SOUTH COAST TRANSPORTATION VISION AND CALL TO ACTION The South Coast Region is at a critical point in its history. Its choices are to stand still, move forward, or go backwards. The South Coast Development Council, in concert with broad local interests, has spent the last year assessing the region's assets and liabilities to define a development strategy for the future. Despite gloomy economic statistics, the assets of the region far outweigh its liabilities. Buoyed by these findings, our decision is simple: Let's Move Forward. Presented here is a TRANSPORTATION VISION AND CALL TO ACTION for the South Coast Region. It deals not only with immediate actions but also with a long-term strategy for advancing the economic well being of the South Coast Region. WHERE WE ARE The present conditions are familiar and well known: timber harvests and exports have declined, the fishing industry has virtually collapsed, plywood mills have all closed, young people are moving out of the area in search of jobs, and retirees continue to make up an increasing share of the area residents. However, new forces are at work that promise to reverse some of these downward trends. There are signs that an economic renewal is occurring that needs only to be nurtured and leveraged to realize its full benefits. The primary engine for this turnaround is the discovery of the South Coast for high -quality recreation. The area has always been endowed with extraordinary scenic resources and recreational opportunities. However, with the development of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, their value has been more broadly recognized and is now being enjoyed by a much larger segment of the population. Visitors are attracted from allover the world and, of those who come, many have the ability and desire to move their businesses to the area. It appears that the attraction of the area as a destination is just beginning. The economic synergies that have fueled development in the Bend /Redmond area, are also present here on the south coast. Drawn by the benign climate, the natural beauty, the recreational opportunities, and cultural resources, visitors are now becoming residents. Businesses are attracted because of the reliable and underemployed labor market as well as the attractive life style. The challenge is now how to make the area increasingly attractive for new businesses and employers who are eager to become a part of the local economy but cannot overcome the area's difficult accessibility and remoteness from major markets. Meeting this challenge will require a major investment in the transportation infrastructure. It will take tenacity, a willingness to work together, and a strong belief that a concentrated effort can make a difference---qualities that have been aptly demonstrated by past local efforts. Some of these past successes are worth mentioning. For example, despite reduced funding to local governments, Coos County residents have recently voted to invest in critical infrastructure elements: they have established a new Airport District to provide a broader tax base for the regional airport; the County is building its own main transmission natural gas line from the Willamette Valley to provide a new source of energy for residents and industry; and the County was the first in the state to establish a Library District with its own tax base. These - October 26, 2003 2 P03-l413 accomplishments are in addition to myriad citizen efforts undertaken to improve local conditions, including: • City of Powers work to improve Highway 242 • City of North Bend's construction of a new boat ramp and waterfront area • Port of Bandon's construction of a waterfront fishing deck and boardwalk • City of Coos Bay's development of boardwalk and future waterfront area • Coos County's Historical Society's effort for a new museum, and • Citizens' of Bandon construction of a new performing arts theatre and library. These accomplishments reflect the will ofthe local citizens to put their collective shoulder to the wheel for the betterment of the community. These actions bear out the motto that in Coos County: "We do things differently." WHERE no WE GO FROM HERE The South Coast Development Council identified four essential infrastructure components that are critical to the future of this region if it is to participate competitively in the state and national economy. All four components are related. They act collectively to improve the accessibility of the area by connecting it to regional, national, and global markets. Each link builds on the significant investment already made in the region's transportation infrastructure but seeks to modernize it and make it functional for the demands of the 21st Century. While not required to be developed at once, all are essential in the long term; they are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Working together, they provide a balanced platform for future growth and development that will materially broaden the economic potential of the region. The key linkage components are: 1. AIR: Regional airport improvements starting with a new terminal at North Bend Airport as well as improvements at the Bandon airport. The two facilities would function as a regional system and serve as a gateway to the South Coast for air travelers and businesses, changing the image of the area to one of a region on the move. Airports provide an immediate and lasting impression of an area for first time visitors. With increased air travel prompted by the success of Bandon Dunes, Oregon's South Coast has a unique opportunity to showcase its assets and portray its image as a progressive community. With increased capacity and improved facilities, new and competitive air service, particularly to regional hubs such as San Francisco, Seattle and Salt Lake City, would be within reach. Terminal plans are being developed and the project could be realized by 2006. 2. HIGRWA YS: A new, or significantly upgraded, four -lane highway connection between the Coos Bay region and 1-5. This corridor would be designed to reflect contemporary engineering standards and emphasize the scenic character of the coastal mountain range and rural landscape of southern Oregon. It could be patterned after the Appalachian Highway corridors that were designed as an economic development tool for the Appalachian region. While the highway would serve rural communities along its route, it would be a limited access highway that would avoid disrupting existing communities. It would generally track with existing State Route 38 to its connection with 1-5. In the future, it could be extended from Eugene to Bend and easterly to connect with 1-84 at Ontario. This improvement would be longer term and dependent on securing new federal funding so as not to compete with more immediate needs. October 26, 2003 3 P03-1413 Highway Connection to 1-5 and Beyond: ,...--- .•. - --. Astoria j r' " ) \ , "- ... ~ """----- •.•. - .•.. -"'" -~-"" ~----------~ \,. , ) , , ,> ~~~d ,I , ( , ( , ,I I I ( \ , J I I I l' US tf; 20 I I J ~. _ I I ,I Future R:Jad Extensi on I I I , ( US97 .......... I , I f \ I I I Klamath I \ , Falls -----------------------~ I 3. MARINE: A new multi-purpose marine cargo facility that would accommodate general cargo, bulk commodities and container shipments. It would be designed to handle increased cargo .' tonnage and multiple vessels as demand moves upward. Currently, the facilities in the Cools Bay harbor are outdated due to lack of investment brought about by the decline in regional forest products. The region's remoteness from thriving market areas contributt';s to its lack of competitiveness for many cargoes. The Coos Bay harbor, however, is the' only deep-water ocean port between San Francisco and Seattle; thus, it has a material location advantage were it suitably connected to the national rail system and the interstate highway system. A much broader range of industries is likely to be attracted to the region once the natural gas pipeline is in place. Furthermore, the timber industry is poised for a comeback as the cycle of harvest is returning. These industries can strengthen maritime commerce and return high-paying waterfront jobs to the community- --providing modem infrastructure is in place to meet their requirements. The period for a new cargo facility is tied to highway and rail improvements. A commitment of a major industry to locate here would accelerate the timetable and prospects have been identified October 26, 2003 4 P03-1413 4. RAIL: Improved rail facilities to serve industrial sites on the North Spit and in the corridor between the Coos Bay area and Coquille. While rail projects may not seem glamorous, good freight service is essential for certain industries. The proposed rail improvements would contribute to a more efficient operation of the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad following the rehabilitation of the Coos Bay rail bridge and the upgrading of the line to Track Classification 2 between Coos Bay and Eugene. Reliable freight rail service will be a compelling factor in revitalizing the forest products industry, and, with access to natural gas, attracting new medium-sized manufacturing to Coos County. Not only will the regional industrial sector be made more viable, but also family wage- jobs will return. The period for improvements will coincide with improvements in highway and port facilities and will be driven in large measure by industry commitment to locate here as well as funding. THE VISION A vision has been variously described as "a dream; a product of fancy or imagination; the ability to anticipate and make provision for future events; or insight." We believe the VISION for the South Coast region is all ofthese. Is it ambitious? Yes! Is it doable? Yes! It will require, however, hard work and cooperation at all levels of involvement: local, statewide, and national. That is why this vision is coupled with a call to action. It is a challenge we present to our community, our leaders, in both the public and private sectors and ourselves. It will take all of us working together to achieve the vision. We believe the results will be worth the effort. In sum, the VISION seeks to build on our assets and correct our liabilities. Location, location, location. Connection, connection, connection. The Coos Bay region has the first three. It takes all six. What we have: • WorId-class scenery • WorId-class deep-water harbor • W orId-class destination resort • WorId-class people What we do not have: • Adequate air, land, and sea connections Let us fast-forward to future times to check on progress: Near term: It is 2006. Flying into Pacific International Airport, the new regional airport on the banks of Coos Bay, what do we see? A beautiful deep-water harbor opening onto the Pacific Ocean. Verdant mountains. Rugged headlands. After landing, we enter a striking new airport terminal made of muscular wooden beams and glass, reflecting the architectural character of the region. The airport is bustling with people arriving to visit the acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and October 26, 2003 5 P03-l413 local cranberry festival. The region had just hosted the Curtis Cup, an international golf tournament that got world- wide publicity and people are coming to experience the local hospitality for themselves. We have just returned home on a direct