Committee hears argument for ‘Westside Bypass’

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SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — After watching traffic build and build, Representative Rich Vial says it’s time to get to work on a solution.

Vial, a Republican from Scholls, defended his new bill in front of the House Committee on Transportation Policy, where he serves as vice-chair on Monday.

“We’re not asking for any money with this bill, we’re only asking for a different way to look at funding major projects,” Vial said.

State Representative Rich Vial, R-Scholls, April 5, 2017 (KOIN)

The bill would allow all jurisdictions to talk about financing new highways themselves. It’s a move he says gives power back to local governments, even if they don’t want a highway.

“These folks are saying ‘we don’t want a bypass’. That’s fine. If you don’t want a road in your area, don’t join the group,” he said.

One idea is for a new north-south corridor called the Westside Bypass. The freeway would route traffic off I-5 somewhere around Wilsonville and take it through Washington County to Hillsboro.

Vial made the case that a new highway would likely be tolled. A number of people spoke out against the bill, including Meeky Blizzard, an advocate for livable communities, who was fighting a Westside Bypass even in the 1990s.

“Trying to get rid of highway congestion by building another road is like trying to get rid of your dog’s fleas by getting another dog,” Blizzard says.

But Vial and the bill’s supporters say a new highway needs to happen. Their constituents want it because the current system isn’t working for them.

“We can continue to tell ourselves that we’ll solve this with trains, buses and bikes, but I think that is a lie that we now need to recognize we can no longer afford,” Vial said.

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