BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

REGULAR MEETING

October 13, 2004

1:30 p.m.

Commissionersí Conference Room

APPROVED 5/11/05

 

Commissioner Bobby Green, Sr., presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Don Hampton, Anna Morrison and Peter Sorenson present.County Administrator Bill Van Vactor, County Counsel Teresa Wilson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present. 

 

19. PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

a. PUBLIC HEARING AND ORDER 04-10-13-11/In the Matter of Endorsing New Freight Routes on Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Highways in Lane County.

 

Tom Stinchfield, Public Works, stated the staff report recommended that the Board defer action until Wednesday, October 20, 2004, after the Metropolitan Policy Committee discusses the issue for the metro area.He said it was up to the Board if they wanted to do something today or wait until next week.He added there is time pressure to comment back to the state.He said they asked for comments in September and they werenít able to get that done.He said if they comment by next week, the materials could go straight to the committee for their end of October meeting.He recommended that the Board do something with this next week.

 

Robin Marshburg, ODOT, explained they are trying to identify key state highways that have significant freight tonnage that are the primary connections to the ports and intermodal facilities.He added they are not truck routes, trucks are allowed on all state highways.He said they are trying to identify the state highways that link to important roadways for freight.He recalled in 1999 the state highway freight system was established and consisted of 2,100 miles of state highway.

 

Marshburg said they were re-examining this because the Oregon Transportation Commission had a meeting involving the highway segment designation process and they wanted to simplify things.He said they wanted local government support for the highway segment designation.He indicated during the process the stakeholders were concerned about the impacts the highway segments had for the freight routes.He thought they should revisit the state highway freight system to see if they have the right methodology to select the appropriate highways for the freight system.He said they formed an advisory committee to review staff reports.He said an important part of the staff report is that they have defined the implications and the significance of the freight route designations.He said they have developed criteria to look at additional freight routes.He said they applied the criteria and considerations and came up with additional routes and proposed changes to the OHP Policy as a result.

 

Marshburg explained there are four key areas where there are significant impacts on the freight route designation.He said a mobility standard is a key issue that impacts cities on a freight route.He said the Oregon Highway Plan requires higher mobility standards or less congestion for freight routes.He said it could lead to a more rigorous standard for review of plan amendments and zone changes.He said highway design is impacted if they are on a freight route.He said other highway design issues would be the roadway width, median barriers and intersection design.He noted that funding would be impacted.He said the Oregon Highway Plan states that the freight system designation does not guarantee additional investment but there is a STIP guidance document that recommends that the OHP policies (including the one on the freight system) be considered for the development STIP modernization and preservation project prioritization.

 

Marshburg indicated that HB 2041 states that in developing the STIP, ODOT shall give priority to freight mobility projects on identified freight routes that are of statewide or regional significance.He said they found the definition of freight mobility projects is larger than the OHP freight routes.He said the system is currently 2,100 miles of state highway freight system and the current draft proposal is to add 919 more miles or a 43% increase.

 

Stinchfield explained there are five individual routes included on the recommended list in Lane County.He said there is the Florence-Eugene Highway and the staff recommendation is that link in the state system should be added.He said they saw it as a major connectivity issue for Lane County to the coast, Highway 101 and I-5.He said it has a moderate volume of tonnage and percentage of trucks.He said it is possible that there could be city issues in Florence or Veneta.He said Highway 126 to the east is on the list and so is the connecting link up to Highway 20 to the Santiam Pass.He noted the truck volumes are similar on the lower section of the McKenzie Highway but not as heavy on the upper section.They raised concerns about environmental issues along the McKenzie corridor.He said they are not making a recommendation on the McKenzie.He said it doesnít have the same connectivity issues as the Florence Eugene Highway due to the Highway 58 route that is already a statewide freight route.

 

Stinchfield indicated that the Beltline Highway has the highest usage by percentage and tonnage on the east end in the County.He said there could be challenges in developing projects in meeting ODOTís standards in the Beltline corridor because it is congested already.He said because Beltline is primarily an expressway already, most of the standard issues are the same whether it is a freight route or not.

 

Marshburg said they had received a letter from Corvallis not to include 99W.

