Communities should prepare for a 'game changer' bypass
It’s time to recognize that even Phase 1 of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass will be a game changer for local communities. The first bids on that project went out this week, with a scheduled completion date of 2016. With sound planning by local communities, the bypass can prompt new beginnings on many fronts.
According to ODOT’s most recent Transportation Volume Tables, 39,100 vehicles travel through downtown Newberg each day. It’s the highest volume on Highway 99W except for 50,300 vehicles in the intersection with Highway 217 in Tigard. In Dundee, daily volume is 21,900.
ODOT says Phase 1 of the bypass will reduce traffic in downtown Newberg by 20 percent, and in downtown Dundee by 40 percent. Freight traffic is expected to drop 45 and 68 percent, respectively, in those cities.
Leaders in both communities are developing new visions for their downtowns, seeking more of the “strolling experience” enjoyed by visitors to downtown McMinnville.
Dundee councilors have considered a downtown improvement district to make major upgrades to streets and sidewalks. The Newberg Downtown Coalition is gathering support for a downtown vision that may include changing First Street into a two-way street, narrowing travel lanes, widening sidewalks, creating more outdoor seating and emphasizing landscaping.
Newberg also is developing a cultural district in the four-block area incorporating the Chehalem Valley Cultural Center, the library and the Masonic temple.
Past efforts to revitalize downtown Newberg have faltered in great measure because of the impenetrable obstacle of two freeway-like roadways slicing up the town. For downtown businesses, it’s time to turn a new page, put the days of traffic strangulation into history, and invest in a vibrant downtown sector. A united vision, fueled by strong financial support, could produce a true transformation by 2016.
The story is different in McMinnville, where Mayor Rick Olson and others sold colleagues on “local share financing” for the bypass based on its potential to attract more industry. It has been 30 years since the city established a major industrial park infrastructure around Riverside Drive, and much of that land remains undeveloped.
The bypass itself won’t sell that land, but the prospect of improved traffic flow to the Portland metro area is a major plus for industrial recruiters. As in Newberg, capitalizing on the change will take strong leadership and community commitment.
The first shovel of dirt is turned. Phase 1 is a reality, and stakeholders from McMinnville, Dundee and Newberg should jump solidly onto their respective community development bandwagons.