House Bill 2696 dies after hearing!

The Oregon House Transportation Committee held a hearing on April 8 regarding HB2696, the “Coastal Parkway bill.” The bill did not move forward to a working session, and thus died in this legislative session.

What is of note is how overwhelming the opposition was. In advance of the hearing, 278 people signed the on-line Stop the Coastal Parkway Bill petition, of which 161 sent e-mails in opposition directly to the House Transportation Committee. This contrasted with 1 proponent in writing, and that came from the developer!

Additionally, 93 pieces of written testimony in opposition were submitted vs. 2 in support. Of those who testified at the hearing, 21 we in opposition, 1 neutral and 4 in support (of which two were the developers).  The majority of the “support” were those saying the State needed to explore new approaches to solving our road problems, like tollways.

The Marion County Commissioners provided unanimous opposition in person, making it clear that in addition to destroying high value farm land, there was no public support for this bill. Commission Carlson documented the County resolutions and correspondence in opposition to this development. Commissioner Milne pointed out that while she was in the legislature, she worked on a bill that became law that allows the state to create toll ways-a new law that is project-specific isn’t needed. Commissioner Brentano made clear that the County has opposed this development for years and requested that the committee “just let it die!”

Among the opponents on record are:

Marion County Commissioners
Yamhill County Commissioners
Association of Oregon Counties
Marion County
Farm Bureau Oregon Farm Bureau Oregon
Dairy Association
City of St. Paul
St. Paul Fire Department
1000 Friends of Oregon
Friends of Yamhill County
Friends of French Prairie

Oregon Department of Transportation testified, and while they did not take a position on the specific bill, made clear that current law provides for condemnation when required, and for toll ways, but that they seldom occur because projects like this can’t move forward without both public support and adequate funding.

Dozens of local farmers attended, asserting their opposition by their presence, and making clear that high quality ag land as well as their livelihoods and the French Prairie ag heritage shouldn't be damaged by a law such as this—designed to benefit a for-profit company at the expense of the local citizens.

This was an outstanding example of all parties pulling together (in spite of other differences that might exist) to protect French Prairie and Oregon's historical and agricultural heartland.

House Bill 2696 scheduled for hearing on April 8, 2013

Early in the current (2013) Legislative session, Representatives Jim Thompson-R, Jim Weidner-R, Cliff Bentz-R, Tim Freeman-R, Mitch Greenlick-D, John Huffman-R, Bill Kennemer-R, Greg Matthews-D, Andy Olson-R, Greg Smith-R, Kim Thatcher-R, Gene Whisnant-R, Gail Whitsett-R and Senator Brian Boquist-R sponsored House Bill 2696 “relating to tollway projects and declaring an emergency. 

Download House Bill 2696 here.

Specifically, the bill (if passed) will:

  • Require that “the Department of Transportation shall approve a tollway project proposed by a private entity…
  • “the department shall exercise its power of eminent domain for acquisition of all properties necessary for the project that the private entity is unable to purchase.”
  • Enable the construction of a limited-access tollway (freeway) across French Prairie to a new bridge over the Willamette River to Dayton.
  • “Emergency” means the law will go into effect immediately!

Further, in spite of uniform opposition to the Coastal Parkway by large landowners whose property would be impacted, the City of St. Paul and Marion County, the developer, Coastal Parkway LLC, has convinced some State legislators that this project is necessary. Undoubtedly the selling points include:

  • Coastal Parkway delivering direct access from I-5 to Highway 18 (i.e. direct access to the coast)
  • Donation of the Coastal Parkway to the State of Oregon after 30 years

The facts still remain:

  • This is a “solution” only the for-profit developer is looking for;
  • French Prairie contains the finest ag lands in the State and they should not be ruined for the benefit of for-profit highway development;
  • Marion County and the vast majority of local land owners oppose it;
  • This project would cut French Prairie in half and create a corridor for development into the future

Over 200 e-mails and letters in opposition have been submitted to the House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.  In response to the initial opposition, Rep. Thatcher has withdrawn her name as a sponsor.

What can you do?  Sign the FOFP petition in opposition at: Click here

What’s wrong with this Bill

Current statutes require ODOT to approve projects such as this, and give ODOT the right acquisition via eminent domain. This Bill changes “may” to “shall” and forces ODOT to approve this project and acquire private land for it.  Besides the impact on French Prairie, this is a bad law—specifically designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many!
Stay tuned for details to be posted here as they develop!

