A PDF of the vision statement is available here.
The Cornell Road Sustainability Coalition (CRSC) is working with the City of Portland to define, recommend and implement a strategy to remedy the negative effects of excessive commuter traffic along the “Cornell Corridor” (NW Cornell Rd. between NW 25th Ave. and NW Miller Rd.). This traffic is generated by the substantial and increasing use of NW Cornell Road through Forest Park as an alternate route to US26 (Sunset Highway). The Coalition seeks to build consensus and understanding of the importance of protecting and preserving adjacent neighborhoods and the valuable and fragile assets of the Forest Park and Balch Creek sanctuaries through which Cornell Road passes. Our goal is to aid in the management of these resources by promoting an environment that rebalances their usage to better support pedestrians, bicyclists, tourists, joggers, students, nature park enthusiasts and the Forest Park ecosystem. Implicit in this goal is the need to improve safety and promote sustainability for these groups.
Our coalition believes that rebalancing the use of the Cornell Corridor is vital to prevent continued decline of this portion of Forest Park, Balch Creek and neighborhoods adjacent to the corridor. Rather than simply creating limitations on commuter traffic, our advocates strive to find an inclusive solution that benefits all stakeholders and can be used as a model for future sustainable planning methods. We support a balanced strategy in conjunction with the City of Portland’s eco-friendly “green” policies and goals for sustainability that encourage low carbon footprint initiatives and improved access for automobile-alternative transportation.
- Identified Concerns
Proliferation of Commuter Traffic: Morning commuters currently use NW Cornell Road to bypass US26 and Burnside Road. Half those commuters then use NW Westover Road as a cut-through route to avoid the congestion on lower Cornell Road approaching the intersection of NW Lovejoy Street and NW 25th Avenue. Using both Cornell and Westover creates long queues of traffic at both locations. Evening commuters trying to access Cornell back up the hill create similar impacts to the NW District Neighborhood and specifically along NW 25th Avenue and Lovejoy as well as the intersection at Cornell and Skyline. Overuse of Cornell Road by commuter traffic has caused numerous detrimental effects:
- Multiple traffic queues develop along the Cornell Corridor and Westover during the morning commute and along NW 25th and Lovejoy during the evening commute impacting four neighborhoods and Forest Park.
- Property damage caused by vehicles has increased along this corridor.
- Local residents struggle to safely enter or exit their driveways and/or garages.
- Children trying to walk to school or their bus stop face a barrage of cars with no sidewalk or crossings to ensure pedestrian safety. Many parents drive their children to school to avoid the inherent danger caused by excessive traffic.
- Excessive traffic loads have led to the sharp deterioration of the street infrastructure
- Cornell runs parallel to the Balch Creek Watershed. Excessive use increases the damage caused by toxins spilling into the watershed.
- Drivers on Cornell typically exceed the speed limit even on the weekends endangering both pedestrians and bikers.
- Commuters outside the region having grown accustomed to using Cornell, impacts all hours of the day including the weekends.
Cornell Road is identified as a “Neighborhood Collector” in the Portland Transportation System Plan. It is our position that this functional classification is appropriate given the physical constraints on increasing traffic capacity (i.e. bridge and tunnel widening) along this portion of the Cornell Road. However, excessive traffic on Highway 26, the congestion of Barnes/Burnside Road, and its convenient location has attracted regional commuter traffic, pushing lower Cornell Road beyond its functional designation. This could in large part be a result of the discrepancy in functional classifications between Washington County and the City of Portland/Multnomah County: from a regional perspective, the function of Cornell changes from a relatively high-volume arterial to rural/neighborhood collector. This transition is not marked, nor are any traffic calming or diverting facilities present that would reduce the speed and volume of traffic to collector levels. As such, Cornell is burdened by traffic levels similar to a regional arterial throughout its entire length between Highway 26 and NW Lovejoy Street.
Much of this excess volume causes severe traffic congestion at Cornell’s terminus in Portland. NW Westover Street and NW 25th Streets are both heavily impacted with “cut-through traffic” during morning and afternoon rush hours. As a result, very long queues develop on lower Cornell Road in the morning and commuters routinely divert off of Cornell Road onto NW Westover Road and wind though the Hillside Neighborhood on local streets, creating congestion and safety hazards. PBOT staff have observed 1,059 vehicles pre hour that use Cornell road including 453 that use Westover as a cut-through route during AM peak hours4.
