Prineville loses funding for Ninth Street project

Federal appropriation would have contributed $1M to realignment

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin

Published: December 29. 2006 5:00AM PST

The city of Prineville has lost $1 million in federal transportation funding for its proposed Ninth Street realignment, potentially delaying the start of construction on the project by two years.

Assistant City Manager Jerry Gillham said he was informed last week – just before the presentation of a final report on the project’s potential socio-economic impact – that the city will not be awarded $1 million through the Federal Highway Administration’s 2007 budget.

That is because the new Democratic leadership in the U.S. Congress has pledged to remove earmarks from appropriations bills for 2007. In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $1 million for the approximately $3.7 million project.

The funding for the Ninth Street arterial would have appeared as a line item in the Federal Highway Administration’s budget, said Mike Morrow, field operations engineer for the Highway Administration’s Salem office. Instead, Congress will use a continuing resolution so that the Highway Administration will operate off its 2006 funding levels, Morrow said. That means earmarks that were not in the 2006 budget won’t receive funding.

“This arterial extension on Ninth was not ever a fully funded project. It was just in a draft budget that didn’t get approved and probably won’t for ’07,” Morrow said. “It doesn’t mean that the project necessarily is dead. They’ll just have to find other monies to keep it going or get it in next year’s budget.”

Gillham said he had hoped that construction would begin a year from now, but this setback will probably delay the work until late 2009 or early 2010. The city had worked with Oregon’s congressional delegation to have the funds included in the Highway Administration’s 2007 budget. Now, city planners will have to start over with a new application in the hopes of securing federal funding in the future, Gillham said.

“All across the U.S., they went out and basically cut dollars for every state on various projects,” he said. “I assume that’s part of the federal wrangling that happens on a regular basis.”

Morrow said that seven other local agency projects throughout Oregon will not receive funding, totaling about $7 million, because of the budget changes.

Prineville will still receive $500,000 from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the project, Gillham said. The city is considering three potential routes for punching through Ninth Street to join up with Laughlin Road and provide an additional east-west path through the city, one of which could potentially displace the Wagner’s Price Slasher grocery store.

At a public forum last week, Gillham said he will recommend to the City Council at its next meeting, Jan. 9, that it consider just two of the options: one that would cut diagonally from Deer Street up to 10th Street, or one that would extend Ninth Street through part of the Price Slasher property.

At last week’s forum, many residents questioned the numbers included in a socioeconomic-impact report prepared by consulting firm ECONorthwest. They said the costs associated with each option seemed artificially low and did not take into account real-world market values or the cost of construction. Gillham said the City Council had expressed similar concerns when it reviewed a draft of the analysis, and ECONorthwest is now refining the report to include market analysis in its costs.
Even if the council makes a decision soon on which direction the Ninth Street arterial will take, the city will have to reapply for federal funding to make the project feasible.

“I was hoping next year at this time to begin some initial engineering of the first facet of whichever route the council chose. That’s clearly, from my perspective, not going to happen,” Gillham said. “The one thing they told us is that we essentially have to start all over again (to apply for federal funding), and so that’s what we’ll do.”

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