Bill to curb Oregon's rural freight routes dies

| 6/29/2005

A measure that would have prohibited scenic highways in Oregon from being state-designated freight routes has died.

The bill remained in the House Transportation Committee when the chairman closed all panel discussion, effectively killing it for the year. The measure, SB566, passed the Senate 20-4 in April.

Sponsored by Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, the measure sought to prohibit the Oregon Transportation Commission and Department of Transportation from designating a highway or portion of a highway as a freight route if that road is also designated as a historic and scenic highway.

Morrisette’s measure would not have banned trucks from using the routes. It would have made the routes low priorities when it came to the distribution of state dollars for highway modernization projects, such as straightening roadways or adding lanes.

The bill was the result of McKenzie, OR, residents who organized against designating U.S. 126 as a freight route, The Register-Guard reported. They are concerned about preserving the scenic and recreational quality of the area.

Morrisette, however, did receive a pledge from ODOT that the agency would recommend to the Transportation Commission that U.S. 126, east of Springfield, should not be designated as a freight route, the Medford News reported.

A related bill, which sought to define any road that is part of the national highway system – any interstate and U.S. highway – as a freight route, also died.

SB894 remained in the Senate Transportation Committee when the chairman closed all panel discussion. It would have added about 1,700 miles of freight routes in the state.

Currently, Oregon has 2,100 miles of highways designated as freight routes, including all of Interstates 5 84, U.S. 97 and a small portion of U.S. 101 south of Reedsport.