In 1992, City Council authorized program development and testing of traffic management devices on NW Cornell Road5, which included speed bumps and a pedestrian crosswalk with refuge. PBOT issued the finding from this project in October 1996. Unfortunately, as noted in their report, these traffic-calming measures were “not successful in meeting the Traffic Committee’s goals to reduce traffic volumes and traffic speeds.”6 A decade of growth later, volume on Cornell has increased to over 1,080 cars per hour at peak time.7 The primary goal of CRSC is to determine how to reorient the Cornell Corridor to balance all competing demands so that people within the region can utilize this unique and special resource in a manner consistent with its intended function, allow lower Cornell Road to safely accommodate multiple modes of transportation, and ensure the safety of pedestrians and children.
Pedestrian Safety: Contrary to the City’s Safe Routes to School program, due to traffic safety concerns, few children in adjacent neighborhoods walk to school. Also, crossing of lower Cornell can be difficult given the lack of gaps in commuter traffic. CRSC emphasizes the safety of pedestrians along this corridor as a primary objective, and envisions Cornell as a place where children can walk safely without adult supervision.
Bicycle Safety: The safety of bicyclists on Cornell through Forest Park is limited, typically inviting only serious recreational riders. Shoulders for bicycles are often quite narrow, forcing conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. Further, the volume and speed of traffic along Cornell reduces overall safety for cyclists, turning off most casual bike riders to the idea of using lower Cornell as a viable route.
Forest Park and Audubon Society Access: Although speed bumps near the Audubon Society building seem to slow traffic somewhat, many drivers ignores the speed bump completely and speed over the bump causing their cars to bottom out as they pass over the bump. Hikers and runners using Forest Park often have difficulty when crossing Cornell and Audubon Society patrons are discouraged from using the park. Much of this is due to the lack of gaps in traffic flow, which inhibits safe crossing of Cornell during high-traffic hours.
Environmental Hazards: Air quality along this corridor certainly declines as traffic volumes grow. This is especially true during commuter hours when cars are continually idling in front of the residential neighborhoods and at a time when children should be able to walk to school. Increased auto emissions/run-off also pollute the protected Balch Creek watershed, diminishing the functional value of that habitat. A complete analysis of Balch Creek habitat areas can be found in the Balch Creek Watershed Protection Plan of February, 1991. This plan called for code changes limiting conflicting uses and recommended that “all full-year streams, intermittent streams, ravine bottoms, springs, and all significant ground water recharge areas should be protected…”.8 CRSC wishes to further this goal by promoting sustainable improvements to Cornell Road where it passes through Forest Park and hopes that any future project in this corridor will set a new standard for innovative, green infrastructure.
- IMPLEMENT NEIGHBORHOOD COLLECTOR FUNCTION
Cornell Road is being misused as a de-facto regional arterial between Miller Road and NW 25th Avenue, with high commuter traffic volumes and speeds. A Neighborhood Collector functional classification would mean a reorientation of lower Cornell Road towards local access between adjacent neighborhoods, rather than a focus on commuter traffic. This should help reduce traffic volume, reduce vehicle speeds, and create gaps in traffic to allow safer local usage.
- CONTROL TRAFFIC FLOW AND VEHICLE SPEEDS, MAXIMIZE EFFICIENCY AND IMPROVE VEHICLE SAFETY
Take productive steps towards reducing overall traffic volume and reducing speeds so that residents can get in and out of their driveways safely, as well as use Cornell to access other parts of the City. Encourage multi-model use to maximize the efficiency and volume on Cornell.
- ENHANCE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
Cornell Road should be a safe place for all modes of transportation, especially for bicycles and pedestrians. Increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic should be parallel with the reduction and calming of vehicular traffic. The safety of children should be emphasized in any future improvements.
- EMBRACE FOREST PARK AND THE WILDLIFE CORRIDOR
Establish lower Cornell Road as a parkway that embraces its role as providing access to Forest Park and the Balch Creek Watershed. Note the points where Cornell enters the park as a gateway to the park. People using this section of Cornell should be cognizant of being within the park and should be made aware of park amenities and its relationship to the natural habitat and wildlife.
- PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE
Cornell Road’s proximity to Balch Creek and its traverse of Forest Park mean that it has profound impacts on some of Portland’s most sensitive and relatively pristine natural areas. Any future improvements to Cornell Road should emphasize enhancing environmental sustainability as a primary objective. Create storm water runoff improvements along Cornell in the park such that there is reduced impact to the watershed. Further, any future improvements should consider the quality of life of nearby residents and visitors to Forest Park.
