Clatsop County Commissioner Ann Samuelson handed Oregon Department of Transportation officials cups of coffee with no lids and took them on a bumpy bus ride on Oregon highways 202 and 103 to shake money loose to fix the decrepit roads.

ODOT has allocated $810,000 to repave the worst sections of both highways this summer, Dean Fuller, the manager of the agency's local District 1, said Tuesday. The money should be enough for 2-inch overlays on 6.6 miles of Oregon 103 and 1.1 miles of Oregon 202. Contracts will be issued in July.

Samuelson, who represents the south county on the Board of Commissioners and is a member of the Jewell School Board, conducted her "bus intervention" about six weeks ago.

"This is a pretty quick response. I'm impressed," she said.

Fuller, who was on the bus ride, borrowed her idea, taking his bosses and co-workers from the agency's larger region on a van ride to persuade them to direct more money to fix the two highways. District 1, which covers Clatsop and Tillamook counties, is part of ODOT's Region 2 encompassing seven counties.

"It won't get it all done but it will catch the worst," Fuller said. "We will continue to work our way east on 202 as the money comes in."

This summer's work will focus between mile posts 15 and 17 on Oregon 202, which winds over the Coast Range from Astoria to Vernonia, passing through Jewell. The new overlay will link up to 2.4 miles that has already been paved to complete Oregon 103, which connects Jewell to U.S. Highway 26.

The funding comes from District 1 maintenance funds for low volume roads for 2007-08. Usually, only about 14 percent of the funds go to road maintenance in Clatsop and Tillamook Counties, because of lower traffic volumes. But district and region staff agreed to earmark 25 percent this year for these two highways. In addition, ODOT staff committed to allocating money from the fund to Oregon 202 every two years "to keep plugging along on it."

The overlays are expected to last eight years and aren't a permanent fix. Funding for major highway repairs is allocated through the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and improvement projects are selected, in part, based on how many miles can be fixed with a given amount of money. The highways' extremely poor condition hurts their chances for funding.

The district's low volume road project fund is the only program for which the highways are eligible. Even then, the poor condition would normally put them out of the running, except that district officials made an exception.

Fuller is looking into other possible funding sources, such as safety and operation programs, to fix two narrow sections on Highway 103 where school buses and log trucks have gone off the road.

In addition, ODOT district officials will advocate for two major preservation projects on two other highways in Clatsop County for the 2012-13 STIP. Staff is proposing inlay and repair of 7.8 miles of U.S. Highway 101 from the Arch Cape tunnel to north Manzanita at an estimated $3.3 million. The other project is an overlay of 8 miles of U.S. Highway 30 from Rock Creek to Old Highway 30, estimated at $3.24 million. Both projects must compete with others throughout the state. The Oregon Transportation Commission decides which projects make the plan.


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