the first time that a paved connection had been provided between Ridge and McDaniel roads. The gate was required because of a sight distance issue on private property to the north. The gate was never intended to be permanent.

2016: The subdivision development at the northwest corner of Ridge Road and McDaniel Road removed the sight distance issue to the north. Sight distance to the south was not evaluated at that time, so the gate remained in place.

In light of the recent requests to remove the gate, staff inspected the intersection and confirmed that the sight distance is available, and the gate could safely be removed. We decided to gather community input before implementing the removal; hence the mailing to property owners. 

Responses mentioned safety issues (children playing in the street, increased traffic, crime) but in general there was a majority of neighbors who favored the action. LUT is continuing to study the issue and will keep us posted. 

Saltzman update

by Vicky Siah

CPO 7’s meeting on January 11 featured a discussion of the Saltzman Road realignment, presented by Stephen Roberts, Director of Washington County Land Use and Transportation Department.

New renditions of the western alignment were included in the LUT presentation. This is the view of the bridge from Laidlaw looking east.
New renditions of the western alignment were included in the LUT presentation. This is the view of the bridge from Laidlaw looking east. 

Saltzman Road, between Bayonne and Laidlaw, is narrow and has many curves and poor sight distance. Accidents and near-misses are frequent. In 2004, CPO 7 pressured the county to add to the Transportation System Plan (TSP) an alternative alignment of Saltzman Road that would allow an eventual connection to Springville Road. This alternative route was identified in the TSP as the Saltzman Road Extension Study Area. Any new development in the “study area” was required to provide a plan to ensure their development would not eliminate the possibility for a direct connection of Saltzman Road to Springville Road. 

By 2014, Bonny Slope West had become part of Washington County and a group of neighbors and other community members had formed a committee to ensure funding for improvements to Saltzman Road was included in planning for Bonny Slope West. In 2015, $1.2 million in developer fees from the Bonny Slope West Transportation Development Charge was allocated to Saltzman improvements. An additional $5.3 million was dedicated to the project from the Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program (MSTIP), and a “letter of intent” stated, “The County will consider alternative alignments if they are feasible under financial constraints.”

A Saltzman Road Project Advisory Committee (PAC) was created in 2020 to study alternatives and make a recommendation to the County Board of Commissioners for a realignment option—eastern, western, or “no build”. By their final pre-recommendation meeting in November 2020, 75% (six out of eight) of the committee voted for the western alignment as their first choice. A summary of the debate and justifications can be found here.

After reviewing project history, Director Roberts provided an overview of the two alignment designs. Staff asserts that the eastern alignment, more-or-less following the current road, has less environmental impact. LUT presented an option for the eastern alignment that reduces the impact to existing properties with a tighter curve at the Paul property, located on the east side of Saltzman at the top of the hill.

The western alignment would mostly be two lanes wide with left turn lanes at the beginning and end of the segment. A 405-foot long bridge would span a protected wetland and floodplain areas, which would require additional permitting before construction. Thus, the western alignment is more challenging in terms of approval and has a higher cost than the eastern proposal. 

The presentation from the January 11 meeting is available here.

PAC member Bruce Barbarasch, representing THPRD which owns property on either side of the current alignment, expressed THPRD’s staff view that the eastern alignment was less harmful to wildlife. However, if the current roadway were closed north of the existing homes, impacts to wildlife would be minimized. Community members have asked THPRD to explore the ramifications of that possibility. 

That is likely to be discussed at an additional PAC meeting currently being scheduled for later this month. The Board of Commissioners’ briefing is tentatively scheduled for April 6, 2021. Engineering design, environmental studies and permitting, and Right-of-Way acquisition will likely last into 2023 with construction expected to occur through 2024. More information about the Saltzman Road Project can be found on the LUT website.