Bypass proponents advocate for federal funding
Newberg Mayor Rick Rogers is optimistic that talks between the Yamhill County Parkway Committee and Oregon's federal delegation in the nation's capital may pave the way toward finishing the Newberg-Dundee bypass.
Rogers and several other stakeholders traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to speak with the elected officials.
He said the positions expressed by the Oregon delegation indicated that now seemed like the prime time to see if the entire project could get federal funding.
"The idea (is) to try to get the remaining money included in any infrastructure bill that's currently being discussed in D.C.," Rogers said. "We went to talk to the federal delegation to see if they might put the project forward."
Construction of the first phase of the bypass, which stretches from its northern terminus at Highway 219 to Dundee, came in more than $10 million under budget.
The surplus was utilized by the Oregon Department of Transportation for right-of- way acquisition for land in the second phase, which will run from the Highway 219 terminus, between Chehalem Glenn Golf Course and Providence Newberg Medical Center to the base of Rex Hill.
Construction of the first phase of the bypass cost $242 million, with $192 million coming from the state, $30 million from the federal government, $16 million from Yamhill County and $4 million from the Confederate Tribes of Grande Ronde.
Rogers credited the delegation – U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as showing support for getting the bypass done.
He said they were all "very responsive" and that those who traveled to Washington were pleased with the time they were given.
"I thought they went well," Rogers said of the conversations with elected officials in D.C. "We did speak with our delegation, both senators and congresspersons. I think it went well.
"The Oregon delegation is in support. It's really a matter of trying to get this infrastructure bill passed."
Rogers said one hurdle to overcome is that the federal government did away with earmarks, which are provisions inserted into spending bills that direct funding toward a specific project; they were effectively banned in 2011.
However, there has been some talk about bringing earmarks back into use and that, Rogers said, could be used to get the federal funding needed to complete the bypass.
"They may want to bring back some form of earmark to try to get some of these projects, particularly regionally important ones, to move forward," he said.
A recent Brookings Institution article called on Congress to reintroduce earmarks in 2019.
The article stated that earmarking was abused by elected officials, but a reformed, more transparent system of earmarking would allow less abuse of the system and funding for "more important, meaningful and publicly defensible projects."
As for the bypass, Rogers said now all the city can do is wait.
"If we can generate support with our networks for this infrastructure bill that would help," he said. "That's basically where we are now."
Hopefully those in Congress will come to understand the importance of investing the country's crumbling infrastructure, Rogers said.
"We haven't," he said. "But it's high time we do."
Finishing the bypass is a "high priority federal project," Rogers said.
"Now it's a matter of can we get that money through the state and hopefully get federal funds," Rogers said.
The 2017 Legislature, in passing House Bill 2017, earmarked $22 million for the second phase of the bypass. More recently, Gov. Kate Brown allocated $32 million in her budget proposal now before the Legislature. Should the Legislature green light that expenditure, the bypass would require a final $120 million in funding.
The final phase of the project, which would stretch from Dundee to the Highway 18/99W junction at McDougal's Corner, is estimated to run $264 million.