Securing Highway Funding

 

Michelle Giguere and Hal Hiemstra began working with Clackamas County to secure funding for the Sunrise “Corridor” years before the SAFETEA-LU bill of 2005 was actually passed.  The Partners at Summit Strategies have worked with the County to provide the Oregon Congressional Delegation with a constant stream of information about this project, the importance of it to the economic health of the County, and the development of its industrial lands and critical private sector partners.  As a result, the Oregon Congressional Delegation eventually was able to provide in excess of $20 million for the Sunrise project through authorization and appropriation bills.  We also worked very closely with the County to get ODOT to modify and change the scope of the project and on the County’s successful efforts in the Oregon Legislature when funding was provided in the Jobs and Transportation ACT.  Mr. Hiemstra and Ms. Giguere continue to advise the County on strategies for working with ODOT/OTC and FHWA to advance this project.  The Partners at Summit Strategies also advised and helped the County prepare its TIGER III funding request.  Though the request was not successful, we continue to seek out additional opportunities for federal funding for the set of transportation projects now known as the Sunrise “System.”

The Partners at Summit Strategies have represented the US 12 Highway Coalition[1]* since 2002. The Coalition came together to collectively advocate for safety improvements through the four-laning of 42 miles of  US Highway 12 between Pasco and Walla Walla, Washington.  By four-laning the highway, flattening slopes, realigning the roadway to current design standards, providing new and updated barriers where needed, limiting access, and greatly reducing more than 100 access points (intersections and approaches) that existed on this stretch of highway, instead of being viewed as one of the most dangerous stretches of roadway in the state, this highway is becoming one of the safest in the state. With 18 miles of the 42 miles now completed, 13% fewer serious accidents have already been realized. In addition, businesses that once avoided Walla Walla, Washington, because of its relative isolation are now being attracted to the community, creating new economic development opportunities and growing the local economy.

The Partners at Summit Strategies began working with the Coalition by creating a legislative strategy for moving forward on a nearly $500 million project.  Working with WSDOT and the Port of Walla Walla in particular, we advised the Coalition about the value of breaking the project into phases which generally coincide with certain geographic characteristics of the project, but more importantly, broke the project into more manageable sizes for purposes of funding and for sustaining political momentum.  Generally, we advised the Coalition to seek federal funding for environmental, engineering, planning and some right-of-way acquisition, and to seek state funding for construction of the first five project phases.  To date, that strategy has worked well, resulting in more than $20 million in federal funding (both appropriations and authorizations), primarily directed at project preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition.  With phases of the project shovel ready, the state legislature has now contributed approximately $100 million for construction of the first 18 miles of project.

The two remaining phases are expensive — $125 million for Phases 7a and 7b, and $235 million for Phase 8.  All design and environmental work on Phase 7 is now complete and preliminary design and environmental work on Phase 8 is underway.  Despite the daunting funding needs that remain, the success that has already been achieved to complete the first six phases of this project is keeping the coalition together and energizing an even more vigorous effort to secure the funds needed to complete Phases 7 and 8.

At the federal level, Senator Patty Murray in particular, has become a strong champion of the project.  As Chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray is well positioned to advocate for federal funding for this project and has done so on numerous past appropriations and surface transportation authorization bills.  Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers have also become advocates for the project and also secured directed federal funding.  To build Congressional support for this project, the Partners at Summit Strategies coordinate an annual Hwy 12 Coalition federal lobbying trip to Washington, D.C.  Working closely with both appropriations and authorization committee staff, Summit Strategies also advises select Coalition members about more strategic visits that we coordinate at critical times in the Congressional legislative calendar.

Summit Strategies also works closely with key federal affairs and regional directors from Washington State DOT, and coordinates annual funding requests and lobbying messages with WSDOT.

[1] Current members of the Highway 12 Coalition include Washington State DOT, Walla Walla County, City of Walla Walla, Port of Walla Walla, City of College Place, Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce, and many individual local businesses including Walla Walla Travelodge, Colonial Motel, Capri Motel, Budget Inn Motel, Boise Paper Solutions, City Center Motel, Walla Walla County Fire District #5, Whitman College, Team Walla Walla, Banner Bank, Northwest Grain Growers, Columbia REA, Nelson Irrigation Corporation, Pacific Power, CLD Pacific Grain, LLC, Baker Boyer Bank, Konen Rock Products, Inc., Walla Walla Farmers Co-op, Koncrete Industries, Inc., Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., Reininger Winery, Star Consulting, Inc., Woodward Canyon Winery, The Odom Corporation, L’Ecole No. 41 Winery, Key Technology, Inc., Three Rivers Winery, and Gillespie Roofing, Inc.