Hillsboro may rename 150 city streets

Most of the changes are directional

About 150 streets in Hillsboro are expected to get new names as part of a major project to make the city streets easier to navigate. The City Council will discuss the matter on Oct. 18. (Portland Tribune/ Travis Loose)
About 150 streets in Hillsboro are expected to get new names as part of a major project to make the city streets easier to navigate. The City Council will discuss the matter on Oct. 18. (Portland Tribune/ Travis Loose)

HILLSBORO, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The names of more than 100 Hillsboro streets could change by this time next year, under a plan being considered by the Hillsboro City Council.

The goal, city officials say, is to make it easier to find your way around when traversing Washington County’s largest city.

If the council moves forward with the plan, 150 new street names and addresses could begin as early as fall of 2017, with the roll out expected to continue through spring of 2018.

The street naming is part of a 16-year project to make Hillsboro’s roadways cohesive and continuous, according to the city’s Development Services Manager Dan Dias.

“In certain areas, it is quite problematic both for our immediate city departments — city fire, city police, and so forth; but it also actually increases in its challenges when we start getting into mutual aid situations where you have first responders that aren’t as familiar with the city of Hillsboro but need to come in and provide aid,” Dias said. “We just want a cohesive street naming mechanism, and an addressing system that doesn’t have the conflicts.”

The Council will discuss the measure in a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 E. Main St. in Hillsboro. No decision is expected that night.

Most of the changes are directional — changing streets labeled as “Northwest” to “Northeast,” for example. Others require the roadway’s suffix to change as well.

In areas where one roadway bears both an Avenue and a Lane, drivers can get confused, Dias said.

Other cities renaming streets

Confusing street signs have been a problem in Hillsboro for years, Dias said.

When Hillsboro was first established as a city, North First Avenue and East Main Street were the streets used as the city’s centermost point, with the four quadrants matching the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest directional prefixes accordingly.

But as Hillsboro, Portland and the county’s jurisdictions grew, street grids began to overlap, with many of Portland’s roadways, such as Northwest 231st Avenue, not meshing with Hillsboro’s expansions.

Eventually, Dias said, it became what it is today — a bizarre mix of Northwests in the Northeast and so forth.

“Many jurisdictions deal with similar types of situations whereby they … want to establish their own grid, but have these preexisting grids they’re dealing with,” Dias said.

Hillsboro isn’t alone, Dias said. Gresham and Tigard are also currently going through street name changes to fix this rather old problem.

“We want to have that sense of continuity within our community,” said city spokesman Patrick Preston. “We want to have that sense of ‘This is Hillsboro,’ so you know when you’re in Hillsboro because you’re in Hillsboro’s street system.

“(And we’re) not just talking about a 30-year resident who really knows where they are very well,” he explained. “(We’re) talking about somebody who’s here for business, who’s driving through — and their confusion may be amplified.”

New streets will fit with grid

The renaming is expected to cost the city about $300,000, Preston said.

Dias said he understands the frustration some residents might have about changing their addresses. Dias said the city will work with residents by offering timelines that allow for the transition to occur smoothly.

“We try to establish timelines that allow people the ability to have a soft transition,” Dias said. “We also have the resources here that can be in contact with the Post Office, or wherever they may also have sticking points.”

Two earlier phases of street renaming were approved in February and May, respectively. During those, the city implemented a handful of street name changes, such as changing what was formerly Southeast Baseline Street between Northeast Brookwood Parkway and Southwest Cornelius Pass Road, to “East Main Street” — continuing the thoroughfare east through its natural progression from downtown.

Dias said he expects phase three to be the last large-scale change of this kind, and added that as new streets are built, they too will fall under the new grid.

Presuming the council approves the proposal, once the city updates its maps, the new information will be distributed at the regional level to commercial mapmakers and various wayfinding applications.

“Everybody generally understands the vision, the need, and the breadth upon which these changes impact folks in terms of delivery of prescription medications in the mail, to the response of emergency personnel, to your in-laws being able to Google Map you and make it to your house,” Dias said. “We’re just trying to deliver something that makes sense, and do it at one time so we can make the change and not have it needed to be revisited in the future.”

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.