Mark Davis: Don’t turn bypass into a bottleneck

Racheal Winter/News-Register  ##
 Looking toward a portion of the Three Mile Lane Study Area southeast of Willamette Valley Medical Center.
Racheal Winter/News-Register ## Looking toward a portion of the Three Mile Lane Study Area southeast of Willamette Valley Medical Center.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## The intersection of Cumulus Avenue and Highway 18.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## The intersection of Cumulus Avenue and Highway 18.
## The Three Mile Lane Study Area as pictured in McMinnville Planning Department graphic.
## The Three Mile Lane Study Area as pictured in McMinnville Planning Department graphic.

Guest writer Mark Davis is a retired accountant and housing authority executive. Prior to his retirement, he assisted with the development of affordable local housing with the Housing Authority of Yamhill County.

The Three Mile Lane Area Plan, currently under consideration by the city of McMinnville, will have a profound impact on McMinnville’s future.

That plan, approved last week by the planning commission, recommends rezoning 60 acres of land south of Highway 18 past the hospital for a very large shopping center, up to and including big box stores more than 135,000 square feet in size. For comparison, Walmart is just over 100,000 square feet.

The rezoning applications for the shopping center are still pending before the planning commission, but the overall plan, which provides the framework, is headed for the city council. Taken together, adoption of the plan and rezoning applications would have lasting negative implications for traffic, existing business and family-wage employment in McMinnville.

The Three Mile Lane stretch of Highway 18 has long been known locally as the Highway 18 Bypass, or just the “bypass.” If you’re going shopping, you head downtown or down Highway 99W. If you want to get where you’re going quickly, you swing over and take the “bypass.”

That distinction is going to disappear if the Three Mile Lane Area Plan is adopted.

While the plan was drafted to cover a 20-year period ending in 2041, Kimco, the national shopping center developer that owns the largest open parcel, filed to rezone its land from industrial to commercial in December 2020. That was long before the city held its first public hearing on the plan.

Two additional property owners have since filed similar rezoning applications. So the daily impact of thousands of cars accessing a big box regional shopping center via a Highway 18 traffic light could soon become reality.

The Oregon Department of Transportation controls access to Highway 18. The agency underwrote a 2019 modeling exercise showing that as things stood, traffic would remain within its parameter for expressways, the designation of Highway 18 in this area, through 2041.

But the city has since increased the retail acreage 50 percent on the south side of the highway and added 27 acres of commercial on the north side by the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. So the modeling is already woefully out of date.

In addition to all the new traffic congestion generated by the proposed shopping center developments, ODOT is proposing a new roundabout or light at Cirrus Avenue to further slow or stop traffic.

Modeling doesn’t guarantee real world results. In fact, the much more detailed traffic studies for the shopping center applications show several key intersections failing within the next 15 years, meaning running over capacity to the point of causing excessive delays.

While the additional traffic will cause maddening delays for the more than 20,000 motorists using the bypass every day, the new shopping center’s biggest impact will be on existing McMinnville merchants. With retail sales already slumping in the face of stiff online competition, the corporate chains that congregate in such large shopping venues will further reduce purchases at existing storefronts.

With corporate ownership of big box stores, all the overhead, advertising, marketing, accounting, legal and so forth, is typically handled at the head office. So the economic “benefit” McMinnville gains is measured mainly in low-wage retail jobs not paying enough to support access to market rate housing.

The land in question is currently zoned for industrial use, and industrial workers typically earn wages twice what retail workers do. Further, siting high-paying industrial jobs in that area would generate less than one-tenth of the traffic that commercial venues would.

The plan does promote significant improvements for the residents on the north side of Three Mile Lane.

The Cumulus Avenue frontage road would be completed, allowing vehicles to travel to and from downtown without getting on Highway 18. Bike and pedestrian paths would be added and upgraded, while the existing sand and gravel site would be repurposed into a mixed use area, including local-scale retail shops for residents.

The plan proposes similar bicycle and pedestrian amenities on the south side of the highway. But crossing four lanes of Highway 18 to get there would discourage most people. Planning commissioners lobbied for a pedestrian and bike overpass allowing multi-modal access, but were informed that would be too expensive.

