Benton County continues with the Corvallis-Albany bikeway

Nino Paoli, News Reporter

The Corvallis-Albany bikeway will continue to be an ongoing project, and although construction is set to begin in 2024, the completion date may be over 10 years away. 

According to the Benton County website, the Benton County Board of Commissioners directed staff to focus on a final destination for the bikeway – which would also be pedestrian-friendly – along U.S. Route 20 in 2017.

After a pause during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, the project to build this multi-use path connecting the two towns still has yet to break ground.

Currently, there are plans to construct the NE Pilkington Avenue to NE Merloy Avenue section of the bikeway in 2024, and there is a section in North Albany between NW Hickory Street and NW Rainwater Lane that is scheduled to be built in 2025 at the latest, County Engineer Laurel Byer said. 

Byer said that Benton County is acquiring right-of-way from property owners where the Pilkington to Merloy connection will be constructed, in anticipation of the 2024 start date.

“We had to delay our project a bit to coordinate construction with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s planned safety improvements along Highway 20,” Byer said. “The State’s construction project is starting next month and will continue through 2024, so it made sense for construction of the path to occur after ODOT’s contractor is done with their work.” 

The bikeway, also referred to as the Corvallis-Albany Multi-Use Path, must be broken into phases. The only way Benton County has been able to make progress on construction is by applying for state grants, Byer said.

“The project is very competitive and generally we are successful in securing grant funding, but it only comes available every other year, and to be competitive we limit our funding requests to around $2 million,” Byer said. “Between design, right-of-way acquisition and construction, that might buy us a mile of path and costs continue to rise.”

The timeline for the multi-use path will vary depending on Benton County’s ability to acquire additional funding, and even if funding is attained for one mile every three years, a completion date is still 10 to 15 years away, Byer said.

Byer hopes to receive a major grant award through the federal or state set-aside process, but notes that those are extremely competitive grants and may not be a realistic option for the project.

“The community has been expressing the need for a separated multi-use path between Corvallis and Albany since before 2004 when the first feasibility study was completed,” Byer said. 

Byer said that two ways community members can help the process is writing letters of support, as they can be included in future grant requests, and reaching out to state representatives. 

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