Oregon House OKs veterans highways dedication bill

Vote is unanimous; measure now goes to Senate

SALEM, Ore. - Legislation to dedicate several of Oregon's border-to-border highways in honor of veterans groups passed the Oregon House of Representatives on a unanimous vote Monday.

Sponsored by state Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles), HB 2036 seeks to designate Highway 395 as the World War I Veterans Memorial Highway, Interstate 5 as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway and the Purple Heart Trail, and US Highway 101 as the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial Highway.

"Thousands of Oregonians have bravely served our nation in foreign wars," said  Huffman.  "I'm thankful for their immense sacrifices and I hope the dedication of these highways serves as a permanent reminder of their honor and service to our country. I'm humbled to have been a part of this process."

Rep. Huffman has been involved in several previous highway dedication efforts.

In 2009, he co-sponsored a bill designating Highway 97 to World War II veterans.

In 2013, he sponsored legislation dedicating Interstate 84 as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway, and in 2014, he supported a bill recognizing the thirty-five mile stretch of Highway 26 that runs through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation as the Warm Springs Veteran Memorial Highway.

Additional sponsors of HB 2036 include Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario), Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte), Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) and Rep. Gail Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls). The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. It is expected to receive broad support and be signed into law upon passage by both chambers, Huffman said.

A recent committee hearing on the bill included testimony from retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and Bend veterans activist Dick Tobiason, as well as representatives from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Purple Heart Veterans, and veterans of the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Veterans groups would be responsible for raising the money necessary to cover the costs of making and installing the new signs.

"It's truly a privilege to be a part of this process," said Huffman. "Honoring our veterans with signs along Oregon highways is one of the most rewarding things I have accomplished in the Oregon Legislature."

Tobiason said they have raised $39,000 for the WWII and Vietnam signs on Highway 97 and I-84 and would do the same system for the new roads, buying the sign panels and paying ODOT for the other equipment, assembly and installation. They also store spare signs and posts with ODOT to replace any damaged -- "none so far," he said.

Read and find out more about the bill here: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Measures/Overview/HB2036

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