News Register file photo##U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici on a tour of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass project earlier this year.
News Register file photo##U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici on a tour of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass project earlier this year.
By Don Iler • News Editor • 

Bypass could receive priority status

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, who represents Oregon’s 1st District, added the bypass to the list in the House’s version of the bill. Naming the highway a high priority corridor would make it eligible for additional funding to complete future phases. The additional funding could make completing the bypass a reality, something that has come into question as Newberg allows development to go forward in the corridor where the rest of the bypass is slated to go through. 

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is the ranking Democrat in the conference committee, and Bonamici says he’s committed to making sure the bypass designation survives in the final version.

The first phase is fully funded and currently underway, but future phases depend on new funding. While high priority status does not guarantee funding, it moves the bypass up on the list. And with no highway bill passed by the Oregon Legislature last session, or on the agenda for the short session to open in February, federal funding is crucial.

At a Thursday morning meeting of the local Parkway Committee, several members expressed concern, however, with one possible impediment — plans recently announced by the Newberg Foursquare Church to build on a bypass corridor tract donated to it by the Werth family. The city of Newberg protected the corridor from development for five years, but is no longer doing so, saying future phases are so indefinite it would not be fair.

Members from the church attended the committee to share their plans. They said the additional phases were not in the Oregon Department of Transportation’s 20-year-plan, so they felt warranted in proceeding.

Pastor Aaron Hanson said the church needed a new building for its congregation, having outgrown its current quarters, and could live with a 20-year horizon. But attorney Dave Haugeberg, who chairs the Parkway Committee, said that was not controlling. If the money materializes, work will commence, he said.

“ODOT has said they won’t find specific funding since the beginning,” Haugeberg said. “We’re not going to sit back and wait, we continue to look for other sources of funding. We’re not going to wait for them.” 

Newberg City Councilor Scott Essin said he understood the position of the church and Werth family, not wanting any restrictions on the land. 

“They see land sitting there and they want to do something with it,” Essin said. “Why can’t they develop it if it’s going to sit there for 20 years?”

But Haugeberg, noting the portion of bypass currently under construction was not in ODOT’s 20-year plan either, until it received funding in 2009. So plan omission by no means guarantees a 20-year window.

Newberg Mayor Bob Andrews said the property owners had the right to develop the property if ODOT didn’t have the money to buy it. 

Haugeberg said the committee understands the property can’t be held in limbo indefinitely, and that owners ultimately can do what they want with it. But he said they need to understand the risk.

He said the only thing holding back completion of additional phases is  funding, which the committee is actively seeking. He said it already enjoys all the state and federal approvals it needs.