Pendleton's new Airport Road project could receive $2.5 million from the new $960 million statewide transportation bill.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, Pendleton City Manager Larry Lehman said if the city can spend the money the way it wants for the road, it could knock five years off the 4-cent-a-gallon fuel tax Pendleton voters passed in May.

"Don't count the check in the mail yet, but it's close," Lehman told the council.

He also said the city did not get a federal Economic Development Administration grant that would have helped pay for a water line in the city's industrial park on Airport Hill, where the road connects from Interstate 84.

Councilman Bryan Branstetter asked what not getting the grant means to the city's budget. The question, though, seemed a little late considering Branstetter and the rest of the council had just passed the 2009-10 city budget.

Councilwoman Becky Marks asked how the city was paying for the project. Her lack of clarity, though, prompted Mayor Phillip Houk to say that's why Pendleton voters passed the fuel tax in May.

"I understand that," Marks retorted.

Lehman explained to her the city has a loan from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the road, and the fuel tax pays the debt service on the loan. The city was after the grant to help pay for the water line. Bob Patterson, the city's public works director, said the city will pursue the grant again, but there is about $1.1 million in the fiscal year 2010 budget for the line.

Lehman said there are still hoops to jump through before the city gets the $2.5 million in state funding.

The Oregon Department of Transportation will pass the money to Umatilla County, which in turn will distribute the funds to cities. Lehman said city representatives will need to meet with ODOT and county officials about allocating the money.

The Oregon House passed the bill Wednesday 38-22, largely along party lines with a Democrat majority, and the Senate approved it Friday 24-6.

This is the largest transportation package Oregon lawmakers have passed. Paying for it, though, means car registration fees increase $16 a year and car title fees jump $22. The bill also increases the state fuel tax 6 cents a gallon. The tax would take effect in January 2011 or after two consecutive quarters of economic growth.

Republican Rep. Greg Smith of Heppner supported the bill. Smith said he could see the bill was passing and Eastern Oregon was getting $80 million, $47 million of which would be for road construction projects. With that, Smith said, he started to call people and places he knew were needing money for projects.

Kim Puzey, manager of the Port of Umatilla, was one of those people. Smith allocated $4.5 million for the port, but Puzey also mentioned Pendleton's new Airport Road would need about $2.5 million for arterial connections.

"I put it in," Smith said.

Smith said his method wasn't the most scientific, but he has his reason: "I wanted the money spent in our district."

Republican Rep. Bob Jenson of Pendleton also supported the bill. Smith and Jenson were among just seven House Republicans who voted for it, the others being Cliff Bentz of Ontario; Vicki Berger of Salem; Scott Bruun, West Linn; Sal Esquivel, Medford; and George Gilman, also of Medford.

Republican Sen. David Nelson of Pendleton voted for the bill, while Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, voted against it.

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