By editorial board • 

Bypass Phase II, the sequel, seems off to promising start

The Newberg-Dundee Bypass is continuing to motor on around the back side of Newberg. The movement is evolving in fits and starts, but that’s probably as good as it gets for a high-cost road construction project featuring so many moving parts.

Action is currently occurring on two fronts.

First, the Department of Transportation has begun accepting bids on a T intersection connecting Wilsonville Road with Highway 219 just south of Wynooski Road. The $7 million project, to get underway in another month or so and take about six months, represents the final installment in Phase I.

Second, the department’s governing commission agreed last week to apply all $12 million to $18 million in anticipated Phase I savings toward the projected $60 million cost of Phase II right of way. That provides a big boost to the drive to push the bypass on northeast to a Highway 99W connection at Rex Hill.

In earlier action, the Oregon Legislature allocated $22 million toward Phase II design work.

 The continued motion on design, construction and right of way gives us hope we won’t have to wait another 40 or 50 years to see the next phase through. But it behooves everyone who has a stake — and that means everyone from the Central Oregon Coast, mid-Willamette Valley and Portland Metropolitan Area — to keep the heat on.

The bypass currently consists of four miles of two-lane expressway routing motorists around the eastern flanks of Dundee and Newberg. It is ultimately destined to encompass 11 miles of four-lane expressway, stretching on south and north to avoid yet more congestion and adding travel lanes to increase capacity.

Phase I was originally designed to feature a direct connection with Wilsonville Road, but neighbors balked, saying the rural back-country road wasn’t up to accommodating such a large infusion of bypass traffic.

A T intersection farther south is designed to respond to those concerns, while still serving to relieve pressure on Springbrook Road. Eventually, highway engineers plan to realign Wynooski to connect at the same location.

Phase II is designed to reconnect the bypass with Highway 99W on to the northeast where it heads up Rex Hill. Including design, engineering, right of way and construction, the project is expected to cost about $185 million.

Phase III would eliminate the fish hook compromise on Dundee’s southern outskirts and push the bypass south toward Dayton. But first things first. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

During its long and tortured gestation, the bypass stirred a torrent of opposition. The clamor arose in part from skeptics, sure the government was engaged in a boondoggle that would either never get built or never realize its promise, and in part from those lying in the path, sure they were about to be fleeced.

Taking the temperature of the region today, our sense is that both sources have largely dissipated. The roadway was built, did serve to greatly relieve congestion and did fairly compensate the affected.

Here’s hoping we can all get behind the push forward toward Rex Hill.

 

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