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Construction projects make roads safer, put private sector to work.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jeff Scheick For The Register-Guard

Maintaining our highways and keeping freight routes free of detours are ways of stimulating the local economy and enhancing the state's well-being. The Oregon Department of Transportation is doing that and more in the Eugene-Springfield area.

The recent completion of the Willamette and McKenzie River detour bridges allowed the department to restore normal traffic to Interstate 5 after the agency discovered shear cracks throughout the reinforced concrete beams supporting the bridge decks. To keep the cracks from growing worse, heavy truck loads were banned from the bridges, forcing big trucks to take a major detour.

By building the detour bridges quickly and ahead of schedule, we were able to save the trucking industry - and ultimately consumers and the local economy - almost $40 million in added costs and least six more years of detours around the Eugene-Springfield area.

The project also meant jobs for local workers. The contractor, Hamilton Construction of Springfield, hired both laborers and skilled workers, and finished the $30 million project ahead of schedule.

The state will continue improving local highways over the next several years. In the upcoming months, the heavily used Interstate 105 corridor will receive new auxiliary lanes to make traveling between Interstate 5 and Delta Highway easier and safer. New guardrails and shoulder and median barriers will make the highway better for drivers. A new asphalt pavement will replace the original concrete-cement pavement that was lifting and in constant need of repair. This work will improve the movement of goods and people along this busy corridor and within the metropolitan area.

Another major highway project is the I-5/Belt Line interchange project, set to begin construction in 2006. The project will rebuild the interchange at I-5 and Belt Line Road to meet modern design and safety standards.

As the principal entry from the freeway into the Eugene-Springfield area, the I-5/Belt Line interchange serves large, regionally significant commercial and manufacturing centers that provide jobs for more than 5,000 people today, and an estimated 15,000 jobs by 2015.

Major work is not limited to our area. The department is building new projects and providing jobs throughout the state.

Over the last four years, the Oregon Legislature passed three bills known collectively as the Oregon Transportation Investment Acts. Their purpose was to improve highways and to help resuscitate Oregon's economy by generating jobs for Oregonians and creating work for Oregon firms. The acts provided for almost $3 billion in new investment in Oregon.

The Legislature directed the Department of Transportation to accomplish hundreds of highway and bridge projects without adding any staff. Rather than adding 600 employees, the department was told to hire a private sector firm to manage the delivery of a 10-year, $1.3 billion bridge repair or replacement program.

Last year alone, the department completed 114 projects statewide at a total contract cost of $355 million. The department estimates that 18 family-wage jobs are sustained for every $1 million in construction. The bottom line is that the state is supplying private sector jobs in our community and throughout the state, as instructed by the governor and Legislature.

Jeff Scheick is manager of the Oregon Department of Transportation's Region 2, headquartered in Salem, which includes the Willamette Valley, the central Coast and the western Cascades.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 25, 2005
Words:552
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