WEP "No Build"

promised June 2001, again July 2006, decision March 2007

WEP Alternative would be built now if 2001 Charette "No Build" consensus had been adopted

Mayor Jim Torrey, County Commissioner Bobby Green and Oregon Transportation Commissioner Randy Pape (brother of then City Councilor Gary Pape) were part of the West Eugene Charette consensus decision of June 2001 to cancel the WEP because it was too illegal and too expensive. But despite this agreement, Torrey, Green and Pape kept promoting the WEP for years, encouraging ODOT to spend millions of dollars "studying" a failed project even after they knew it could not be built. If these politicians had agreed to the intergovernmental consensus of June 2001, the money spent on these studies could have been used to fix West 11th intersections and other efforts to mitigate traffic flow problems in west Eugene.

ODOT's decision in June 2001 to select “No Build” and move to implement fixes to existing roads in the area would cost much less and not wreck the West Eugene Wetlands nature preserve.

The ODOT NO BUILD promise came as a surprise to WEP opponents, but when ODOT officials were asked if this would translate into a transfer of funds from the WEP toward the completion of Belt Line and transfer of the ODOT lands for the WEP to the BLM there were not any firm answers – and the decision was not implemented.

This informal but public decision was ignored by the Eugene City Council, despite their presence at the "West Eugene Charette" (Mayor Torrey was part of the Charette consensus for "no build"). ODOT resumed work on the WEP after a 51 to 49 vote of the Eugene voters in November 2001 – even though the WEP is a Federal Highway Administration decision whether it can be built or not.

If ODOT's decision in June 2001 for “No Build” had been implemented then, we could have already transferred the money for WEP toward alternative projects: finishing Belt Line and repairing 99, fixing West 11th intersections (at $2 million, that would be half the money already spent to STUDY the WEP), and other, sensible parts of the WEP Alternative.

Four years would be plenty of time to transfer the money, publish a revised Environmental Assessment (needed for the redesigned completion of Belt Line) and to build the road parts of the alternative.

In other words, if the Pape brothers, Mayor Torrey, and their developer backers hadn't blocked ODOT's decision in 2001, the road part of the alternative would be built by now.

 

If we had campaign finance reform in Oregon, the WEP debate would have been settled years ago, and the WEP would be part of a long list of dead highways:

  • I-105 through south Eugene (the “Washington-Jefferson” bridge was not originally planned to end at 6th and 7th Avenues -- the initial design would have decimated neighborhoods in south Eugene to Amazon Park)
  • the Skinner Butte Freeway (a proposed expressway along the river through downtown Eugene to the University of Oregon)
  • the Belt Line through the South Hills of Eugene (two different routes were planned, the larger version would have passed next to Spencer Butte and end at Lane Community College)
  • the Mt. Hood Freeway through southeast Portland (the MAX light rail system from Pioneer Square to Gresham was built as a substitute project)
  • freeways through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (several highways would have torn up countless historic neighborhoods)
  • I-40 through Overton Park in Memphis (perhaps the most famous legal case regarding highways, Overton Park was protected by the Supreme Court in 1971 when they upheld the legality of “Section 4(f),” a law that prohibits federal aid highways through parks)

scan of part of summary report about June 2001 West Eugene Charette

ODOT

1. It cannot commit to keep the $17 Million allocated to the WEP Unit 1 in West Eugene or even in Lane County. It will need to reallocate this money by October [2001], unless an acceptable project is developed for this area.

2. Proceed with preserving the function of West 11th Avenue (OR 126) as an expressway west of Belt Line.

3. Finish Belt Line Phase 3 improvements to West 11th Avenue.

4. Close out West Eugene Parkway Environmental Impact Statement with “No-Build” as the preferred solution.

– “Report on the Outcomes of the West Eugene Area Transportation Charette,” June 18-19, 2001, St. Mary’s Conference Center, Eugene, Oregon, prepared by CH2M Hill, 23 June 2001

(this was a decision agreed to by the City of Eugene, Lane County, State and Federal agencies -- but never implemented)

M I N U T E S Eugene City Council Work Session July 25, 2001 ...

Mr. Farr said he had begun to resign himself to the fact the parkway was gone. There was no political will on the part of the council or community to move forward. The result was continued degradation of West 11th Avenue that would soon begin to affect residential neighborhoods unless something was done. He said that a potential solution was to route traffic off West 11th Avenue to Belt Line to Roosevelt Boulevard out to Highway 99, but that would require reconstruction of several intersections. He asked what would happen if the City came up with such a solution: could the engineering be done by October in time for submittal to ODOT? Mr. Reinhard thought it would take more study than could be done by October. Mr. Farr asked what chance the City had to get funding from the State for those projects. Mr. Pirrie responded that the money reallocated from the parkway would go to other State projects. ODOT had no authority to spend those dollars on right-of-way outside the State system, unless it was associated with a major State project.


Comment from Mark Robinowitz:

The intersection work proposed for Belt Line / Roosevelt and Highway 99 / Roosevelt would be State responsibilities and would qualify for ODOT funding.

Intersection repairs along West 11th east of Belt Line should also receive State assistance, because 126 has been informally routed along this major arterial for many years. ODOT’s road budget is much larger than the City’s and it would be appropriate compensation to the City for not building the WEP. Some ODOT staff have privately agreed this would be fair, but that is not a formal commitment.