Road project turned down by regional government

Oregon City's troubled plan to enhance and beautify McLoughlin Boulevard has suffered another setback, with the Metro regional government failing to provide $2.8 million to help pay for phase two, which would extend the project from the Rivershore Hotel to the Clackamas River bridge.

'It wasn't that there were any problems with Oregon City's project,' said Metro Councilor Brian Newman. 'There was just a lot of competition in that category. They ended up getting beaten out by a project in Portland and another one in Cornelius.'

According to Newman, the number of projects seeking funding across the region outstripped available resources - meaning that the majority of requests were unmet.

'There are always more requests than we have money available,' he said. 'We awarded $45 million this cycle, and there were a total of $132 million in requests.'

Phase one was derailed earlier this year by environmental concerns, when it was revealed that the city had inadvertently failed to adhere to proper procedures regarding a stand of trees along the Willamette that would have to be cut for the project to move ahead.

'I'm personally disappointed that Oregon City was not successful, but I am confident that it will eventually get the money,' said Newman. 'This project is too important not to do.

'We're talking about doing a ballot measure in '08 for transportation issues, and if we can build a consensus around that, we could see this Oregon City project as a part of that proposal.'

Further north, Milwaukie fared much better in the biannual Metro Transportation Improvement Program process. The city is set to receive $3.6 million, and will also benefit from an additional $2 million grant awarded by the regional government to pay for preliminary engineering on a proposed light rail line linking it to downtown Portland.

The largest single award, in the amount of $1.5 million, will pay for improvements to Harmony Road between 82nd Avenue and Highway 224.

'The long-term plan has always been to widen Harmony from three lanes to five lanes,' said Newman. 'Also, the railroad will be elevated, so that it passes overhead. When a long freight train goes through that intersection, it really ties up traffic.'

The railroad is also contributing money to the project, along with other community partners.

The trolley trail - a pedestrian path linking Oregon City and Milwaukie along the route of disused rail line - will receive $1.1 million to complete construction on the final phase of the project.

'It used to carry passengers and freight back and forth between Oregon City and Portland,' Newman explained. 'Metro purchased it five years ago with money from our greenspace bond, along with Clackamas Parks and Recreation.'

Engineering and design is already complete for the last stretch of the trail, which will run from north of Concord Street to Echo Glen, where it will link up to an existing trail in Gladstone.

In downtown Milwaukie, a $1 million grant will fund preliminary work related to the replacement of the Kellogg Bridge and the removal of the dam below, responsible for the formation of Kellogg Lake. The overall project is expected to cost $8.7 million, with this infusion of cash from Metro paying for engineering and design.

A planned MAX light rail alignment from downtown Portland to Milwaukie received $2 million in funding, again to pay for advanced design work. The overall project is expected to cost $880 million, with 60 percent of the overall funding flowing from the federal government.

'We're in the environmental impact phase of the project right now,' Newman said. 'When that's done, we'll seek approval from the feds to being preliminary engineering, which is what this money will pay for.'

Overall, Newman regarded the council's decision as a mixed result for the region.

'The fact that we got four strong projects funded is good news,' he said. 'I would like to have done better, especially with the McLoughlin project in Oregon City.'

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