Federal funding to help local projects

Federal funding to help local projects

Money from a $1.7 trillion deal


By:  Ethan Myers

Several local projects will receive boosts in funding from a $1.7 trillion omnibus federal spending package.

Signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday, the bipartisan agreement will inject over $2 million into local development by Warrenton and Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria.

A pedestrian corridor project that seeks to connect downtown to Warrenton High School will receive nearly $1.4 million. The project was one of 15 that U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat who represents the North Coast, had advocated for in the package.

"We really appreciate and couldn't have done this without Congresswoman Bonamici's help," Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer said. "Her office was very dogged and determined in making sure that this got put forward and so we really appreciate her office’s assistance in making this project a reality. We’re excited to get building on it."

While constructing a pedestrian route and an enhanced crosswalk at the high school, the project will also make improvements to bus stops and accessibility for wheelchair users.

The city has sought to improve pedestrian safety on S. Main Avenue between downtown and the high school for decades.

In 2021, the city received $500,000 in grant money from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program to get the project off the ground.

Construction of the first phase, which is under review by the state, will go to bid this winter, Balensifer said. The federal money will entirely fund the second phase.

Challenges with meeting state 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 constructed on the west side of S. Main Avenue.

A second pedestrian corridor - along E. Harbor Drive between downtown and Fred Meyer - has been engineered and designed, Balensifer said. The city will seek more project funding to advance it.

In Astoria, Columbia Memorial Hospital will receive $750,000 in federal funding to help renovate and advance emergency preparedness at a building on Exchange Street.

The funding was secured by U.S. Sen Jeff Merkley and U.S. Sen Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats.

"Columbia Memorial Hospital is incredibly grateful to Senators Merkley and Wyden for their support of this critical funding," Erik Thorsen, the CEO of the hospital, said in a statement.

About two years ago, the hospital announced the purchase of the structure that formerly housed Lum’s Auto Center on Exchange and 16th streets.

The funds will be used to renovate the building and turn the structure into an emergency operations center, a logistics and supply hub and a patient evacuation site, Thorsen said.

The hospital’s primary health care center is located within the designated tsunami inundation zone and at the base of an area that has long been prone to landslides.

"These risks could limit CMH’s ability to provide lifesaving health care services during and immediately after a natural disaster," Thorsen said, noting that the former auto center is located outside of the tsunami inundation zone.

The entire project is estimated to cost over $2.1 million.

Included in Wyden and Merkley’s advocacy were also a number of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, including $4 million for channel improvements along the Columbia River. An additional $50,000 was secured to allow the Army Corps to undergo work at the Skipanon Channel.

Balensifer said the project will help ensure that fishing fleets can get in and out of the Skipanon Channel in Warrenton, which he said has been a "constant battle" due to siltation.