June 12--The Oregon Department of Transportation has decided to postpone new road construction projects for at least a year pending more certainty about federal transportation funding.
The agency will delay updating its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which designates funding and scheduling for capital projects on federal, state, city and county roads.
David Kim, an ODOT manager for the west metro area, on Monday, June 9, briefed the Washington County Coordinating Committee, a group of mayors and other officials who meet every month to discuss transportation issues.
Kim presented the group with a letter from David Lohman, the chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission. In it, Lohman explains that ODOT's State Highway Fund is largely being spent on debt service and highway maintenance, so STIP construction projects rely almost exclusively on federal funding. But the federal Highway Trust Fund faces an annual deficit of about $15 billion, and the federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993. (Read Lohman's letter here.)
"If Congress doesn't act by the end of August to address the federal Highway Trust Fund deficit, on the near term, that has the potential to delay our projects," Kim said. "On the longer term, we don't know what our funding is going to look like."
ODOT currently has three ongoing construction projects in Washington County:
--An $18 million project to repave TV Highway from Minter Bridge Road in Hillsboro to the intersection of Oregon 47 and Oregon 8 in Forest Grove;
--A $21 million project to reconstruct and widen Helvetia Road north of U.S. 26, build new ramps, and add signals and lighting;
--And a $3.1 million project to rehabilitate the Oregon 99W Tualatin River bridge. (See an interactive map of all of the STIP projects.)
Kim said the construction projects that have already begun would not be affected, but future projects would be postponed at least until next summer.
Washington County Commissioner Roy Rogers said the county would continue its road construction projects, but will likely not receive funding for improvements related to the state transportation system.
"Everything from Hall Boulevard in Tigard to TV Highway, U.S. 26, Oregon 217," Rogers said. "If there's no funding, then we have no mechanism to do any enhancement."
Washington County projects that have already been approved by ODOT but could be affected by this decision include:
--Southbound Oregon 217 split diamond interchange project at Southwest Allen Boulevard and Southwest Denney Road to improve traffic flow and safety on the highway ($5.3 million estimated cost).
--I-5 improvement at the northbound and southbound Boones Ferry Road exits to help enhance traffic flow and safety (combined cost estimated at $5.7 million).
--Design engineering for the future widening of U.S. 26 between Southwest 185th Avenue and Cornelius Pass Road ($2 million).
--Oregon 47/Oregon 8 (TV Highway) intersection improvements for freight mobility and bicycle/pedestrian projects in Forest Grove ($4.2 million estimated cost).
--King City sidewalk infill along Oregon 99W ($1 million estimated cost).
--Oregon 8 (TV Highway) corridor safety and access to transit ($1.6 million estimated cost).
-- Simina Mistreanu
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