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Volume 14, Issue 2
February 2016


Neighborhood group offers Saltzman solution
By Virginia Bruce

A group of neighbors is so concerned about the state of upper Saltzman Road, south of its intersection with Laidlaw, that they have taken the unusual step of funding their own study of a potential solution. The Bethany Neighborhood Coalition (BNC) is proposing a technical methodology that could produce a safer, cheaper, and faster way to realign the road.

12 years and no action

As early as 2004, a Washington County Land Use & Transportation Department (LUT) report found, “The existing alignment is substandard in terms of both vertical and horizontal geometry. Sight distance at the current Saltzman/Laidlaw intersection is inadequate and would be very difficult to address. The bridge [over Ward Creek] on Saltzman near Laidlaw is substandard and poses a safety hazard.” Ordinance 626-A called for a study of the situation to be added to the county’s Transportation Plan. $6.5 million was set aside to design and build the new alignment, but the study never made it to the top of the county’s priority list. The county still doesn’t have any firm plans for the road, although it is mentioned in the current Transportation Plan.

Current Saltzman alignment vs. proposed bridge (option 4)

In November 2013, partly in response to pressure from the neighborhood group, LUT held an open house to introduce three proposed options (see map). Option 3 was estimated by the county to cost at least $11.1 million, and require extensive fill and a bridge across Bronson Creek. Option 2, a straight route that would terminate at Hamel, would be even more expensive, estimated to cost $15.5 million. Option 1 uses the current alignment of the road, and widens it to three lanes with bike and ped amenities.

In a statement to The News in November 2015, LUT said, “The County’s long-term Transportation System Plan calls for an $11 million realignment/widening project on Saltzman, but there are no immediate plans to widen the road. Other substandard roads with higher traffic counts are higher priority, Commissioners said. Put simply, dedicating $11 million for the Saltzman project would jeopardize other road improvement projects that may be more critical.”

Map of options 1, 2, and 3

Although Option 3 was labeled “preferred,” LUT is now proposing to implement features of Option 1 as an “interim” solution. They are planning to use $1.2 million from the proposed Transportation Development Tax on Bonny Slope West developers to add a bike lane and a grade-separated sidewalk. It’s unclear whether the project would widen the very narrow vehicle lanes. This will involve the purchase of right-of-way (ROW) from landowners adjacent to the road, and would also undoubtedly require lane closures along Saltzman during the construction.

The County is now working on MSTIP 3E, the plan to prioritize and fund road projects in the 2019-2020 time period. Saltzman (Laidlaw to Bayonne) is included in the “potential” list with “Full improvement of existing alignment, including wider travel lanes, bike lanes, separated sidewalks.” So even if it makes the cut, competing with road projects countywide, nothing significant would be done for another six or seven years, given the time to plan, design, and build a project. And that is talking about Option 1, the less-preferred option.

A better idea

The neighborhood group BNC has hired, at their own expense, two traffic engineers to help them find a better solution to the problem. Asif Rahman, who lives on Saltzman, is the group’s president and spokesman. He has prepared a PowerPoint presentation to explain both the financial and technical aspects of the proposal, which would cost between $5.9 and $8.1 million, following the Option 3 alignment but using more modern building techniques.

Their proposal would leave the current alignment as a bicycle/pedestrian-only route. It would remain open to vehicles until the new structure is complete. A pre-fabricated, ODOT-compliant bridge would be created to cross Bronson Creek. An innovative bridge construction and soil-treatment method (Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil-Integrated Bridge System) is proposed to stabilize the swampy ground that portions of the road would need to cross. Once construction begins, it would takes months instead of years.

The group claims that up to 60% of the needed funding is already available. They call on the County Board of Commissioners (BCC) to ask for an evaluation of the feasibility of the BNC suggested alternative.

A slide show of their proposal is online here

There is understandable resistance from LUT management, since it is usually their job to propose engineering solutions. However, given the low likelihood of full funding for the county’s proposed “ultimate solution,” it is probably worth a closer look.

BNC has created a new petition asking the BCC to consider their proposal. Sign on if you agree that it’s time to take a new look at a solution for Saltzman.


*MSTIP: Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program


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Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
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Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2016