- CREATE A DEMONSTRATION PROJECT
Using objectives from the Portland Plan, establish Cornell Road and its improvements as a model for addressing similar concerns where roads have exceeded their designated and intended use. The basis of the project should be to show how these improvements ultimately encourage alternate modes of transportation. The city of Portland and TriMet have invested considerable funds in transit systems. If roads (like Cornell) continue to be used as a bypass to the major arterials, commuters will be encouraged to continue to commute in SOVs and not encouraged to use transit systems established to improve access to the cities portals.
- Recommended Policies
A. IMPLEMENT NEIGHBORHOOD COLLECTOR FUNCTION
- Emphasize and Enforce the “Neighborhood Collector” Status Given by the City of Portland
- Discourage the use of Cornell Road as a de-facto commuter route for commuters that should be using designated routes and reduce existing traffic volumes.
- Make clear the transition of Cornell Road from a major arterial in Washington County to collector in Multnomah County and Portland.
- Encourage use of surrounding neighborhood streets to local traffic, including
- NW 25th Avenue
- NW Westover Street
- NW Summit Avenue
- NW 24th Avenue
B. CONTROL TRAFFIC FLOW AND EFFICIENCY
- Create a holistic approach & solution to excessive traffic volume and speeds.
- Consider the impact of any proposed changes to Cornell on other streets and neighborhoods.
- Ensure that any proposed changes do not aggravate existing deficiencies or increase congestion and vehicle speeds on nearby streets.
- Incorporate travel demand management techniques.
- Increase traffic enforcement for maintaining slower traffic.
- Use traffic signaling along the Cornell Road corridor to divert traffic where appropriate and to create gaps in remaining traffic.
- Keep traffic counts equal to or lower than current volumes.
- Coordinate and collaborate with the City of Portland, Washington and Multnomah Counties, Metro, and other stakeholder agencies when developing solutions.
- Acknowledge and incorporate Fire/Life Safety access considerations.
C. ENHANCE BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
- Enhance safety of Cornell Road crossings, particularly during rush hour and school hours.
- Improve visibility of bicycles and pedestrians for vehicles.
- Reduce vehicle speeds in critical multi-modal use areas.
- Use striping, chevrons and other painted markings to indicate separation and use by both pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Evaluate traffic calming solutions.
- Evaluate potential use of Safe Routes to Schools program where appropriate.
D. EMBRACE FOREST PARK
- Redefine Cornell in terms of how the corridor can serve Forest Park.
- Recognize and promote the Cornell corridor as a destination as well as a parkway.
- Create a gateway to indicate entrance to Forest Park.
- Emphasize Cornell’s role in providing access to Forest Park by:
- Highlighting trail accesses
- Enhancing pedestrian safety and visibility at Audubon Society
- Emphasize the scenic aspect of the Corridor through visual cues, signage and historical markers.
- Emphasize the use of water management and filtration systems and how the street has zero impact to the Balch Creek Watershed.
E. PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE
- Create the nations first LEED9 certified infrastructure project. Work with LEED to develop standards and guidelines for LEED certification for this project type. Incorporate sustainable design and construction (Equivalent to LEED) in all future improvements.
- Recognize the importance and value of Rural Reserves in travel demand management.
- Protect historic resources along the Cornell Road corridor.
- Accommodate and promote alternative modes of transportation.
- Design traffic integration that meets neighborhood and local needs.
- Preserve a “green” Cornell by reducing the carbon footprint, reducing pollutant runoff, and mitigating traffic impacts to Balch Creek.
- Thoughtfully approach traffic calming designs, rather than simply installing additional signage.
- Action Plan
|Fall 2009||Develop vision statement.|
|Establish action plan.|
|Initiate public agency contacts.|
|Winter 2010||Begin public outreach.|
|Finalize vision statement.|
|Solicit public testimony.|
|Evaluate scope of issues to be addressed.|
|Spring 2010||Develop potential solution set.|
|Work with public agencies to help establish proposed solution set.|
|Examine funding options.|
|Establish public approval process/plan.|
- Regulatory Context and Recent History
Cornell Road is a long-serving transportation facility that was has been used in its current alignment since at least 1894, when it was shown on a City paving survey (although it did not appear to be paved at that time). The existing tunnels through Forest Park were constructed in 1941. The road typically features a 20-foot paved improvement within a varying right-of-way width, with little or no paved shoulder width. Over the years, it has been subject of numerous complementary, overlapping, and in some cases conflicting transportation plans. These plans have been created to conform to Goal 12 of the Oregon Statewide Planning Goals and its implementing administrative regulations, collectively know as the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR). Goal 12 and the TPR generally require cities and counties to create and maintain a transportation plan that provides for pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and vehicular transportation systems.
