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Reknitting the Suburbs for Health, Parks and Schools: the Augusta Lane Bridge
In an economically and ethnically diverse Aloha neighborhood, Washington County is looking to build a bridge to reknit a suburb split apart by traditional cul-de-sac development. Out_of_direction (2).jpg
 
The Augusta Lane Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge would span Beaverton Creek, linking neighborhoods to Beaver Acres elementary school, the Beaverton Creek greenway, the Tualatin Hills Nature Park, and critical transit stops. The proposal emerged from the Aloha-Reedville Study and Livable Community Plan, a three-year planning effort completed in 2014.
 
The bridge would overcome a major barrier – no streets or pathways cross Beaverton Creek in its one-mile stretch between 170th and 185th avenues. It would be built in an existing 50-foot wide right-of-way, uniting two dead-ends of Augusta Lane.
 
The project included an underused tool in planning – a Health Impact Assessment from the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. The Department found the bridge would have "positive impacts on the health of the community including decreased chronic disease rates through physical activity, greater social cohesion among neighbors and improved academic performance." (PDF)
 
The benefits come from the creation of a direct, low-stress walking/biking route to Beaver Acres Elementary School for over 900 homes on the west side of Beaverton Creek. Currently students from these homes must travel up to 1.5 miles out-of-direction and along busy arterial roads to reach the school (magenta line on the map). That means many fewer kids will walk or bike to school.
 
While school access is an integral part of the project, access to nature is the community benefit that would be enjoyed most widely. Just east of the proposed bridge is one of the largest urban nature parks in Washington County: the 222-acre Tualatin Hills Nature Park. Residents west of the proposed bridge currently have difficulty accessing this valuable asset, particularly those who cannot drive the circuitous route to the parking area on the east side of the park. More convenient access to the nature park would bring five miles of nature trails within closer reach of neighborhood residents.
 
The project would also offer improved access to Merlo Station High School, Merlo Station Athletic Fields, the Elmonica/SW 170th MAX light rail station, a potential future bus line on 170th Avenue, and numerous jobs in the western Beaverton area. The project would complete of a section of the Beaverton Creek Trail, a regional trail adopted in the Metro 2014 Regional Active Transportation Plan.
 
Washington County is currently looking for funding to complete the project.
 
Key tools and goals to consider for your community: Health Impact Assessments, Gap Analysis, Safe Routes to School, Access to Transit, Access to Parks, Regional Trails.

Resources: More on improving health by improving the built environment.