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Veteran and proponent of legislation to rename the highway hasn't lost a legislative vote in a dozen years.

PMG FILE PHOTO - U.S. Highway 30 could be designated as Veterans Memorial Highway under proposed legislation in the state Senate.Oregon's long stretch of U.S. Highway 30, from Astoria to the Idaho border, could become the Oregon Veterans Memorial Highway.

Senate Bill 790, introduced Feb. 24 by state Sen. Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican, would rename Oregon's 477-mile section of the national highway. On Wednesday, March 3, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dick Tobiason of the nonprofit Bend Heroes Foundation is the driving force behind SB 790. Tobiason, who served two tours during the Vietnam War as an Army aviator. His one-man nonprofit operation led efforts on past legislation to rename eight Oregon highways to honor veterans. His legislative success rate is 100%.

"I've never lost a vote in 12 years doing these highways," Tobiason said.

SEN. TIM KNOPPIt's simple math, he said. The Bend Heroes Foundation raises all the money needed to create 4-by-8-foot signs to be posted along the highway with the veterans designation (probably more than $10,000 for Highway 30). It pays Oregon's Department of Transportation to install them. Not a dime of taxpayer funds goes into the effort.

"Why would the Legislature disapprove of this?" Tobiason asked. "It doesn't cost them a cent."

There are nearly 100 signs honoring veterans installed on eight Oregon highways stretching more than 3,000 miles across the state. Each designated highway has between 10 and 18 signs, he said. That means drivers could see one veterans highway honor sign every 65 miles.

COURTESY PHOTO: BEND BULLETIN - Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dick Tobiason, here at a 2018 high school assembly, is leading the effort to name U.S. Highway 30 a Veterans Memorial Highway.

Ready for dedication ceremony

U.S. Highway 30 extends 3,073 miles to Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the East Coast. It is the only major highway in Oregon not designated to honor veterans. It crosses 11 states and is the nation's third longest coast-to-coast highway.

COURTESY PHOTO: DICK TOBIASON - Dick Tobiason of the Bend Heroes Foundation, right, joined Bob Maxwell to dedicate U.S. Highway 20's Medal of Honor Highway sign in Newport. Oregon's section of the highway that winds along the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge through Scappoose and Portland before heading east as part of Interstate 84 is the beginning of Tobiason's plans for the road. He's working with veterans groups and lawmakers in 11 other states to get the same designation all the way to New Jersey.

Tobiason's Bend Heroes Foundation has also asked Congress to designate the 3,365-mile U.S. Highway 20, which begins at Newport on the Oregon Coast and heads east to Boston, the National Medal of Honor Highway. Oregon's section of Highway 20 is already known as the Medal of Honor Highway.

There are seven Medal of Honor highways (Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana). Tobiason is working with lawmakers in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to rename their highway sections. Ohio and New York sections are also on the list, he said.

SB 790 is also kind of an ending for the 86-year-old Tobiason. He has proposed similar bills since 2008 and testified 14 times in favor of legislation. When he's finished with the U.S. Highway 30 project, just about every major highway in the state will honor veterans or servicemen and servicewomen missing in action.

Between World War I (1914) and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf (1990 and 2003), 6,000 Oregon soldiers, sailors (including Coast Guard), Marines, merchant seamen and airmen were killed. During that same time, about 15,000 Oregonians were wounded in combat and nearly 1,000 were prisoners. About 1,000 Oregonians remain missing in action from all of the conflicts.

Oregon highways Tobiason and the foundation have designated include:

• U.S. Highway 395, from California to Washington, is the World War I Veterans Memorial Highway.

• Interstate 5, from California to Washington, is known as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway and the Purple Heart Trail.

• U.S. Highway 97, known as the WWII Veterans Historic Highway.

• U.S. Highway 101, from Washington to California, is the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial Highway.

• A section of U.S. Highway 26, from the Highway 101 intersection to Idaho, is the POW/MIA Memorial Highway.

• Interstate 205 through West Linn, Tualatin, Oregon City and Portland to its connection with I-5 north of Vancouver, Washington, is known as the War Veterans Memorial Highway.

(A section of Interstate 5 between Salem and Albany is known as the Atomic Veterans Memorial Highway, but Tobiason was not involved in that designation.)

Tobiason is already planning his Eastern Oregon trip later this year when U.S. Highway 30 is officially designed the Oregon Veterans Memorial Highway. He's been to nearly every highway sign dedication ceremony, racking up more than 5,000 miles on his vehicle.

"We'll have a big ceremony in Ontario," Tobiason said. "We should have Idaho officials there, because their bill should be done about the same time."

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been corrected. The original story misidentified the East Coast location of Highway 30. It ends in Atlantic City, N.J. It also included a section of highway that Tobiason did not work to designate.


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