The CRSC has loosely defined the scope of this planning effort as the portion of lower Cornell Road between its intersection with Miller Road to its intersection with NW 25th Avenue, as well as the transportation system that is directly or indirectly impacted by traffic within that corridor, such as NW Skyline Road, NW Westover Street and NW 25th Avenue.
Within this area, the use of Cornell Road and the related transportation system is governed by functional classifications of two different counties, The City of Portland, and Metro, with speed limits controlled by the State of Oregon.
Metro Functional Classification
Metro’s 2004 and 2035 Regional Transportation Plans (RTP) both set forth similar functional classifications for Cornell Road, broadly shown as its section between Cedar Mill and Portland’s Central City.10 Within the 2004 RTP, Cornell Road is assigned the following classifications11:
- Community Street: “Community streets are designed to carry vehicle traffic while providing for public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian travel. These facilities serve lower-density residential neighborhoods as well as more densely developed corridors and main streets, where buildings are often oriented toward the street at main intersections and transit stops.”12
- Minor Arterial (between Cedar Hills Blvd. and Miller Road): “The minor arterial system complements and supports the principal and major arterial systems, but is primarily oriented toward motor vehicle travel at the community level connecting town centers, corridors, main streets and neighborhoods. As such, minor arterials usually serve shorter trips than principal and major arterials, and therefore must balance mobility and accessibility demands.”13
- Collector of Regional Significance (between Miller Road and NW Lovejoy St.): “Collectors of regional significance connect the regional arterial system and the local collector system by collecting and distributing neighborhood traffic to arterials. Collectors of regional significance have three purposes. First, these facilities ensure adequate access to the primary and secondary land-use components of the 2040 Growth Concept. Second, collectors of regional significance allow dispersion of arterial level traffic over a number of lesser facilities where an adequate local street network exists. Third, collectors of regional significance help define appropriate collector level movement between jurisdictions.”14
- Regional Corridor Bikeway: “Regional corridor bikeways function as longer routes that provide point-to-point connectivity between the central city, regional centers and larger town centers… Regional corridor bikeways generally have higher automobile speeds and volumes than community connector bikeways.” 15
These classifications are essentially reproduced in the most recent draft RTP.16 Within the CRSC study area, the street is designated a “Minor Arterial” and a “Collector of Regional Significance.” As Metro’s constituent jurisdiction are required to adhere to the general precepts of the Regional Transportation Plan, Washington County, Multnomah County, and the City of Portland have translated these functional classifications into their own Transportation System Plans (TSPs).
City of Portland
The Portland’s TSP sets forth several overlapping functional classifications that apply to Cornell Road.
- Neighborhood Collector: “Neighborhood Collectors are intended to serve as distributors of traffic from Major City Traffic Streets or District Collectors to Local Service Streets and to serve trips that both start and end within areas bounded by Major City Traffic Streets and District Collectors.” “Some Neighborhood Collectors may have a regional function, either alone or in concert with other nearby parallel collectors. All Neighborhood Collectors should be designed to operate as neighborhood streets rather than as regional arterials.”17 “They are not intended to be major ‘through routes’ from one side of the City to another”18
- Community Transit Street: “Community Transit Streets typically carry feeder bus service, mini-bus, or demand-responsive services. Demand-responsive service may include service that is tailored to areas (e.g., industrial areas) that have unusual transit service needs.” 19
- City Bikeway: “Consider the following possible design treatments for City Bikeways: bicycle lanes, wider travel lanes, wide shoulders on partially improved roadways, bicycle boulevards, and signage for local street connections.” “When bicycle lanes are not feasible, traffic calming, bicycle boulevards, or similar techniques will be considered to allow bicyclists to share travel lanes safely with motorized traffic.” 20
- City Walkway: “City Walkways are intended to provide safe, convenient, and attractive pedestrian access to activities along major streets and to recreation and institutions; provide connections between neighborhoods; and provide access to transit.” 21
- Community Corridor/Greenscape Street: “Community Corridors are designed to include special amenities to balance motor vehicle traffic with public transportation, bicycle travel, and pedestrian travel.” “Where streets have a Greenscape Street design designation and another street design designation, consider the natural characteristics of the street during the design and implementation of street improvements.”
In addition, several objectives for the transportation system in NW Portland are listed in the TSP. Objectives that are relevant to the Coalition’s goals include the following:
“A. Expand transit service throughout the district, including adding more cross-town service, connecting bus service from the Civic Stadium light rail station to the northwest industrial area, and improving service in low-density areas such as Linnton.
B. Route non-local traffic, including non-local truck traffic, on Major City Traffic Streets and Regional Trafficways in order to minimize conflicts among modes.
