Attorney for opponents of 101 project has offered help with wording of ballot measureSEASIDE - The Seaside referendum on the U.S. Highway 101 project could mean a loss of the entire $38 million earmarked for the project.

The $15 million in federal funding would only apply to this specific project, Oregon Department of Transportation Regional Manager Carole Richardson said in an e-mail.

A different design would not automatically get the money. The $23 million in Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA) funding has to be used within a certain time.

"We're currently scheduled to bid this project in 2007," Richardson said. "If there's a small delay to the bid let date due to the ballot measure, we may be able to work it out. A May ballot date would be pretty tight. If there's a larger delay, we probably won't make it."

A Clatsop County elections employee said filing the paperwork for the referendum by Feb. 16 would allow a May vote.

The project would widen the highway to four lanes and add a median down the middle, bike lanes, sidewalks and a one-way couplet at the south end of town. It would also eliminate an estimated 30 buildings, take property from 140 more and cut off 78 public or private driveways.

Judge Paula Brownhill ruled Jan. 20 to let Seaside citizens vote to accept or reject the agreement with ODOT that the city council signed Nov. 22, 2004. The city council has not yet decided whether to appeal her decision.

"In the meantime, in case the project does not survive, we're working on a plan to reassign the funds," Richardson said. "These funds would be sent back to the statewide pot, and reassigned first to other existing OTIA projects that may be short. I doubt there'd be anything left over if this happens."

The federal aid would be put back into the Northwest Area Commission on Transportation's process, Richardson said. "Basically, Seaside would be starting from scratch."

ODOT will probably wait until the issue is resolved to start buying property, Richardson said. "I imagine this latest development must be pretty frustrating for property owners who've been waiting for closure," she said. "They're really caught in the middle."

It is the responsibility of City Attorney Dan Van Thiel to work out the wording of the referendum, City Manager Mark Winstanley said. Van Thiel said during last week's hearing he wasn't sure what the referendum should say, suggesting it might ask the citizens if Seaside should break its word to ODOT. He maintains that signing the agreement meant entering into a binding contract.

Lawyer Jill Gelineau, who argued successfully for the citizens to vote, said after the hearing she would be willing to help write the referendum.

"I'm hopeful I can work with the city attorney," she said.

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