A proposed couplet through the middle of downtown Brookings, which wasnt on the list for future state funding two months ago, is now the number one priority.

Brookings City Manager Leroy Blodgett announced Monday that the Southwest Area Commission on Transportation decided to move the couplet project to the top of its list during a meeting last week in Coquille.

The decision comes on the heals of a concerted effort by city officials to lobby the commission, Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Department of Transportation to get the project off the back burner.

They (the commission) prioritized the projects and sent a list of recommendations to the Oregon Commission on Transportation, he said. We werent even listed in August during a meeting here in Brookings.

In August we were listed and moved up to number three on the list, but we probably wouldnt have been funded because of the limited amount of dollars available for modernization projects.

Now we are listed number one in the region. We are pretty well assured of being funded. Its awesome.

Although the cost of the entire couplet project estimated at $15 million by ODOT is not included in this round of recommendations by the commission, the project received a big boost after a review by ODOT to see if it could be made more feasible, according to Blodgett.

What ODOT did was to have their design team look at the project again to see if it could be scaled down or phased in, he said. Their recommendation was to move forward with an environmental assessment and preliminary engineering for the project.

The first phase of the project (estimated to cost $5.1 million) will be to reconstruct Chetco Avenue.

Mark Usselman, southwest area manager for ODOTs office in Coos Bay, said getting the environmental assessment started was the key factor in moving the project ahead.

When we looked at the Brookings project, we wanted to find a way to get the environmental assessment done in conjunction with some sort of project, he said.

By recommending the modernization project for Chetco Avenue, which will include a new base, new pavement, curbs and sidewalks, we were able to tie in the environmental assessment concurrently.

Once the first phase of the couplet project is completed, Usselman said it would be easier to get funding for phase two.

Usselman emphasized that the prioritization of the projects has always been the commissions decision, not ODOTs.

When the recommendations are reviewed by the Oregon Commission on Transportation, Usselman expects the couplet project to get funded.

The likelihood that theyll reject the recommendation is slim, he said.

Curry County Commissioner Lucie La Bont, who represents the county to Southwest Area Commission on Transportation, praised the City of Brookings for its efforts in moving the couplet project to the top of the list.

The city and ODOT worked hard together to make this happen, she said Tuesday. The commissioners supported the effort and the project.

I am very happy to hear of this decision. I am very excited about it. Its a very positive thing for the county.

Blodgett said because the limited amount of funds authorized this spring by the Oregon Legislature in House Bill 2142, only two of the prioritized projects for the Southwest region would receive funding.

In addition to the couplet, a $3 million project in Coos County on Isthmus Street and Cemetery Road should get funding.

The Southwest region includes Curry, Coos and Douglas counties.

The Brookings couplet project was the only one ranked in the top five from Curry County by the Southwest Area Commission on Transportation.

A preservation project approved by the commission on Friday will also benefit Curry County residents.

One million dollars was allocated for a preservation project on the Carpenterville Highway (Oregon 255).