INDEPENDENT PHOTO: TYLER FRANCKE - Gov. Kate Brown speaks during a ceremony Monday morning commemorating the completion of the Oregon Department of Transportation's $70 million Woodburn Interchange Project. Gov. Kate Brown joined national, state and local dignitaries Monday morning to celebrate the completion of the $70 million Woodburn Interchange Project.

The ceremony at the Woodburn Memorial Transit Facility took only an hour, but it was decades in the making.

City Council President Frank Lonergan — speaking on behalf of the city and Mayor Kathy Figley, who was unable to attend the event — said that before this interchange, the last time the highway overpass and exit ramps had been upgraded, Woodburn had a population of about 3,500.

Through the years, the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 214/219 became notorious for gridlock, for both local drivers and those passing through.

“There were a couple of generations of Woodburn city leaders who fought for interchange improvements,” Lonergan said.

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: TYLER FRANCKE - Council President Frank Lonergan speaks on behalf of the city of Woodburn during a ceremony commemorating the completion of the interchange project Monday morning. The turning point came in 2009, with the state’s passage of the Jobs and Transportation Act (JTA), which contributed $43 million to the project.

But many of those who spoke at the event — including Brown, U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, state Senate President Peter Courtney, state Rep. Betty Komp and Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett — praised the city of Woodburn for stepping up to commit $8 million of local funding.

“That is real skin in the game for this community,” Garrett said. “Simply put, we would not be standing here without the city’s support of this project.”

“When a city this size comes up with $8 million, that is incomprehensible,” Courtney added. “That is the most extraordinary statement about transportation — roads, bridges and culverts — that you can make.”

Brown took note of the spirit of cooperation between various levels of government that made the dream a reality.

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: TYLER FRANCKE - Left to right, state Rep. Betty Komp, Gov. Kate Brown, Senate President Peter Courtney, Lonergan, U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader and ODOT Director Matt Garrett participate in a ceremonial ribbon cutting.“This project is a great example of the Oregon way: collaborating to make meaningful changes that make Oregonians’ lives better,” Brown said.

Much praise was also heaped on the project’s contractor, K & E Excavating, of Salem, which finished the complex and multi-faceted construction project on budget and one year early — while keeping the busy interchange open to thousands of motorists each day.

“Ahead of schedule, under budget — how often do you hear that?” Courtney quipped.

Lonergan said the project has already reaped dividends for the area in terms of reduced congestion and greater economic development, and has left the city primed for more prosperity and a better quality of life in the future.

“We want to let the nation and the great state of Oregon know, we’re open for business,” he remarked. “Come and see us.”

Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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