Construction on the Woodburn Interchange Project finally begins

by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Local and state dignitaries shovel ceremonial dirt on the $70 million Woodburn Interchange Project Monday. From left: Phil Bentley, of State Senator Peter Courtneys office, Fritz Graham, representing Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mayor Kathy Figley, ODOT director Matt Garrett, Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), State Rep. Betty Komp, Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne, City Councilors Lisa Ellsworth and Pete McCallum. Not long after the ceremonial dirt clogs were hoisted skyward at Monday’s groundbreaking for the Woodburn Interchange Project, construction followed.

“We are there, now let’s begin,” said Mayor Kathy Figley, who has worked on the interchange project in some capacity for most, if not all of her 23 years in elected office.

The phased, $70 million construction project is expected to be completed by 2016 and to generate 370 family-wage jobs in the Woodburn area. It could create a total of 550 jobs for Oregon shortly following construction, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the project. There may be headaches, but the project is likely to unify Woodburn east and west of Interstate 5 and stimulate business development along the Highway 214 and Highway 219 corridor, said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), who represents Woodburn’s Fifth District in JEFF MCDONALD  - District 5 Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) spoke at the Woodburn Interchange Project groundbreaking Monday.

“This will put Woodburn on the map,” Schrader said. “Citizens will notice when this is completed. This is a big deal for Woodburn.”

Schrader envisions improved connectivity that will boost development of 400 acres of industrial land just west of current city limits.

The project also is expected to help Woodburn from a public safety perspective, said State Rep. Betty Komp (D-Woodburn), who has worked on funding the project at the state level.

As an area teacher in the 1990s, Komp said she was inspired to fight for the new interchange after a student’s mother was killed due to its faulty design in a vehicle accident.

Four areas in the interchange area are rated as among the 5 percent or 10 percent worst on the state’s Safety Priority Index System, which means they have a high incidence for crashes with serious injuries, according to ODOT.

“We needed this,” Komp said. “Woodburn needed this.”

Funding never was a lock for the project, Komp said. At one point in 2009, a colleague doubted the project would ever get funded.

“He owes me a dinner,” she said. “He promised me a really nice dinner if this happened.”

The city of Woodburn is shelling out $8 million toward the project — $2.5 million it has already contributed and the $5.5 million remaining it has set aside in a reserve fund.

Additionally, the state’s Jobs and Transportation Act added $52 million to the funding and the federal government contributed about $10 million through its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program and other earmarks, according to ODOT.

The interchange is one of the top two projects in the state, said Tim Potter, ODOT’s Area 3 manager for Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties.

The other top project is the Newberg-Dundee Bypass Project, which just began its $262 million first phase that will last through 2016, Potter said. by: JEFF MCDONALD - ODOT officials Shane Ottosen, left, project manager, and Tim Potter, Area 3 manager, say construction on the Woodburn Interchange Project will begin this week.

“From a sheer management, dollar amount and time it will take to complete, this is a significant project,” Potter said. “But Woodburn needed it for traffic and safety.”

The biggest challenge during Woodburn’s four-phase project will be to keep traffic moving and have as little impact on businesses as possible, Potter said.

Phase one of the project will include placing a storm sewer pipe down the center of the highway to Settlemier Avenue. Other parts of phase one include expanding the Evergreen Road intersection, building a multi-modal transit facility and widening an embankment around the interchange, he said.

Potter expects phase one to be completed by November and most of the work impacting traffic will be done at night, he said.

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