Are There Any Plans to Fix the Intersection of Doom?

The only thing good about it is Sesame Donuts. Hello, how about a roundabout?

Are there any plans to fix the Intersection of Doom at Southwest Beaverton Hillsdale Highway and Scholls Ferry and Oleson roads? It’s the intersection of about six different roads. The only thing good about it is Sesame Donuts. Hello, how about a roundabout? —Almost Died Getting a Maple Bar

The good news, Died, is that Washington County does have a plan for fixing this intersection. The bad news is that the plan was created in 1996 and has been stalled for lack of funding ever since.

I don’t want to get too far into the weeds about an intersection many readers won’t have experienced. (Those who have, however, will recall traffic unfolding at impossible angles as in some suburbia-themed Escher print, like those space-warping battle scenes in Doctor Strange but with strip malls instead of skyscrapers.) Briefly, the county’s design would surgically separate what are now essentially conjoined twin intersections by moving Southwest Oleson Road to the east. No roundabouts are involved.

But that was 1996! Today such a plan might well include roundabouts, which are having what, if you’re a traffic-control system, probably counts as a moment. In a 2019 community survey about how to fix a similarly fucked intersection 2 miles north of the Oleson morass, a roundabout-based plan beat its competition by nearly 2 to 1. Maybe Americans (or at least Portlanders) are finally warming to Europe’s answer to the four-way stop.

But listen up: Roundabouts are not the same as traffic circles. Until 2021, Portland had only two true roundabouts—one by Lewis & Clark College and one near the airport. That circle in the middle of Ladd’s Addition? Not a roundabout. Joanie on the Pony at Northeast Cesar Chavez and Glisan? That’s not one either. The loop at Southwest 18th and Jefferson? Nope.

In a true roundabout, entering traffic doesn’t have a stop sign, only a yield sign. (Cars already in the roundabout have right of way.) This requires drivers to cooperate, not something Americans are known for. However, Portland drivers already do it with our uncontrolled intersections, so perhaps we’re readier for roundabouts than more road rage-y cities.

In any case, Portland’s complement of roundabouts just doubled (to four), with more to come. Now, if we can only learn NOT to yield when we DO have the right of way.

Senility Corner: In my Aug. 31 column, I kept blithering about the “Hillsdale Poor Farm.” Not even the curved spacetime of Beaverton Hillsdale Highway could warp history enough to make this correct—as several readers reminded me, it was Hillside Poor Farm. Dr. Know regrets the error.

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.