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The Facts About the Jackson School Road Improvement Project

Child biking on Jackson School Road in high trafficHillsboro residents ask the City of Hillsboro to focus on improving transportation safety. They ask for public infrastructure that keeps up with our area’s growth. They ask for a livable community, with more sidewalks and more bike lanes.

Many have asked for the Jackson School Road Improvement Project to move forward. Now, after more than 40 years on the area’s Transportation System Plan, the project is fully designed and ready for construction in 2020. You can read project details on our Jackson School Road Project webpage — and we welcome questions and feedback at 503-681-6146 or through email to our Public Works Department.

Recently, misinformation about the project was shared on social media channels. You should have the facts. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

1) Road width: 38 feet, not 68 feet
The width of Jackson School Road will span 38 feet from curb to curb after the project is completed, except for the new roundabout. To clarify, 68 feet is the right-of-way space that includes sidewalks, bicycle tracks, planter strips, and the 38 feet of pavement. The statement on social media that the road will be 68 feet wide is not accurate.

2) Resident support and communication
Many residents in the Jackson School neighborhood have voiced support for this improvement project and the benefits of adding sidewalks, bike facilities, street lighting, and features that will encourage safer driving and travel. Safety is at the heart of these improvements:

  • Jackson School Road will continue to have one lane of traffic in each direction. A new center turn lane will allow cars to turn across traffic without blocking traffic, which will help prevent crashes.
  • Bike lanes and sidewalks will be added to protect all who travel to school, work, and home.
  • Better street lighting will be installed to increase safety for everyone.
  • Overhead utilities will be relocated underground.
  • The speed limit will remain 35 miles per hour. The improved road is not designed for speeds any higher. A new roundabout, street tree planters, and a narrower curb-to-curb width are all specifically included in the design to encourage drivers to slow down. These features are included in part due to community feedback and requests from people who were concerned about speed.

Jackson School Road is a collector road that currently serves 8,000 vehicles each day. As our area continues to grow, the road will serve 10,000 vehicles each day in the near future. This increase in traffic will happen regardless of this safety improvement project.

Without this project, the road will become noticeably less safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. That’s why the City of Hillsboro is taking action now on the Jackson School Road Improvement Project, which has been on the area’s Transportation System Plan for more than 40 years.

Since the City took over the project from Washington County in July 2015, the City has held two open houses for the community in November 2016 and October 2017. Each of the City’s open houses featured many staff members who received input and feedback from hundreds of community members.

Based on community feedback, the project has been adjusted and modified many times during the design phase, which is now complete. While the project could not meet every resident’s request for changes, staff have spent considerable time listening to and providing information for property owners, and trying to find solutions. Many 1-on-1 meetings have taken place, and City employees have listened to all residents who have expressed either concern or support for the project.

Area residents have received project updates through a general information notice, a dedicated webpage, email newsletter updates, print mailings, in-person meetings, phone calls, and other communication through City of Hillsboro employees and our contractors.

For many years, Hillsboro community members have voiced their strong preference for safer transportation, more sidewalks and bike facilities. These requests have been among the most popular ideas among the thousands of ideas submitted for the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan.

Beyond the neighborhood, all 101,920 Hillsboro residents stand to benefit from the safety improvements for decades to come.

3) Minimizing tree removal
Trees are an important part of our ecosystem and help make our community beautiful. Nobody wants to remove a tree, but sometimes it is necessary. We must also balance our natural environment with the safety of our community. The project team worked diligently to minimize tree loss, while ensuring the safety of all who use the road, including children who walk and bike to nearby schools.

The design for Jackson School Road is as narrow as it can be, while providing bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Trees and vegetation will be removed only where it’s essential. For every tree that must be removed, we will replant a tree in the Jackson School Road corridor, or in the City. This is not required to maintain our status as a Tree City USA community, but it reflects the desire to balance the necessary tree removal with new trees for the future.

4) Understanding Eminent Domain
With all construction projects where property acquisition is needed, we work diligently and collaboratively with residents and land owners in the hope of reaching a resolution that is fair for all involved, including the City’s taxpayers. This may include changes to the project to accommodate the needs of property owners.

Sometimes acquiring private property is needed for the government to build important infrastructure to serve the greater public good. That process is called eminent domain, and it is commonly used on large infrastructure projects. It requires the City to negotiate with affected property owners and seek agreement on fair market value for the portion of the property needed for public use. The overwhelming majority of these matters results in a settlement agreement between the City and the property owner — and that is true for this project. Sometimes the courts must decide what constitutes fair market value, but that is rare and a last resort.

More than 180 properties — of about 190 impacted properties in the Jackson School Road corridor — have reached an agreement with the City. The City continues to work diligently with the owners of the remaining six properties to reach a fair agreement.

5) Project Budget
Projects of the size and scale of Jackson School Road take years of thoughtful planning. In 2006, the original budget estimate was $8 million. Now, after 13 years of inflation and market changes, that cost estimate no longer reflects current pricing for labor, materials, and land acquisition.

The $5.4 million figure that some have inaccurately referred to as the “original budget” was the funding contribution from Washington County – not the original budget estimate.

The project’s scope and cost estimates have also changed based on community member requests, such as:

  • The undergrounding of utilities (requested by residents)
  • The narrowing of the roadway, which required a project redesign (requested by residents)
  • Engineering changes to save as many trees as possible (requested by residents)

Good stewardship of public resources is a top priority for the City. Project staff have worked to be as cost efficient as possible by combining work with other Water Department and Parks & Recreation Department projects.

Again, you can read project details on our Jackson School Road Project webpage – and we welcome questions and feedback at 503-681-6146. Thank you.

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