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New bus route proposed between Sunriver and La Pine


A new summer-season bus route between Sunriver and La Pine is in the works, though it’s expected to take until next year to get all the pieces and dollars in place.

A few months ago, the Sunriver Chamber of Commerce began talking with area businesses to see what needs they have for transportation in the south Deschutes County area.

The chamber said it found a big demand for public transit between Sunriver and La Pine, more specifically to the Sunriver Resort.

It then contacted Cascades East Transit to ask for expanded bus services from Sunriver to La Pine.

The chamber began working through the process with the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, the operator of the region’s transit system, to determine how new state funding could become available for its proposed service.

“So the source of the funding and these other projects now recommended by the (Deschutes County) Board of Commissioners is a payroll tax that was initiated by the Legislature this past year,” Michelle Rhoads, transportation manager at COIC, said Wednesday.

“It’s called the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund program. And so it’s onetenth of 1% payroll across the state of Oregon that is being distributed to all of the communities and transit districts and counties and tribal council throughout the state of Oregon to improve transportation services to the public,” she said.

COIC proposed some ideas at an open houses in La Pine in January.

Once it received feedback, it began to conduct research and an analysis on what type of vehicle would be needed, days and hours of service and how to best serve the community.

“Then we went back to the community in March to do some more open houses in the regional community, to get feedback on the specific proposal to provide service between La Pine and Sunriver, and it received high rankings from the regional community,” Roads said. “And so that started the process of entering it into the project list that was submitted today to the Deschutes Board of Commissioners for their review and approval.”

Now that county commissioners have approved the plan, COIC has until next Tuesday to submit the application for funding to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The department will then review the applications and send them to a state transportation advisory committee for review. The request then goes to the Oregon Transportation Commission for final review and approval, which is expected in September.

The proposed new transit route would begin in May 2020, and run from five days before Memorial Day to five days after Labor Day.

The service is expected to operate seven days a week for 12 hours each day. The exact times have not been determined.

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