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Commuter rail, Highway 217 get funding in fed appropriations bill

Funding for Washington County's commuter rail line and improvements to Highway 217 were included in a $106 billion appropriations bill approved late last week.

The measure included $27.6 million for the $117.3 million commuter rail line and $300,000 to begin an environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering on a project that will widen Highway 217 to three lanes in each direction.

U.S. Rep. David Wu said H.R. 4939 had $29.6 million in transportation projects that will be spent in the region. The bill was approved by the House June 14. It was approved by the Senate Friday.

'These projects will keep Oregon's economic engine running by reducing traffic congestion and will increase safety and livability,' said Wu, a Hillsdale Democrat representing Oregon's 1st Congressional District. 'I am particularly pleased to have secured funding toward planning for the widening of Highway 217. By adding capacity and improving safety along Highway 217, we make a responsible investment in an area that has provided significant, long-term economic benefit to the state.'

The $27.6 million included in the bill completes the 50 percent federal share of the $102 million commuter rail project. The rail line will extend 14.7 miles from Wilsonville to downtown Beaverton.

Wu has helped secure more than $58 million for the project in the past six years.

The commuter rail line will carry passengers on a 37-minute ride along existing freight tracks through Tualatin, Tigard and to the Beaverton Transit Center, where they will be able to catch a westside light-rail train into Portland or Hillsboro.

The line is expected to carry an average of 3,000 passengers each weekday by 2020.

The project began final design in 2004 and will open in 2008.

Washington County and its cities are putting up $25 million for the project. The state will provide $35 million in lottery-backed bonds.

The federal funds match local money and will be used for vehicles, construction and right of way acquisition.

The project includes the purchase of five self-propelled rail cars, construction of five stations, four park and ride lots, vehicle maintenance and dispatch facilities and improvements to existing track.

The Highway 217 money will go toward an environmental impact statement and preliminary engineering for the widening project.

It is in addition to $8.7 million Congress provided last year to complete the highway widening between the Tualatin Valley Highway and the Sunset Highway interchange.

Also included in the transportation appropriations bill was $200,000 for planning of the Newberg-Dundee bypass.

Wu has worked with federal transportation officials to get more than $27 million for the bypass project.

The bill also allocated $500,000 for an environmental impact statement and preliminary planning for improvements to the Interstate 5 corridor into Southwest Washington.

The project will ultimately add highway and transit capacity across the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver, Wash.