Department of Transportation makes plans for bypass

Ty Tilden
Staff Writer

The City of Sandy, along with Oregon Department of Transportation, released a feasibility study to consider construction of a bypass of downtown Sandy. In 2019, the City announced interest in constructing a bypass to help alleviate traffic congestion, safety concerns, noise pollution, and other issues. In October, the feasibility study prepared by DKS Associates was released. 

A bypass would mean approximately up to 1,500 vehicles per hour completely avoiding downtown Sandy to save time. According to the study, a bypass trip would shave around two minutes off a typical venture through downtown. 

The Development Services Director for the City, Kelly O’Neil Jr. explained that the benefits of the bypass would be very tangible for residents. “I think you’ll see both a real increase in walkability within our downtown and of livability. And I think you would also see an increase in safety and perceived safety,” O’Neil said. 

Reduction of large trucks and out-of-town drivers would make downtown more attractive for residents and certain businesses as well. 

O’Neil noted that businesses impacted by a bypass would be fairly constrained to those catering to motorists passing through the town. “Gas stations, convenience stores, fast food, grocery stores; those businesses will likely be impacted the most negatively,” he said. 

 “When it’s eventually constructed, the total number of vehicles is going to be much higher than today. So the total number that actually is going on our existing highway might be not much different than it is today. However, we wouldn’t have all the big 18-wheelers and all the very loud traffic zipping through town every day.” O’Neil said, noting that the type of traffic traveling through town matters to quality of life. 

Some residents, especially those located south of the existing highway, are concerned about their properties being affected by proximity to the bypass. O’Neil wants to make clear that the current proposed maps of the bypass are purely conceptual and that alignment will likely change before construction begins. 

Even so, the processes that must take place before construction can even begin will take 10-25 years. Support must first be generated from county and state levels. Additionally, the nearly $1 billion needed to complete the project will have to be sourced. 

O’Neil noted that residents who have ideas or thoughts about the bypass should voice their opinions sooner rather than later. “A good opportunity for that will be when the council and the planning commission are looking to add it as a project to the TSP [Transportation System Plan],” he said.

The TSP is currently being updated to outline roads, bicycle and pedestrian transit, and the funding for these projects. The bypass will also have to be adopted as part of the Clackamas County TSP before it moves forward.

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