The Newport/Port of Newport Task Force, charged with trying to make the future opening of the new International Terminal to log exports be as safe as possible, got what may be a not so subtle “reality check” from ODOT and a top Newport city official Wednesday evening.
Task Force Chair Doug Wills asked Newport Community Development Director Derrick Tokos and an ODOT representative what it would take to review four different logging truck access routes proposed by the task force; a hybrid of Benson Road, another route west of Benson, another just west of John Nye and one farther yet to the east.
The ODOT representative said the first three routes west-to-east were probably fatally flawed because they would be too steep going down to the water – possibly at a 10% grade. However, he and Tokos said they would give the three a quick evaluation anyway, along with a closer look at a longer, less steep grade provided by an old logging road intersecting Highway 20 farther east on Highway 20, then down to a spot near where John Nye Road intersects the bay. Tokos and ODOT said they would have a joint evaluation in writing back to the task force for next month’s meeting.
Tokos then cautioned the task force about funds to build such an alternative route. Tokos reminded the task force that Newport is already asking ODOT for feasibility planning funds to plan for urgently needed improvements to Highway 101 through Newport between Highway 20 and the bridge, as well as initiating planning for the replacement of the Yaquina Bay Bridge itself which is nearing the end of it’s serviceable life time. “And,” said Tokos, “there is a lot of competition for those kinds of funds from ODOT from communities statewide who have urgent transportation improvement plans of their own.” Tokos went on, “Newport might get planning funds from one or two projects, but not for three. And then we’d still need to find the money to actually build them.” Tokos said that another thing going against Newport establishing a second logging truck route to the International Terminal is that the town already has a legal and workable route established – SE Moore Drive. Tokos said “It’s true that neighbors don’t want log trucks on a street that runs by their homes. But the fact is the road was was built to industrial standards and log trucks used Moore Drive for many years. It is an established truck route. ODOT will look at that fact very closely.”
Earlier in the evening the task force reviewed improvements to the log truck route from Highway 20 to the Bay Road; lowering speed limits on Highway 20 coming into Newport from the east, a longer left turn storage lane on Highway 20 for trucks waiting to turn south onto SE Moore along with a wider turning radius onto SE Moore, no parking along SE Moore Drive, use of Jake Brakes prohibited, a less cluttered intersection at the bottom of the hill at Bay, along with improved signage there and at the turn-in driveways at the International Terminal.
But having re-noted all that, we’ll see what Tokos and ODOT come up with for the task force at their next meeting in March.