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Officials want to build alternate route around Scappoose, but construction is still far in the future

PMG FILE PHOTO - The proposed alternate route through Scappoose would ease congestion on Highway 30 through the city.It's been brought up in idle chatter for years, but in the not-too-distant future, a Highway 30 bypass route through the Scappoose area just might become a reality.

Columbia County recently submitted an application for federal funding to start initial planning for the project.

The county has requested $200,000 in federal funds, along with $50,000 set aside in the public works department's budget.

That's just a fraction of the estimated $10 million cost for the full project.

In the application, the county's public works director, Mike Russell, wrote that Highway 30 has become increasingly congested during peak hours, given the high number of Columbia County residents that drive the highway to jobs outside of the county.

"Traffic is currently congested during peak hours and is expected to increase as more job creating development occurs related to the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC) and Commercial/Manufacturing/Industrial properties not only in Scappoose, but in other areas of Columbia County," Russell noted.

Highway 30, signed locally as Columbia River Highway, cuts straight through town, running north-south. Sandwiched as the highway is, in between the Portland & Western railroad and commercial areas, planners say there isn't any room to ease congestion by adding lanes.

The county wants to add an alternate route, splitting off from Highway 30 to loop around the east side of the city, connect with the OMIC area, and then reconnect with Highway 30.

The planning stage would include opportunities for public input.

Building a Highway 30 bypass has been a long-term goal for the county government. It was one of the projects included in Columbia County's transportation system plan in early 2017.

"Columbia County stands ready to carry out the project," Commissioner Margaret Magruder wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, a Beaverton Democrat who represents northwest Oregon in Congress.

In March, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee asked members of Congress to submit requests for highway and transit projects.

The county's funding request is not for a formal grant program. Rather, the county is asking Bonamici to include the Scappoose project in her requests for funding.

Bonamici's office asked the NW Oregon Area Commission on Transportation to compile a list of projects in the region, which resulted in a list of eight projects — including the Scappoose project and two more projects in St. Helens.

"NWACT members support all of the projects being submitted as they are foundational to NW Oregon's Regional Transportation infrastructure system," NWACT chair and Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller wrote in a letter to Bonamici.

County public works staff submitted a list of potential projects throughout the county to NWACT but only had a day between meeting with NWACT and the application deadline. With little time to prepare an application, the county was only able to pull together a request for the initial planning stages of the Scappoose project.

The county also has a long list of transportation and other infrastructure projects that officials hope to complete with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan approved last month, the pending American Jobs Plan, and other sources.

"I'm not sure that I support all the use of all the federal dollars, but ... if they are going to be distributed, I support the use of them in Columbia County and the state of Oregon," Magruder said earlier this month.

The county's "wish list" includes items like broadband, a hospital feasibility study, a mobile public health van, evacuation center at the fairgrounds, levy recertification, transitional housing expansion, and more, Magruder said.

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