- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Splintered remnants of Oregon’s transportation history have been unearthed, fittingly, on the spot where a major road-widening project in Beaverton is now underway.

Contract crews late last month stopped work on a major widening of Southwest Farmington Road, when their excavation machine dug up a half dozen or so largely decomposed pieces of earth-darkened wood.

Further examination showed that they are time-worn chunks of The Great Plank Road - the 1850s-era route representing the first link between the emerging town of Portland with the fruitful farms and fields of the Tualatin Valley.

“Certainly not something we see every day,” said Kerry Tymchuk, executive director of the Oregon Historical Society. “It’s a pretty remarkable find.”

In 1851, a road enabling reliable travel between Portland and its western breadbasket was important enough to area commerce that the territorial government chartered the Portland-Tualatin Valley Plank Road Company.

The company’s mission was to replace the often mud-splattered path from Portland to Hillsboro with wooden planks, Tymchuk said. Using money raised from selling subscriptions to the public, a road from downtown Portland began to take shape, traveling up through Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood along a canyon created by Tanner Creek.

By the time work reached Beaverton in 1860, the route had been renamed Canyon Road. Users were assessed tolls of anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on the weight of their freight, he said.

“Back in its time,” Tymchuk said, “this was the I-5 of its day.”

The discovery has created a definite buzz in Beaverton, Mayor Denny Doyle said.

“This serves as a reminder of what it was like here 170 years ago,” he said. “It just makes you want to get a history book out and check this out some more.”

The discovery took place near the intersection of Southwest Farmington Road and Southwest 142nd Avenue, project manager Ben Shaw said. Crews from K&E; Excavating in Salem stopped immediately when they saw the scraps of wood.

“There was nothing salvageable because they were so splintered,” he said.

The wood likely was part of the original plank road’s underlayment, Shaw said. As for the planks themselves, it’s entirely possible that some of them are part of area barns still standing, he added.

At $24 million, the road widening dwarfs whatever was spent on the Great Plank Road. The project, a joint effort between Beaverton and Washington County, is scheduled for completion in April 2017.

“It’s nice not to have to haul things through dirt these days,” Doyle said. “But to the extent that so much growth has headed out our way in recent years, it’s important to note that the plank road was largely the reason why.”

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Information from: The Oregonian, https://www.oregonlive.com


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