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Cash will go toward design of second phase of project from Highway 219 to Rex Hill

As the first major phase of the Newberg-Dundee bypass nears completion, the state has made the first significant investment in the next piece.

As part of its $5.3 billion transportation package, the Legislature has allocated about $22 million to start designing Phase II of the bypass, which will go from Rex Hill and connect with Phase I at Highway 219, according to Lou Torres, a spokesman with the Oregon Department of Transportation. GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Work on the Wynooski Street overpass has been completed and the thoroughfare opened last weekend.

While that's a small fraction of the funding given to jumpstart the bypass in 2009, Torres said it's an important investment that marks the need for this project.

"The bottom line is that the Legislature recognized the importance of Phase II of the bypass and how important completing the full bypass is eventually," he said. "So this really gives us a good start."

The new funding for Phase II comes as work on the current phase moves into its final stages.

With construction on Phase I broken into three parts – each given to a separate Oregon contractor – moving west to east, the bypass is largely complete in the Dundee area and west of Newberg.

A tour of construction showed the major work underway just southwest of Newberg's city line, where the bypass will dip under Wynooski Street to help comply with federal aviation rules around Sportsman Airpark. The stretch eastward to Highway 219 is largely still gravel and Springbrook Road construction is still underway.

The full three phases of the bypass are expected to stretch 11 miles from Rex Hill to McDougall Road, and will be an extension Highway 18.

When the first phase of bypass is completed by the end of the year, Torres expected car traffic and truck traffic to decrease by 40 and 60 percent respectively in Newberg and Dundee, and he said the conversation will then turn to how the cities want to reshape downtown.

By end of the work, Torres estimated that Phase I will cost about $260 million, including about $190 million chipped in by the state with the 2009 Jobs and Transportation Act.

While the $22 million seems small in comparison, Dave Haugeberg, chairman of the Yamhill County Parkway Committee, agreed that it's an important investment and signal from the Legislature. In addition, he cited the $10.5 million in Phase I savings being held for right-of-way purchases on the next phase as well as the $7 million upgrade to Wilsonville Road.

"What that tells, I think, the world is that Phase II will get built," he said. "It's not if it will get built, it's just a question now of when and how we will come to the resources necessary to buy all of the right-of-way and do the construction."

The second piece of that question – coming up with the resources – will be a major issue the affected communities will have to discuss in the months ahead.

While local communities – including the cities, the county and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde – came up with $20 million for Phase I, Haugeberg said the Legislature is also signaling a need for further community investment and federal aid to move projects like the Newberg-Dundee bypass forward.

"Are we required to do it? No," Haugeberg said. "But if we want to have the project move forward, then I think we're going to have to have a long conversation about it and I think it will require local funding to move the project forward at some point."

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