With $175 million up for grabs, mayors are haggling with the county government over who gets what project funded and built

It's Christmastime in the halls of Washington County government.

Every five years the mayors and city councilors of the county's cities put together their wish list of transportation improvements and start lobbying for a slice of the $35 million pie that will be sliced up each year.

It's MSTIP time in the county.

The Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program, or MSTIP, has transformed the county's road network since it was first established as a ballot measure in 1986. Since then, it's paid for projects like Sunset Drive in Forest Grove and the roundabouts north of Cornelius. MSTIP funds also have funded the redevelopment of 185th Street from Highway 26 to the TV Highway.

And, now, the program has become a permanent fixture of the Washington County budget. Most of the $35 million the county spends each year on MSTIP projects comes from property tax proceeds from the last MSTIP ballot measure which passed in 1995 and turned into a permanent tax rate in 1997 when voters approved Ballot Measure 50.

That was MSTIP 3. Each five-year cycle since the funds were dedicated gets a letter added to the name. The project cycle being haggled over today is MSTIP 3d.

The short list

County leaders began developing a list of road projects throughout the county earlier this year and have so far wound up with a list about $300 million in projects. County and city officials now need to whittle that down to the $175 million the county will have available over the next five years of MSTIP 3d.

But that might take too much time, and with road work, delays can push projects past the summer construction season and into oblivion.

In order to avoid missing a construction cycle, county officials have proposed a short list of projects that are either left over from previous iterations of MSTIP or could get off the ground quickly because much of their design work and engineering is already completed.

Right now, the short list consists of:

• Martin Road from Highway 47 to south of its intersection with Verboort Road: $9.3 million

• Farmington Road from Murray Blvd. to 141st Avenue: $11.3 million

• Walker Road from 158th Avenue to 173rd Avenue: $5.8 million

• Tualatin-Sherwood Road from Adams Avenue to Borchers Drive: $10.5 million

• Walnut Street from 116th Avenue to Tiedeman Avenue: $4.7 million

• Scholls Ferry Road Curve Realignment (west of Tile Flat Road): $4.3 million

• Rural bridge rehabilitation (location to be determined): $2.9 million

• Baseline Road from 231st Avenue to Brookwood Avenue: $10.5 million

Each project is supposed to be non-controversial, ready for construction in 2014, and feature no problematic right-of-way issues.

County staff hopes to get the project short list settled before June, and winnow the larger list afterward.

Local aspirations

But not everyone's happy with the initial short list. Cornelius mayor Jef Dalin sent the county a letter requesting that its 10th Avenue connection project, which would install street improvements between Alpine and Barlow, be added to the short list.

'This segment between Alpine and Barlow includes critical signalized intersections with the Highway 8 couplet and is 90 percent designed,' Dalin wrote. 'We can start construction as early as July 1, 2012.'

Included with Dalin's letter were letters from Cornelius Wal-Mart manager Colt Benson and Plaid Pantry CEO William 'Chris' Girard.

Cornelius also hopes to have a project funded by MSTIP that would improve 19th Avenue between the newly completed Susbauer Bridge and Baseline Street.

David Hill extension

Forest Grove also hopes to influence the MSTIP list. City leaders are pushing to have a David Hill Road project, which would extend the road from its terminus at Brooke Street to Highway 47.

Right now, the Martin Road project outranks the David Hill project because it's closer to being fully designed, said Forest Grove mayor Pete Truax.

But the ultimate goal is for the David Hill extension to be built, and keep it on the list of proposed MSTIP projects as county and city leaders settle on the final list of $175 million in improvements.

'The important thing is to keep it on the list, period,' Truax said.

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