Kate Brown stresses importance of strong transportation to local economy, tourism

As Phase I of the Newberg-Dundee bypass nears completion, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said locals should rest easy that the state is committed to the second phase of the project during a visit to the Newberg area last month.

Although the $22 million allocated for the next phase in the state's recent $5.3 billion transportation package is a fraction of the estimated $260 million it is expected to take to finish Phase 1, Brown said her goal was to fuel projects in progress with community backing that were "needed to spur economic growth in the particular communities."PMG FILE PHOTO - Gov. Kate Brown says her goal is to fuel projects in progress with community backing that were 'needed to spur economic growth in the particular communities.'

"I would certainly argue that the Newberg-Dundee bypass did exactly that," Brown said. "In terms of full funding for the entire project, I haven't seen the full numbers, but I think what it says is a commitment to the state to keep this project moving forward and to see it through completion."

Brown spoke of the bypass during a brief interview Aug. 9 as she formally awarded a $103,000 state grant to St. Cousair Oregon Orchards and the food processing plant it recently acquired on Highway 219 south of Newberg, formerly called Berry Noir.

The appearance came a day after she announced plans to use her line-item veto authority — particularly on several projects dear to Rep. Sal Esquivel (R -Medford), who delivered a vital vote to pass a $550 million tax plan for Medicaid funding and later supported efforts to send that plan to a referendum next year, OregonLive reported at the time.

Asked if red-leaning places like Newberg and Dundee should be worried about future support for the bypass, Brown, a Democrat, first noted that local legislators support for the transportation package, but went onto to explain that it's her duty to serve all parts of the state.

She pointed to the bypass as playing a key role for the local economy and everyday life for residents as well as tourists heading either to the coast or looking to taste the fruit of the "booming" wine industry.

"I just know that, in terms of this area, having a functioning transportation system plays a huge role in terms of making sure people can get to their jobs safely, that kids can get to school and that products can get to market efficiently, but it also is key if people want to go to the coast …," Brown said. "We want to make sure that people can get here safely and have fun while they're here and not spend hours in traffic."

Staff with the Oregon Department of Transportation recently reported that Phase 1 is on schedule to open by the end of this year.

The $22 million in state funding is specifically for the design of Phase II which is expected to connect directly with Highway 99W near the base of Rex Hill.