(SALEM, OR)- On Wednesday, the Oregon Transportation Commission resolved to move forward with plans to finish the long delayed Highway 20 Project from Newport to Corvallis.
For the past six weeks, ODOT has been considering a series of five options which range from continuing the project, to abandoning all improvement work. The Commission voted unanimously to support “Option 2” which would delay completion of the work in order to definitively study hydraulics and potential landslides.
“We call this the ‘Take a bit longer and get it right’ option,” testified Representative David Gomberg, who has appeared twice before the Commission. “We want to ensure that this project will be completed properly, but we also want it done as soon as possible. This is the most dangerous stretch of highway in the state and taking unnecessary time will clearly cost lives.”
Gomberg was joined by County Commissioner Doug Hunt, Newport Mayor Sandy Roumagoux and former Newport Mayor Bill Bain.
“The public safety element is central,” continued Gomberg, “but I also want to focus on the economic ripple effect of delaying repairs. We have an active paper and cardboard mill in Toledo and a new international terminal at the Port of Newport. Because vehicles over 53 feet cannot navigate turns on Highway 20, an average of 50 log trucks a day will be forced to detour through Lincoln City, Depoe Bay and downtown Newport. The result is continuing problems with congestion, affecting tourism, safety and livability along Highway 101.”
Commission Chairman Pat Egan noted the strong community support before the vote. “Often we examine numbers and reports,” he said. “What we’re seeing here is strong and sustained interest from the community and people ready to drive over from the Coast to meet with us.”
Gomberg concluded his testimony, pointing out that any option short of proceeding with improvements, would likely result in as much as $130 million being returned to the Federal Government which was part of the funding for the Highway 20 upgrade. The motion at Wednesday’s meeting was to provide an additional $142 million to complete it.
The completion of the Highway 20 Project, otherwise referred to as the Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville Project, will provide a safe and direct route from the Willamette Valley to the Central Oregon Coast, helping to support economic development on the Central Coast as well as turning the most dangerous stretch of highway into one which will increase opportunities.