Federal, state and local dignitaries broke ground last Wednesday on the $118 million Sunrise JTA Project aiming to ease traffic congestion and strengthen the Clackamas County jobs climate by constructing the first new state road in the Portland area in more than 30 years.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: ODOT - At the groundbreaking are, from left: ODOT Region 1 manager Jason Tell, former Oregon House speaker Dave Hunt, President of Kerr Contractors Brent Kerr, County Commissioner Paul Savas, County Commissioner Tootie Smith, Transportation Policy Advisor to Gov. John Kitzhaber Karmen Fore, General Counsel for Oregon Iron Works and former county commissioner Ann Lininger, Chairman John Ludlow, Martha Schrader, State Rep. Shemia Fagan, ODOT Director Matt Garrett and State Sen. Alan Olsen.With several county commissioners in attendance, the groundbreaking took place on July 31 at Camp Withycombe, 10101 S.E. Clackamas Road. Speakers included ODOT Director Matt Garrett; Karmen Fore, transportation policy adviser to Gov. John Kitzhaber; state Sen. Chuck Thomsen of Hood River; state Rep. Shemia Fagan of Clackamas; Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas; Melinda Merrill, public affairs director for Fred Meyer; and Brent Kerr of Kerr Contractors of Woodburn, which was awarded the construction contract.

About $100 million of the cost of the Sunrise JTA Project will come from funds generated by the JTA, the Jobs and Transportation Act, which was adopted by the 2009 Oregon Legislature to upgrade the state’s transportation system.

Jason Tell, manager of ODOT’s Portland area looked forward to the investment into the future.

“More than that, it’s going to support Oregon businesses and Oregon jobs,” Tell said. “These are companies that are competing throughout the world, so it’s much more than the immediate construction jobs benefit.”

by: PHOTO COURTESY: ODOT - Cookies at the groundbreaking event showed an image of the new road. Construction on the project, dogged by lawsuits from a contingent of area business owners, almost never happened also because of limited state funding. Business owner Terry Emmert, in his latest legal challenge, sued Clackamas County for for $10 million on the day of the Sunrise groundbreaking, claiming that the county violated verbal agreements it had made with him over Sunrise-related properties.

Co-sponsored by local state Reps. Brent Barton and Shemia Fagan, another legislative bill this year ensured that the Tolbert Overpass will be built and the Sunrise Corridor project becomes a reality.

Major project elements include:

1. A new two-mile, two-lane limited access highway — one lane in each direction — from Highway 224 at Interstate 205 to Southeast 122nd Avenue and Highway 212.

2. A new I-205 overpass connecting Southeast 82nd Drive with 82nd Avenue.

3. Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

4. New traffic signals, signs, striping, drainage and water pipes, especially at the intersection of Southeast 122nd Avenue and highways 212/224.

The project plans to sustain hundreds of family-wage construction jobs for the duration of the work, help keep the 5,900 jobs already in the area and create a economic climate for new jobs in the years to come. Major employers include distribution centers for Safeway and Fred Meyer, which see a multitude of trucks come and go every day.

The project is designed as a way to boost jobs in the industrial district by shortening freight travel times. It is expected to reduce delays and congestion in the area by bringing nearly 20,000 vehicles a day onto the new road.

ODOT will host a public open house to discuss the project from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, at New Hope Community Church, 11731 S.E. Stephens Road, Happy Valley.

Construction of the Sunrise JTA Project is expected to be completed by summer 2016.

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