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Gamblin’ fever

Anyone in Oregon who thinks they will weight down a politician by hanging the “pro-gambling” label on him is likely to find the effort a waste of time. Consider this scenario making its way around the northern Willamette Valley.

Highway 18 bypassOne of the worst traffic jams in the Portland region is in the wine country about 30 miles southwest of town, in and around the small city of Dundee. For a variety of reasons the heavy traffic up and down Highway 99 tends to slow down around there, and the jams can be worse than anything on the Portland freeways. Locals sometimes call it the Dundee parking lot.

A plan has been circulating for some years to build a highway bypass from near the city of Newberg (on the Portland side of Dundee) to the existing Highwya 18 bypass (which years ago helped ease a similar problem at the city of McMinnville, further southwest on Higghway 99). The effort has had its share of analysis paralysis, but seems to be moving ahead. The main question now on the table is, who will pay for the expensive bypass? How will it be funded? One leading option is to create a toll road; there’s also a lot of local opposition to that idea.

Enter this notion, appearing in the publisher’s column in the McMinnville News-Register:

Dave Weston, publisher of the Itemizer-Observer in Dallas, this week weighed in to me with a spectacular piece of reasoning on the Newberg-Dundee bypass controversy. In classic “two wrongs make a right” style, and with tongue tucked firmly in cheek, he concluded that Yamhill County could have it all: a beautiful bypass financed by tolls, and drivers who not only accept but actually are excited about tossing their coins into the bin.

It’s elegantly simple: Develop a tollgate system that doubles as the latest game in the Oregon Lottery. Every pass through the gate would give that licensed vehicle one more chance to win the jackpot of the day, the week or the month. How about a $1 million instant prize if your license plate matches a plate randomly selected each hour from DMV records?

It may have been meant in jest, but it makes you stop a moment: Wait a minute, just might work – people are so gambling-hungry they just might go for it . . .

Okay: Nah. But the fact that it slowed you down is telling all by itself.

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