Part of the proposed Council Creek Regional Trail. Photo: Washington County LUT

A federal grant administered through the U.S. Department of Transportation to the tune of $12.2 million will go to building the Council Creek Regional Trail, a long-proposed route that could eventually connect Hillsboro, Cornelius, and Forest Grove, and possibly Verboort and Banks. 

Announced Thursday in a press release from four Democratic members—Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Peter DeFazio and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici—of Oregon’s congressional delegation, the grant was awarded through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Discretionary Grant program.

Lane County also received $19 million for the Franklin Boulevard Transformation Project linking the cities of Springfield and Eugene. 

“Washington County will receive $12.2 million for Council Creek Regional Trail, a 15-mile trail that will link Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove and Banks offering walkers and cyclists safe, enjoyable connections to jobs, schools, transit, recreation opportunities and nature,” the press release read.

While the press release said the trail was 15 miles long and included Banks, that’s an inflation of the actual scope of the awarded grant. In a 32-page grant narrative, part of the full grant application, Washington County said their request was for just the portion of the proposed trail linking Hillsboro to Forest Grove, a stretch of existing rail right-of-way almost six miles in length. 

Funding to build the stretch between Banks and Forest Grove was not part of the grant application.  

The grant narrative said that the six-mile stretch between Hillsboro and Forest Grove was estimated to cost $26.5 million to build; the county asked for $21.2 million of the project cost, and was awarded $12.2 million. 

Obtained by this newspaper Thursday afternoon, that document noted that efforts to plan and build the Council Creek Regional Trail began a decade ago, and took more concrete form in 2015. 

“In 2015, regional partners completed the Council Creek Regional Trail Master Plan, outlining a strategy for creating the 6-mile trail connecting Hillsboro to Forest Grove—the subject of this RAISE grant application—as well as a larger effort to construct a 9-mile multiuse trail extending north from Forest Grove to the City of Banks,” the grant narrative read. 

Since then, forward movement on the trail has come largely in the form of an informal—and later, the more formal Council Creek Regional Corridor (Hillsboro to Forest Grove) Working Group—work group between a number of cities and other government agencies to plan the trail. Metro funded the planning phase of the Hillsboro to Forest Grove via a grant, according to the county’s webpage on the trail

“I’ve said for a long time, you can't have a big league economy with little league infrastructure,” Senator Ron Wyden said in a press release. “I am gratified these two counties have earned such large grants that will take a big shovel to the infrastructure backlog facing our state. I am pleased we can put Oregonians to work in their communities to build a more resilient and stronger state, and will keep working for similar investments throughout Oregon.”

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“Oregonians are looking for opportunities to be outdoors, and this new trail in Washington County will provide safe access,” U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici said. “I was thrilled to support Washington County’s successful application for $12.2 million in federal funding for the Council Creek Regional Trail, which will connect our vibrant and growing communities. This new trail will finally give residents of Forest Grove and Cornelius a safe pathway to transit connections within the Metro region, reducing injuries and fatalities on a deadly stretch of highway.”

More local elected leaders chimed in as well, including Washington County District 4 Commissioner Jerry Willey, who represents much of western Washington County.

“This grant will provide a climate-friendly, healthy way to get to work or school, run errands, connect to MAX or get some exercise,” said Willey. “These funds will help make the communities’ vision for this trail a reality. Thanks to our delegation for the ongoing advocacy to provide these resources into the future.”

Metro’s District 4 Councilor Juan Carlos González noted his enthusiasm for the project.

"I’m ecstatic that Washington County has been awarded the RAISE funding for the Council Creek Regional Trail Project. I grew up a mile away from where this project will be built, and it fills my heart with joy that this corridor will be transformed for kids like me and families that call the west end home. This is a huge win for the communities in Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove who’ve long experienced gaps in critical infrastructure investment,” he said.