The real head-scratcher in the Three Mile Lane Area Plan is the contrast with what is going on several miles northeast along Highway 18 around Dundee and Newberg, where hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to create a limited access bypass around those cities.

The city of McMinnville borrowed $3.2 million to help pay for the Newberg-Dundee Bypass, and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for its completion. And that bypass does not call for lights to stop traffic so vehicles can turn in and out of a regional retail shopping complex.

A few miles farther, however, where westbound traffic from Newberg arrives in McMinnville, the new city plan is proposing addition of a new roundabout or light to existing traffic lights, luring a minority of motorists to stop and shop while the majority sit and fume.

It looks to all the world like the city is trying to create the same experience on our bypass that we are paying to eliminate in Newberg and Dundee.

Tying our economic prosperity to a regional shopping center serving to significantly increase traffic congestion would serve as a long-term disaster not only for our community, but also an already overheated planet.

Let’s keep our bypass a real bypass, not turn it into another stretch of strip commercial emulating Highway 99W. Let’s support existing McMinnville merchants, not national and international chains. Let’s plan for family-wage jobs, not minimum-wage counterparts.

The Three Mile Lane Area Plan is slated for council consideration on April 26. Make your voice heard by e-mailing the council through the city recorder at claudia.cisneros@mcminnvilleoregon.gov.



I can't imagine why a town the size of McMinnville needs the proposed big box store space. Seems like Bi-Mart and Walmart (ugh) serve the community well enough. The last attempt at having a shopping mall on Highway 18 was such a stellar success . . .

m or s

Yep, this sure seems like this will put some of our existing stores out of business. Then we'll have a bunch of empty buildings on 99W and maybe empty storefronts downtown.

Sam E.

Is this the long rumored Costco I’ve been hearing about for years?


Kayaker said it. You have bimart and Wal-mart (ugh). Not much of a choice. Costco has been tied to the land out there one way or another for quite a few years. We can’t live our life as not in my back yard when it comes to evil box stores. Years ago when the fight was won to keep Costco out of town, they were defeated by the same people that drive 75 miles round trip to the Costco on Tigard or Salem. And these stores are not just for Mac, they are also for Amity, Dayton, Sheridan, willamina, Dundee, etc.

Don Dix

The 'actual' bypass from the west begins at 99W just south of Booth Bend or @ 18 to the coast -- and ends when the bypass merges with eastbound traffic coming from downtown. The idea was to allow though traffic to avoid Mac when traveling to and from points south and west of the city.


I would love to have a COSTCO in town. It seems that people have no problem allowing more and more housing being built; how about allowing more places for people to be employed or places to shop! It will happen sooner or later and it will not deter the fans of other stores to stop shopping there! Get with the times and realize that with growth comes responsibility to accommodate it in all areas!!

m or s

There is no way the market demographics support a Costco. If the land is rezoned, look for Walmart to close their store on 99W and open a new, bigger, shinier Walmart, surrounded by stores that sell the same stuff that is sold on 99W


Mac don't need no stinking Costco..


While I agree with some of the bypass concerns mentioned, I would welcome a Costco to Yamhill county. They pay living wages & benefits to employees as opposed to the Wal-Mart model of low wages and employees subsidized by public dollars. Costco is a much better employer that would be hiring locally.


Here is a link to the actual plan. I'd encourage you to read it for yourself and not let Mr. Davis only provide a portion of the story he wishes to tell and therefore dictate your reaction. This includes the full story not a partial opinion. Page 46 of 76 provides a simple diagram showing the full intent. This includes commercial as well as industrial, low-density residential, medium - high density residential, medical, and mixed use. Mr. Davis only writes about commercial.



Galen McBee Airport Park is such a pleasant treasure. I love the quiet trails. I enjoy the chance to picnic and watch planes taking off and landing at the edge of the park. Filling the green space next to the park with big box retailers will degrade that experience for everyone enjoying the park. There's plenty of nearby big box shopping available up the highway already, and even those retailers are struggling right now. Why undermine the genial small town vibe of McMinnville with generic impersonal corporate retailers that offer low wages and the degradation of our existing local retail spaces?

David Bates

So basically, do we want McMinnville to look like McMinnville, or do we want McMinnville to look like Tigard? Seems like a no-brainer, to me.

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