By editorial board • 

No time to let off the gas; press on with the bypass

A Tuesday story headlined, “Business and civic leaders seek bypass money,” appears at number 951 in a search of our online archives using the keywords “Dundee” and “bypass.”

And those archives date back only to Jan. 1, 1999. By then, the Newberg-Dundee Bypass was already at least 11 years into the talking stages.

The man widely viewed as the chief driver, McMinnville attorney Dave Haugeberg, first broached the idea in a conversation with then-Congressman Les AuCoin at an airport runway dedication in the late 1980s.

In 1988, Haugeberg fostered creation of the Yamhill County Parkway Committee to promote the project, and he’s been chairing it ever since. The first bypass mention that could readily be found in the News-Register occurred on Nov. 15, 1989, after the Oregon Department of Transportation named Haugeberg to a citizen advisory committee charged with conducting an initial study.

In a December 2003 editorial looking back at those inauspicious beginnings, we concluded, with remarkable clairvoyance: “It has taken 15 years to get to where we are, but thanks to the efforts of many people, it looks as if we’re more than halfway to driving on a Newberg-Dundee Bypass.” Fittingly, we headlined the piece, “Persistence pays off.”

But the plan calls for 11 miles of four-lane expressway, running all the way from Rex Hill, northeast of Newberg, to McDougall Junction, northeast of Dayton. And for $223 million, all we’re getting right now is a two-lane version running from the northern end of Newberg to the southern end of Dundee.
Phase II would extend the roadway farther to the northeast, Phase III to the southwest. Their completion would be accompanied by eventually widening, as traffic counts dictate and dollar counts permit.

It’s going to take an equal measure of persistence to see the project on through.

We can’t afford to waste time admiring our nearly completed Phase I handiwork, lest we lose hard-fought traction. Nor can we stand idly by waiting for Dave to do it, as he’ll need to pass the baton at some point.

It was encouraging, then, to see some fresh troops — including City Councilor Kelly Menke, Chamber President Gioa Goodrum and civic luminaries Susan Sokol Blosser and Ken Wright — lead a Phase II lobbying campaign at the Capitol last week. It’s going to take that kind of effort, on a sustained basis, if anyone’s going to be driving on an extended stretch 15 years hence.

The original paradox of the bypass was this: Federal money is crucial, but to secure it, you need your project to be shovel-ready, or at least well down the road toward shovel-ready. And that means raising enough local and state money to perform crucial engineering and design work.

The vehicle of choice in the current legislative session is House Bill 2017, which is under consideration by the Joint Committee on Transportation, Preservation and Modernization. And it needs all the support we can muster from these parts.  

It seems to us that the concluding words of our December 2003 editorial bear repeating here: “We can’t let up now.”