Feb., 2013 - Marion County Commissioners again state opposition to Coastal Parkway

In addition to the Resolution passed in 2006 (Resolution 06-5R) opposing a limited-access freeway across French Prairie, Marion County Commissioners have reiterated their “adamant” opposition to the Coastal Parkway on Feb. 13, 2013, pointing out that:

  • The proposal violates guidelines and desires regarding farmland preservation and protection in the French Prairie area;
  • There is no desire on the part of the Board of Commissioners to depart from the regionally approved Newberg-Dundee bypass planned by the Oregon Department of Transportation, and
  • The Board of Commissioners has stated it will not be compelled to use the power of condemnation for the Coastal Parkway project and BH 2696 is a direct attempt to undermine local control.

Download a copy of the Commissioners letter here.

Marion County Commissioners State Opposition to Coastal Parkway

On April 15, 2010, the Marion County Commissioners held a Work Session at the request of Coastal Parkway LLC, to hear the proposed project for a privately funded toll way across French Prairie. In addition to reminding the attendees of three previous County Commissioner resolutions opposing a "regional parkway" across French Prairie, the Commissioners clearly stated their opposition to the proposed project, citing the need to protect farm land and the County agriculture industry, the land use and legal complications that would be involved, the absence of willing sellers of the needed land, and questionable projections for project costs.

[Read a summary of the Work Session in PDF]

Coastal Parkway

In recent months, a transportation idea that has been around for years has arisen once again, but this time with apparent significant financial backing.  That idea is a limited access highway across French Prairie, to provide more efficient truck traffic to and from McMinnville and I-5 as well as faster access to the Oregon coast.  In this case, the idea appears in the form of Coastal Parkway, LLC, a limited liability corporation in Newberg fronted by Robert Youngman. 

Coastal Parkway LLC first appeared on the radar screen late last year when Youngman presented the concept to the Dundee and Newberg City Councils. He positioned it as having he support of Cascade Steel and Evergreen Aviation. In January the Newberg Planning commission documented in their meeting the fact that the City is considering expansion of their UGB Industrial Zone south toward the Hwy 210 Willamette River Bridge, and a point of discussion was highway access to I-5 via McKay/Yergen/Ehlen Road.

The proposal is for a private, limited access (i.e. freeway) toll road in one of five proposed routes across French Prairie from I-5, across the Willamette River to Hwy 221 at Dayton.

Download the Project Map here

In early February Youngman began trying to meet informally with farmers in St Paul and Donald to build grass roots support, and has subsequently met with the City of Donald. They have previously met with City of Salem Public Works, Marion County Public Works, representatives of ODOT and have additional municipal meetings scheduled:

  • Monday, April 12, 2010 at 6:30 pm with Mayor and City Council of St Paul
  • Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 9:00 am with Marion County Commissioners in Salem
  • Tuesday May 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm, with Mayor and City Council of Donald.

The positioning sell is for a privately funded parkway to address chronic transportation problems across French Prairie which neither the State of Oregon nor Marion County have the funds to address. They claim this type of project would help "farmers get their products to market," and imply that it would make the Dundee Bypass unnecessary.

The project proposal contains five possible routes, all originating at different points on I-5, and terminating at Dayton. What is striking is that the design includes only three interchanges: one at I-5, one on Hwy 219 north of St Paul, and the third at Hwy 221 at Dayton. All other north/south roads in French Prairie would either be crossed with an overpass or dead-ended. This is clearly not a project designed to provide any benefit to French Prairie, and virtually none to Marion County. It is designed to directly benefit Yamhill County and businesses in the McMinnville area, and provide some improvement for private traffic flow to and from the Oregon Coast.

What it proposes to do is cut French Prairie in half, and consume the best farmland in the country in the process in order to benefit the few.  Coastal Parkway LLC apparently has a number of yet undisclosed investors, who clearly stand to make large profits if the project were to go forward.

Friends of French Prairie is collecting signatures on a petition to present to the Marion County Commissioners on April 15 to make clear that the farmers and residents of French Prairies are adamantly opposed to this project.

To learn more and sign the petition, call:

Ben Williams at 503.568.5670

Marcie Garritt at 503.633.4660

Cindi Elliott at 503.702.4402


Download the Project Map here


Recent media coverage of this Current Issue

Mayor speaks out about private bypass
April 20, 2010
[Download PDF here]

Local group proposes private bypass
April 10, 2010
[Download PDF here]

Proposed toll road runs into opposition
April 4, 2010
[Download PDF here]

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