C. Incorporate pedestrian and bicycle access improvements into all transportation projects, especially along arterials and at crossing locations.
D. Protect Forest Park’s natural resources in the design and development of transportation projects in or near the park.
Concluding in the autumn of 1996, the Bureau of Transportation conducted a traffic calming program on Cornell between NW 25th Ave. and NW 30th Ave. This was in response to local concerns related to traffic volume, speed, noise, pedestrian safety, and cut-through trips on NW Westover Street. The primary results of this study were the three speed bumps currently on that stretch of road, a pedestrian crossing with refuge, and the lowering of the existing speed limit from 30 to 25 MPH. This project was partially successful in reducing vehicle speeds and increasing pedestrian safety, however it “was not successful in meeting the Traffic Committee’s goals to reduce traffic volume and traffic speeds to 25 mph”.23
Cornell Road is under Washington County jurisdiction generally west of NW Miller Road. Consistent with Metro’s RTP, Washington County’s TSP assigns an arterial classification to Cornell, indicating that “arterial Streets interconnect and support the Principal Arterial highway system. Arterials intended to provide general mobility for travel within the region. Correctly sized Arterials at appropriate intervals allow through trips to remain on the Arterial system thereby discouraging use of Local streets for cut-through traffic. Arterial streets link major commercial, residential, industrial and institutional areas.”24 Within much of Washington County, Cornell Road serves as a much higher-capacity roadway with a more intense level of service and development that in most of CRSC Study Area.
Multnomah County has planning authority for a relatively small portion of Cornell Road, between the Portland city limits and the Washington County Line. This generally appears as the portion of Cornell between NW 30th Ave. and NW Miller Road. For the most part, this street is noted as a “Rural Collector” and is generally consistent with the functional classification assigned by the City of Portland. An assessment in 1996 ranked Cornell as the least deficient Local/Collector-Rural road examined on the Westside. In addition, Cornell was evaluated as having good pavement quality. According to a study performed in 1996, Cornell road has the least geometric deficiencies among all studied Westside Rural Collectors, and has a “Good” pavement rating.25
Land Use, Transit, and Other Regulation
Tri-Met: In its FY 2010 Transit Investment Plan, transit service on Cornell Road ends at NW 107th Ave. and continues along NW Leahy Road to St. Vincent Hospital. Currently, the only transit service running across the NW Hills is on W Burnside Street. Current Tri-Met priorities are centered on expanding MAX and Streetcar Service, coordinating bus routes with MAX Green Line, and increasing the frequency of service to 15 minute intervals along heavily traveled corridors. None of the priorities include significant expansion of transit service on Cornell Road or other rural collectors in the CRSC study area.
Scenic Resources Protection Plan (1991): Cornell Road is designated as a Scenic Corridor along its extent between NW Lovejoy and NW Skyline. It was also listed as 6 out o 16 potential scenic drives in terms of its suitability for this classification.26 Scenic Corridor designation includes specific development standards related to construction along such corridors as well as restrictions on tree removal and landscaping, but does not specifically address public improvements such as streets. It does, however, establish the proliferation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities within scenic corridors as an objective.27
Balch Creek Watershed Protection Plan (1991): This plan considers the current volume and speed of traffic along Cornell Road as a threat to the Balch Creek watershed, but does not identify specific issues or related solutions: “Traffic originating south and west of the Balch Creek Watershed travels along Cornell Road at commuter speeds, often exceeding the posted limit, and at commuter volumes. This level of service continues despite the City’s classification of Cornell Road as a neighborhood collector and the Planning Bureau’s pending recommendation for scenic corridor status. Traffic at present levels of service degrades recreational opportunities, scenic values, and wildlife habitat.”28
Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan (1995): While it does not address directly the impact of traffic along NW Cornell Road, the Forest Park NRMP does have the “improvement of public access” as a critical priority. This includes the “use of transit, pedestrian, and bicycle access to the park,” as well as to “provide adequate transit stops, parking and trailhead facilities.”29
Each of these plans address different elements within the CRSC study area; however, several essential themes pertinent to our position can be found. First, it is clear that Cornell Road is a scenic resource that should be protected as such. Also, the proliferation of commuter traffic within this corridor has been a long –standing problem, which has negative implications for pedestrian and bicycle safety, the health of both Forest Park and the Balch Creek Watershed. Finally, a central priority is that multi-modal transportation options – specifically bicycle and pedestrian access – need to be expanded on Cornell, especially where it traverses Forest Park. As will be discussed later on in this document, the CRSC’s goals are substantially consistent with the transportation and land use plans affecting the study area.