Oregon transportation officials voted Wednesday to spend another $100 million from the federal stimulus package, boosting the number of construction jobs to be created this summer to 3,300.
By Brad Cain
The Associated Press
SALEM — Oregon transportation officials voted Wednesday to spend another $100 million from the federal stimulus package, boosting the number of construction jobs to be created this summer to 3,300.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski praised the vote, saying with Oregon's unemployment reaching 10.8 percent, it's imperative for the state to act quickly "to get paychecks into the hands of workers."
Of the $100 million in projects approved by the state Transportation Commission Wednesday, about 60 percent will involve highway restoration and upkeep. The other dollars will go to rail, ports, public transit and bicycle and pedestrian paths.
In Jackson County, projects include $9.2 million to add pavement preservation to Highway 62 from Poplar Drive in Medford to Avenue H in White City and Highway 140 to milepost 8, and $2.7 million for grinding and paving 11 miles of Interstate 5 between mileposts 11 and 18 in the Ashland area.
Last month, the commission approved $122 million in projects, nearly all of it for highway improvements.
That prompted the land-use watchdog group 1000 Friends of Oregon to urge the commission to spend more of the stimulus money on mass-transit and bike projects, which would create less pollution and traffic congestion.
The group's executive director, Bob Stacey, said that shifting $40 million of the stimulus money to nonhighway projects was a step in the right direction, but he wished it could be more.
"It was a missed chance to provide more balance to Oregon's transportation system," Stacey said.
The nonhighway projects that will get some of the federal stimulus money include a new park-and-ride facility at the Albany train station; an upgraded bicycle path between Corvallis and Philomath; and railroad track improvements in Prineville.
Doug Tindall, deputy director for highways for ODOT, said he thinks the approved projects represent a good balance. Tindall also said President Obama and the Congress have made it clear they want the federal stimulus money to go to shovel-ready projects that can quickly create jobs — and in many cases that means highway maintenance projects.
"There's a lot of people out of work right now. We need to get them working," he said.
Located throughout Oregon, the highway projects include everything from asphalt repaving of Interstate 5 near Roseburg to replacing and repairing guardrails on state highways leading to the Oregon Coast to upgrading traffic signals on major arterial roads in the Portland area.