flight from San Francisco and are struck by the number of visitors, waiting for their bags, engaged in the art and photography exhibit by local artists. The Coos County taxpayers have owned the airport for a few years and use the exhibition room also to expose visiting entrepreneurs to potential business opportunities in the region. As we pass through town and along the bay on the way home, we marvel at the cleanliness of the streets and the well-kept homes and businesses. The Flags and Flowers project has created the most wonderful ambience. Weare filled with pride as we realize that the region has turned the comer and is on the way to becoming a world- class community. Our children will not need to move away to find work. Mid-term: It is now 2015. What new things do we see today? A spectacular new resort and hotel facilities at Coos Head. People now come to experience multiple recreational facilities. New loading docks, cranes and a multi-purpose cargo terminal occupy the North Spit. The marine cargo terminal has become its own world-class destination where bulk shipments of products are broken down for onward passage by air, truck and rail for distribution to the western states and beyond. Attractive marinas abound. Boats of all kinds: big and small, recreational and fishing, bulk and containers. Onshore, trucks, cars and trains roll across bridges that are not weight limited. New industries have begun to dot the North Spit taking advantage of the availability of new terminal facilities and natural gas. The downtowns' of Coos Bay and North Bend are experiencing renewed energy with offices, restaurants, boutiques, antique stores and specialty shops thriving. Clearly, citizens within Coos County feel that their continued confidence in the area is being rewarded. Long term: It is 2020. Driving to the coast on a vastly improved highway linking the Coos Bay area and South Coast to the 1-5 corridor what do we see? Great scenery, Beautiful mountains. Rugged landscape. Bucolic farms. No bottlenecks or congestion caused by slow moving vehicles with no opportunity to pass. Portions of the scenic highway were opened as they were completed but, finally, one can now drive the entire distance from Coos Bay to Eugene, Portland or Medford without a stop sign or reduced speed zone. People and commerce are on the move, compatibly. Cars, buses, motorcycles, RV's and trucks moving swiftly to and from 1-5, the transportation and economic artery of the entire West Coast economy. Small towns along the way have benefited immensely as convenient interchanges permit easy access without through traffic disrupting the local streets or disturbing the community. Yet, new businesses have energized the small communities, locating there to capitalize on the available labor supply and good regional access. Construction is underway to extend the scenic highway on to Bend and Ontario providing Oregon with an east- west corridor through the center of the state. Pressure is taken ofIthe farmland of the Willamette Valley for development and a more balanced and rational growth pattern is emerging. The Coos Bay region is at last connected to the rest of Oregon and the nation. The citizens of Coos County and Oregon can stand proud as these accomplishments reaffirm their reputation as a progressive people. October 26, 2003 6 P03-1413 CALL TO ACTION: NEXT STEPS Achieving this vision for our regional economic well-being and accessibility requires a strong commitment and investment. The focus of recent efforts by the SCDC has been on essential transportation improvements. As noted, those improvements are large ones that will require state and federal, as well as local, actions. Thus we have developed the following action steps: • SDCD will continue to coordinate multiple presentations regarding this vision to interested groups, mainly in Coos County, and carry forward the local support for the Vision and the projects. (October & November) • SCDC will formulate an executive level Action Task Force to move the vision forward and to assist in opening doors of opportunity for our future success. • Based on what we have learned from the presentations and subsequent responses, we will assemble an action package for state agency heads and legislators, and the Oregon congressional delegation, laying out our visions, projects, and plan of action. (November & December) '. SCDC will continue to work with the Governor's office and will build upon the Governor's stated commitment to the economic future of this region. The Governor's vision is supportive of what we are seeking to accomplish. (October - Continuous) • While SCDC continues to build public consensus and gather information we will be moving ahead with the functions necessary to lay the groundwork for action. We will then blend in public input to make our success a true example of partnering. October- December) • Establish a new strategy or revise our existing strategy so as to allow us to maximize our efforts to raise the funding necessary to complete our short -term goals of improved air and highway transportation. (December) • SCDC and the Action Task Force will continuously monitor critical time lines (Gante Charts) to assure that the effort continues to move ahead. Our time line to successfully raise funds and expedite the permitting process will be critical if we are to "Step through this window of Economic Opportunity" and improve our regions economy. (Continuous Action) Although the above action items cover the core of actions to be taken, the process we are establishing will continue to be measured to assure our highest level of success. In-order to be successful we must be willing to be "Fast and Flexible".