Legislature sets aside $9.5 million to improve safety on busy road

State legislators passed a funding package last week that included $9.5 million to address hazards on Cornelius Pass Road, the winding road south of Scappoose linking Highway 30 and U.S. Highway 26.

Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose), co-vice chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, led the effort to pass Senate Bill 1543. The money comes from excess funds from the 2009 Jobs and Transportation Act. The bill also includes $5 million to complete the Sellwood Bridge Interchange. The Senate passed the bill Feb. 29 and the House of Representatives passed it March 1.

Johnson said it was important to her constituents to address congestion and safety problems on Cornelius Pass Road. Many commuters use the road as a shortcut to jobs in west Washington County, but it can be particularly dangerous during peak commuting hours and winter conditions.

In 2008, the death of Scappoose teenager Taijia Bellwood prompted calls for a safety study. An audit conducted by the Federal Highway Administration made general recommendations to improve safety in 18 areas.

'This legislation is particularly important considering the Federal Highway Administration's report on needed safety improvements to Cornelius Pass,' Johnson said in a statement. 'We shouldn't wait for another tragic loss of life before we fix what is widely considered

one the most dangerous stretches of road in Multnomah County.'

Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) was also instrumental in lobbying for the legislation, a testament to bipartisan cooperation, Johnson said. Starr's District 15 contains the more urban portions of Cornelius Pass Road in Washington County, which has undergone significant improvement.

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