 

Stinchfield said that Highway 99 to Junction City from Beltline is part of the NHS system and is a regional highway north of the airport.He said the standard issues would change.They referred this to the city of Junction City and have not heard anything on the issue.He said they understood there was some generalized concern about designating Highway 99 and how it might affect the communities the highway goes through.He noted that no formal action had been taken.

 

Green asked if any other ACTS had responded collectively as a formal body.

 

Marshburg responded that the Northwest ACT had sent a letter stating they would not like any of US 101 to be part of the freight route.He added the South East ACT was in favor of US 395 being included.

 

Sorenson asked what the advantage was to having a highway designated a freight highway.

 

Stinchfield said the primary advantage is modernization funding and other funding programs by the state will be focused on the freight route system.He said the freight routes would have advantages in competing for funding.He noted the downside is the standards issues and the difficulty to achieve those standards.He commented that freight route designation might lead to difficulties in project development and less flexibility in the application of standards.

 

Commissioner Green opened the Public Hearing.

 

Roger Bennett, Florence, spoke in favor of the inclusion of Highway 126 between Eugene and Florence and the Beltline for the freight route system.He said they see potential for increased opportunity for movement back and forth to the cities and the Port of Siuslawís industrial park areas to be enhanced by this.He said the city has a business park that is beginning to be developed but had not reached its full potential.He added the Port of Siuslaw holds 40 acres next to the industrial park which they intend to pursue a certification under the state industrial site certification program.He thought that the opportunity for economic development was present and needed to be enhanced by the ability to move goods and services across the highway.He said the design standard favored traveling back and forth from Eugene and Florence.He noted that portions of the road were in poor condition and other portions are narrower than the rest of the coastal routes that are freight routes that serve the coast and the valley.He said they want rideability and safety enhanced.

 

Keith Tattersall, McKenzie Highway, said he was surprised they were considering making Highway 126 into a freight route.He thought it would be something they could never recover from and it didnít make any sense.He commented that there wasnít more notification for something serious. He thought to make McKenzie Highway a freight route for the enrichment of a few businesses and people would be a major crime.

 

Megan Finnessy, McKenzie Watershed Council, stated the McKenzie Portion of 126 is considered a scenic highway and there is a lot of recreation taking place.She noted there were boat ramps along the highway with traffic moving in and out.She said there are traffic concerns because Walterville Elementary School is on the highway.She added that any amount of increased traffic will affect water quality and the City of Eugeneís reliance on the McKenzie River for drinking water.She encouraged the Board to think about those issues when they make their decision.

 

James King, President of Scenic McKenzie Association for Safe Highways, noted they have seen what has taken place in their neighborhood with the bridge failures on I-5.He said they have trucks running up and down the roads.He said they are having jake brake problems.He said they are worried about the water quality as any accident or spill on the highway would contaminate the streams and water quality.

 

Patrick Dibala, lives up the McKenzie in Blue River.He stated he was against any freight route designation for the reasons previously stated.

 

Richard Lauer, McKenzie Bridge, said he is a business owner and his family has been on the river for 52 years.He said he has been overwhelmed by the number of trucks that are already on the highway.He heard there was not clarity about the number of trucks and the impact on the highway.He commented that CVALCO was working hard to bring the tourists to the area and is anxious about truck traffic.He added there arenít any facilities for trucks along the highway.He said there are no truck stops or lots for truckers to get out and take a break.

 

Beverly Lauer, McKenzie Bridge, said besides being a recreation area, they are a residential area with a school located near Highway 126.She has noticed an increase in traffic since they moved there three years ago and it is being used as a temporary route for truck traffic while the bridge repairs are taking place.She commented it is a dangerous highway and the truckers exceed the speed limit.

 

Robert Boyer, Vida, said the dollars leveraged for improvement is what they are taking about.He concurred with what had been previously said.He noted since the bridges have been under repair they had noticed an increase in overweight trucks on McKenzie Highway.He didnít think the highway was designed for heavy truck traffic.He added they had just spent $14 million to repave Highway 126 from Finn Rock to McKenzie Bridge.He asked if they designated this highway a freight route if it would increase the volume of traffic.He was against this becoming a freight route.

