>The Oregon Transportation Commission approves $6.2 million in road projects for Jefferson County
News Editor
   The Oregon Transportation Commission approved last Wednesday $400 million toward statewide road and bridge improvements, directing $6.2 million for three projects in Jefferson County including Madras' north junction where Highway 26 meets U.S. 97.
   The Culver Highway Preservation project and funding for improvements to Butte Street in Metolius were also approved by the commission under House Bill 2142, known as the Oregon Transportation Improvement Act.
   The north junction project will reconfigure the intersection of U.S. Highway 97 and U.S. Highway 26, adding a second northbound travel lane to Highway 97 and a traffic signal north of Pine Street on the end of the 4th and 5th Street couplet. It will cost $2.9 million. The City of Madras coughed up $25,000 in matching funds.
   The Culver Highway project will include the overlay of 11.6 miles of roadway on Highway 361 beginning in Madras all the way through Culver. The $3.1 million project will include widening of the roadway, culvert replacement, bridge repair, guardrail upgrades and feature sidewalk and lighting enhancements within the Culver and Metolius city limits.
   The $205,000 Butte Street Pavement Preservation project will repair Butte Street from Dover Lane to 9th Street to bring the roadway up to city standards.
   The announcement of funding for the $2.9 million north junction project in Madras was a welcomed one by city, county and ODOT officials who two months ago expected the troublesome intersection to be left out of the loop.
   "I'm very excited for it. It's a project that was needed and will fit well with future expansion," said Bob Sjolund, who sat on the Central Oregon Area Commission on Transportation, an advisory group that helped determine where the money was directed. "It's pedestrian friendly, it's business friendly and it makes sense."
   "I think it turned out to be a good deal not only for Madras and Jefferson County but for the entire Region 4," said Gary Farnsworth, ODOT's Region 4 Area Manager. "We were pretty happy because we were really concerned about that project in Madras being really on the edge there. But it wasn't done until it was done."
   In late October COACT, which was told it had $10 million to spend on lane-capacity projects in the tri-county area, ranked the north junction project third on its priority list of lane-capacity improvement projects but a higher regional commission moved a less-expensive project in Prineville ahead on the list.
   However, ODOT Region 4 officials, taking note of how urgently Madras officials desired funding for the dangerous junction, worked out a deal with other regions to redistribute some of the available $400 million.
   "It was a give and take sort of thing that was a win win for all the regions," Farnsworth said. "This was an opportunity we didn't have before."
   Construction on the north junction is tentatively scheduled to begin in August 2004. It has been identified as a problem area for several years as daily traffic through the junction has steadily increased. Southbound trucks on Highway 97 turning onto U.S. 26 often perform dangerous left turns that impede northbound traffic on 26.
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