Jan. 2 – Several local projects are boosted financially by a massive $1.7 trillion federal spending package.
The bipartisan agreement, signed Thursday by President Joe Biden, will provide over $2 million for local development of Warrenton and Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria.
A pedestrian corridor project designed to connect downtown to Warrenton High School will receive nearly $1.4 million. The project was one of 15 projects endorsed in the package by US Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat who represents the north coast.
“We really appreciate this and could not have done this without the help of Congresswoman Bonamici,” Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer said. “Your office has been very persistent and determined to ensure that this is taken forward and as such we greatly appreciate your office’s support in making this project a reality. We look forward to building on that.”
While building a pedestrian walkway and an improved crosswalk at the high school, the project will also make improvements to bus stops and wheelchair accessibility.
The city has been trying to improve pedestrian safety on S. Main Avenue between downtown and the high school for decades.
In 2021, the city received $500,000 in grants from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program to help get the project off the ground.
Construction of the first phase, under review by the state, will be tendered this winter, Balensifer said. Federal funds will fully finance the second phase.
Challenges to comply with government guidelines, Balensifer said, caused delays in the project. While the city originally planned to build sidewalks on both sides of the street, only one will be built on the west side of S. Main Avenue.
A second pedestrian corridor — along E. Harbor Drive between downtown and Fred Meyer — has been developed and designed, Balensifer said. The city will seek additional project funding to further this.
Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria will receive $750,000 in federal funding to help renovate and improve emergency preparedness at a building on Exchange Street.
Funding was secured by US Senator Jeff Merkley and US Senator Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats.
“Columbia Memorial Hospital is incredibly grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden for their support of this important funding,” Erik Thorsen, the hospital’s CEO, said in a statement.
About two years ago, the hospital announced the purchase of the building that formerly housed Lum’s Auto Center at Exchange Street and 16th Street.
The funds will be used to refurbish the building and convert the structure into an emergency operations center, a logistics and supply center and a patient evacuation center, Thorsen said.
The hospital’s primary health care center is located within the designated tsunami flood zone and at the foot of an area that has long been prone to landslides.
“These risks could limit CMH’s ability to provide life-saving healthcare services during and immediately after a natural disaster,” Thorsen said, noting that the former auto center is outside of the tsunami flood zone.
The entire project is valued at over $2.1 million.
Wyden and Merkley’s endorsements also included a number of US Army Corps of Engineers projects, including $4 million for canal improvements along the Columbia River. Another $50,000 was secured to allow the Army Corps to carry out work on the Skipanon Canal.
Balensifer said the project will help allow fishing fleets to enter and exit the Skipanon Canal at Warrenton, which he says has been a “continuous struggle” due to siltation.