With development in the Canby Pioneer Industrial Park booming and showing no signs of slowing down, the City Council and staff are pressing forward with the construction of a new north outlet for trucks and other industrial traffic onto Highway 99E.
The new thoroughfare, proposed to extend South Walnut through several private properties to ultimately connect with Highway 99E near the Route 99 Roadhouse, would provide industrial traffic a desperately needed alternative to the existing roadways that primarily serve residential areas and rural farms.
Currently before the council is a small but nevertheless critical matter that would help pave the way to the road’s eventual construction: amending the city’s Transportation System Plan to include the project.
Adding the project to the TSP not only codifies its place in local leaders’ vision for the overall transportation infrastructure within the city, but importantly, makes it possible to use system development charge (SDC) fees to help pay for it.
SDCs — fees paid to the city by developers that are earmarked for infrastructure improvements such as roads, wastewater and parks — are expected to play a significant role in any workable plan for funding the ambitious project.
A north outlet road for the industrial park has been in the works for decades, basically as long as the industrial park itself, but followed a different route — one that included an existing, dead-end gravel lane and was known as the Otto Road extension.
The project was redesigned in recent years for ecological, engineering, technical and practical considerations. The biggest reason for pushing the project for now, as city staff explained, is that all of the involved property owners support it.
“It lives within the spirit that’s been in this from the get-go, but it takes into account the property owners that want to bargain our right-of-way through their land, and it gets us around some tricky waterways up on the ridge,” City Attorney Joe Lindsay explained at a recent meeting.
“And it actually comes in at a better angle than Otto Road does so it’s not as steep.”
Though the outlet road has been contemplated for decades, recent growth in the industrial park has made it a necessity.
“There’s always been a need for trucks and other trips going between the industrial park and 99E,” said Canby Senior Planner Ryan Potter. “But oviously with the growth of businesses we’ve seen out there, … that need has grown even more.”
A number of large industrial developments are under development or have recently come online, including Columbia Distributing, Caruso Produce, Stanton Furniture, Baker Center and — the biggest yet — Canby South, a nearly 700,000-square-foot e-commerce warehouse and distribution center that is in the early planning stages.
Officials say the new road would ease traffic and increase safety by reducing the incentives for truck traffic to drive through residential areas of Canby. Once completed, the road would extend beyond the existing city limits but would still lie fully within the Canby urban growth boundary.
A report on the TSP amendment prepared by city staff estimated the cost of the Walnut Street extension at $7.1 million, which would construct a three-lane collector roadway with two 12-foot travel lanes and a 14-foot center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks.
Other upgrades and transportation improvements that the report recommended for the industrial park included upgrading the existing Walnut Road between SE 1st
Avenue and Sequoia Parkway, and SE 1st Avenue between Hazel Dell Way and South Mulino Road, at a combined cost of about $6.4 million.
Finally, staff recommended a traffic signal at Highway 99E and Walnut Road once the new extension is completed and a roundabout at Walnut and SE 1st near Columbia Distributing — at a combined cost of just shy of $3 million.
The complete menu of recommended improvements totaled more than $17 million, though one of the projects — a traffic signal at Sequoia Parkway and Hazel Dell — has already been done, and portions of Walnut and SE 1st were improved as part of the Columbia Distributing development.
The timeline for the project is not entirely clear. Initial estimates were that it could take seven to 10 years to complete.
In an October 2020 meeting on the subject, Mayor Brian Hodson had asked Canby Operations Manager Jerry Nelzen if it could be done in two — to which Nelzen replied bluntly, “No.”
To acquire approximately 186,000 square feet of right-of-way, design and engineer the new road, work through the approval processes of the Oregon Department of Transportation (which manages Highway 99E) and actually build it will almost certainly take more than two years, Nelzen said.
But he thought it could still be done in a “really reasonable amount of time.”
The city has already taken several steps toward making the new access road a reality, including buying a 3.7-acre property just north of the industrial park for $595,000 in urban renewal funds in June 2019.