OR 126 highway widening: Eugene to Veneta

Oregon Highway Plans: $18 billion
Portland's highway history
Portland Western Bypass
Columbia River Crossing: 16 lane I-5
Salem I-305 - new bridge
Medford 62 Bypass
Bend Porkway - US 97 upgrade

new highways under construction:
Newberg Dundee Bypass
Sunrise Highway: Clackamas County

Lane County: Eugene, Springfield
West Eugene Porkway: 1951 - 2007
Beltline I-5: super-sized interchange
Beltline: 11 lane widening plans
Troubled Bridges Over Water (I-5)
Springfield: 126 freeway upgrade
126 widening: Eugene to Veneta

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From 1999 to 2007, I tracked the technical details of the proposed (and ultimately canceled) West Eugene Porkway. The WEP would have been a bypass of West 11th Avenue, terminating on Highway 126 just east of Fern Ridge Lake.

Federal regulations - and case law - requires that the full project be approved in one Environmental Impact Statement / Record of Decision, and not be "segmented" into multiple projects to avoid full disclosure of impacts. Where a road proposal precisely terminates is sometimes a matter of controversy (and litigation), and FHWA requires projects to not force additional construction not considered in an EIS - not because they want to do this, but because this requirement has been tested in court.

During my involvement in the WEP debates, the highwaymen at ODOT, Federal Highway Administration and the City of Eugene got nervous when I raised the issues of "logical termini," which is highway speak for "where the highway ends." They did not want the extra hassles of the wetlands destruction permits for going across the lake, they already had enough hurdles for the section of the highway through the West Eugene Wetlands: Section 4(f), Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, FHWA design regulations, among other laws.

In 2001, I was part of a group of Greens who met with then State Representative Floyd Prozanski to discuss environmental concerns. I asked him what he thought of the WEP and he replied that he was against it because it would force construction of a "causeway" (his term) across the lake to Veneta, and that would be especially destructive and unlikely to receive environmental approvals. Prozanski is originally from San Antonio, Texas, home of the highway fight that prompted enactment of Section 4(f), which prohibits federal aid highways through parks. www.peaktraffic.org/4f.html has details about this law, the strongest that applies to highway approvals (and ultimately the reason the WEP was canceled).

In 2012, ODOT and Lane County started a new study to widen 126 from the (canceled) WEP terminus across the lake to the City of Veneta. They held some dog-and-pony shows in the Veneta area, hired some technical and public relations consultants, and issued a report promoting a four to five lane wide highway across the lake. As typical for these reports, they leveraged some real safety concerns into promotion for highway widening despite the complete lack of funding for the proposal. The widening would be well into the hundred million dollars plus budget, and this is money that does not exist in the long term transportation funding plans for the region.

Safety hazards for high speed traffic for this narrow arterial could be better addressed with judicious use of turn lanes, perhaps a passing lane where the highway does not go over water, and lowered speed limits. Ultimately, the driver license renewal process should require applicants to know about driving regulations, including when one must cede right of way to other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

highway126.org - official site

"The County Board of Commissioners adopted the Highway 126 Fern Ridge Corridor Plan on February 12, 2013. Residents, elected officials, and staff from Veneta testified in full support of the plan. The plan was adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission for final adoption in the spring of 2013. The plan includes both spot improvements for safety and function that can be enacted in the short-term as well as long-term improvements. The City of Veneta is currently seeking funding sources to move the project proposal forward for a multi-use path off the highway."

note: Commissioner Pete Sorenson was the lone voice of dissent for the County's adoption of the plan (another 4 to 1 vote).


the full report is at: