SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Senate voted Thursday to name the Oregon portion of Interstate 84 as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Freeway.
Senate Bill 461 instructs the Oregon Department of Transportation to place signs honoring veterans of the Vietnam War along I-84 from Portland to Ontario. The bill passed 28-0, with 2 excused.
"Over 57,000 Oregonians served our country during the Vietnam War, and today over 118,000 veterans of that war live in Oregon," said Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham). "Giving them the recognition of I-84 honors their sacrifice and will let them know that Oregon is grateful for their service."
If SB 461 passes into law, Oregon State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America will pay for the creation and installation of the ‘Vietnam Veterans Memorial Freeway' signs throughout the length of I-84 in Oregon.
"As a Vietnam veteran, I know how meaningful it is to have a significant highway like I-84 bear a tribute to my fellow veterans," said Senator Alan Bates (D-Medford). "When Vietnam veterans are driving home from work or visiting the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, these signs will say to them: ‘Welcome home'."
Thirty-three other states have officially designated highways that specifically honor Vietnam veterans. Interstate 205 is also known as the War Veterans Memorial Freeway, but there is no freeway in Oregon specifically designated for Vietnam veterans.
"Designating this highway in honor of our Vietnam veterans will be a reminder of the important role our veterans have played in preserving our freedoms, including those we take for granted like our freedom to drive across Oregon and our nation on the best highway system in the world," said Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem/Gervais/Woodburn), a sponsor of the bill.
Senate Bill 461 now heads to the Oregon House.
"It was an honor for me to draft the bill," said Bend veterans activist Dick Tobiason, a Vietnam War veteran. He said he modeled the legislation after the successful bill that named Highway 97 the World War II Veterans Historic Highway to mark its role during that war, connecting such places as Camp Abbot, the Army training camp at what is now known as Sunriver.
Tobiason told KTVZ.COM Thursday he's working on extending the highway designation on I-84 into Idaho and Utah, 750 miles in total.