 

Bob Gresham, commented there was nothing they could do to stop or increase freight traffic.He said they need to use wisdom in dealing with it.His concern was that traffic is heavy and could get worse. He was also concerned for the safety of his family and neighbors.He said he was not opposed to increasing the safety of the road.

 

Shirley Latimer, stated she lives on the McKenzie and is a new resident.She said that 40 feet of her property could be taken for the road.She asked why this was being rushed.She said the trucks run all night and they can hear jake brakes.She was concerned that if there is an accident they could have a hazardous spill and they wonít be able to get rid of chemicals.She commented that if they widen the highway they would take houses and businesses away and they wonít be able to preserve what is left.

 

Phil Barnhart, State Rep. House District 11, stated he represents the area from Springfield east to Leaburg, including a portion of the highway.He reported he held a town meeting on the safety of the highway and learned there are several conflicting uses.He said it is used for local traffic, tourism and long haul freight.He noted there were other routes available for long haul freight in the area.He stated that this road was not needed as a designated freight route.He thought ODOT was pre-empting the choices that should be made at a different level for the economic development of their region.He said he is a supporter of freight movement, but it was not necessary to designate Highway 126 in that way.He said the changes the highway needs are not the kinds of changes that will facilitate high-speed freight routes.He said they need recognition that the highway is a local area used for scenic routes and there are places where the speed limit should be lowered and safety improved.He thought they should do things that reduce speed instead of increasing the speed limit.He asked the Board not to make the decision that would allow ODOT to pre-empt the other economic and life issues that are involved on that stretch of highway.He thought this matter should be postponed for several years and they should get a designation so the scenic highway designation means something and they develop the road for purposes of safety, local traffic and the scenic use.He said they should only use it as a regular freight route in an emergency.

 

Dwyer thought it would be a tragedy if this highway were turned into a freight designation.He wasnít willing to restrict his responsibility as a commissioner to ODOT under any circumstances.

 

Rob Zako, Eugene, stated he represented 1000 Friends of Oregon.He indicated that 1000 Friends of Oregon opposes four of the five proposed freight routes. He said they were comfortable with the Beltline as a freight route.He endorsed the other comments.He said ODOT wanted 75% of the national highway routes to be designed for trucks.He commented the proposal to designate freight highway routes mean the truck use is more important than the others.

 

Doris Simkins, said her concern is about the safety on the highway.She didnít think McKenzie Highway should be a major truck designation.She was also concerned about water quality.

 

Nick Arnis, City of Springfield, presented a letter from Mayor Leiken to staff.He said the Mayorís letter stated that in the Thurston area, on Highway 126 and Main Street intersection, the standards and volume capacity that are part of the freight route were stricter than they are now.He said when they have planning in the area and they want to get a plan designation and changes, they would have to be held to stricter standards.He said in looking at Highway 126 and Main Street, they have to use standards. He said they donít want a stricter standard now when they are trying to figure out what to do with the intersection.He asked for more time to consider the issue.

 

There being no one else signed to speak, Commissioner Green closed the public hearing. 

 

Green said they would keep the record open until October 20.He said they would go on record at MPC with some of what they heard in the public hearing.

 

Dwyer commented it was an issue of local control.

 

Morrison commented that Florence needed the highway designation if they want to thrive as a community.

 

Sorenson said they have to make sure that freight moves.He commented if they dilute support for I-5 or I-84 by creating all the other state highways as freight routes, they would be defeating the main purpose of the freight route.He thought they should continue to listen to the public, learning more and not taking action in support of it.

 

Green indicated that the Board didnít initiate the particular board order.He said they were responding to a request by ODOT.He didnít know if the Board would support this.Green stated the record was still open for written submittals of information from the public until October 20.

 

Stinchfield recalled that this was making a recommendation to the freight route advisory project committee.He said their action is to recommend something to the Oregon Transportation Commission.He said the OTC will have a work session on November 17 and a public hearing on December 14.With regard to Highway 101, he said the staff report acknowledges that connections to Highway 101 are important, but there were reasons why they didnít designate it.

 

20. COMMISSIONERS' ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

None.

 

21. CORRESPONDENCE TO THE BOARD

 

None.

 

22. OTHER BUSINESS

 

None.

 

There being no further business, Commissioner Green adjourned the meeting at 2:45 p.m.

 

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary