By editorial board • 

Locals save the day on bypass with an 11th-hour compromise

The Newberg-Dundee Bypass, which has dodged a bucket load of bullets since its inception several decades back, just escaped yet another. And just in time, as bids were due by 5 p.m. Thursday on its northern terminus, where it is destined to hook up with Highway 219.

Missing the current bidding window would have meant losing an entire construction season on a project that currently remains on schedule and on budget.

The Clackamas County commissioners, having no great stake, were willing to risk that. Sadly, so were Yamhill County counterparts Mary Starrett and Stan Primozich, despite the exhortations of colleague Allen Springer about the folly of such a course.

The last-minute snag arose over where and how to connect narrow, winding and congested Wilsonville Road.

The original plan provided a direct connection with the bypass, but the city of Wilsonville and the Ladd Hill Neighborhood Association, the latter counting Starrett as a member, feared that decision would dump undue traffic on a road not capable of handling it safely. Rebuffing assurances from state highway engineers, who considered the concern unwarranted, the group succeeded in gaining the ear of commissioners in both counties.

The commissioners, eschewing the local control they normally champion, insisted on having Gov. Kate Brown usurp local authority and kick the issue to one of the most cumbersome, tedious and legalistic agencies in all of state government — the Department of Land Conservation and Development. That would most certainly have paralyzed the project for at least one season, and given the agency’s reputation for tangling everything it touches in red tape, perhaps several more.

Thankfully, the Newberg Planning Commission suggested the six most affected parties instead see if they could fashion a workable compromise on their own. They were able to hammer out a deal in a matter of days, allowing ODOT to stick with its bid deadline.

The workaround involves bringing Wilsonville Road into Highway 219 separately, farther to the south at its intersection with Adolph Road.

That figures to cost $7 million and take three years, as designs have to be drawn and right of way acquired. But if it’s not an engineering necessity, it appears to be a political necessity — one ODOT is committed to seeing through.

In the meantime, ODOT can keep the bypass on schedule for completion next year, thanks to leadership bubbling up below the level of pointless political posturing. And not a moment too soon.


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