(Update: Adding video, comments)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- More than a year ago, Bend voters gave a thumbs up to the city's $190 million transportation bond, which will fund design and construction of dozens of new projects and upgrades over the next decade.
So when will these projects get underway?
City councilors and meeting attendees got a clearer picture of that during Wednesday night's meeting as they reviewed a list of project recommendations and timeline from the citizen Transportation Bond Oversight Committee for the first five years of the related capital improvement plan.
The council-appointed committee was set up to advise councilors and city staffers on the implementation of the voter-approved general obligation bonds, while also providing information to the public on the progress of the projects funded by the measure.
But the 2029 recommended construction for one major project, the long-awaited Reed Market Road railroad overpass, is making some citizens scratch their heads.
City Director of Engineering and Infrastructure Planning Ryan Oster says staff was never going to recommend the bridge, with an estimated cost of over $36 million, be built within the first half of the 10-year project list, due to other pieces of the puzzle needing to be put in place, so motorists can get around the area during a Reed Market closure expected to last through two construction seasons.
Oster and other city staff said a quick decision to change the plans isn't needed, since some smaller related projects and a big Wilson Avenue corridor upgrade will be happening more quickly.
But amid urging by area residents and the Bend Chamber to move as quickly as possible, city councilors directed staff to move up Reed Market Road design work and roughly $2 million in planning funds to what would have been a "gap" year in 2026, after some smaller projects on the corridor, to make clear to the public that the project is moving forward without delay.
More than 20 projects are included in the five-year recommendation to try and address traffic flow, east-west connections, and neighborhood safety improvement projects citywide.
Some other key priority projects include the Wilson Avenue Improvement Project, Midtown Pedestrian and Bike Crossings, and Butler Market Road and Boyd Acres Road Improvements.
Councilors also endorsed Anthony Broadman's direction to move ahead with efforts to create one north-south and one east-west protected bike routes, in conjunction with the bond measure projects or separately.
Discussions also continued on the Old Bend neighborhood parking pilot program.
Just a few weeks ago, councilors looked the the pros and cons of the program over the past year and whether to extend it.
In a 5-1 vote Wednesday night, councilors voted in favor of extending the parking district, but Councilor Barb Campbell, the lone "no" in the group, says the parking situation is inequitable.
Councilor Anthony Broadman says he's excited to usher in a modernized parking that reflects supply and demand, but he wants it to benefit more than just those living the Old Bend neighborhood.
"We are so far behind in monetizing a public resource which we should all share in," Broadman said. "I still struggle with the benefits of this district only benefiting the district."
Broadman says he's also excited to look at new parking options for downtown Bend, but will not support any approach that excludes anybody.
Although councilors voted in favor, this was just a "first reading" vote to proceed to implement the program. A final vote will take place in two weeks.
City of Bend news release:
Transportation Bond Oversight Committee Recommends 5-Year Project Schedule
The Transportation Bond Oversight Committee presented its 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) recommendation to the Bend City Council during a work session Wednesday. The oversight committee’s role is to advise on the implementation and progress of the $190 million transportation general obligation (GO) bond approved by voters in November 2020.
More than 21 projects are included in the recommendation and will address traffic flow, east-west connections, and neighborhood safety improvement projects citywide. Some key priority projects include the Wilson Avenue Improvement Project, Midtown Pedestrian and Bike Crossings, and Butler Market Road and Boyd Acres Road Improvements.
The 2020 transportation GO bond projects list was based on two years of community involvement, including a 25-member Citywide Transportation Advisory Committee that developed a list of critical projects to improve travel safety and traffic flow across the city.
The projects include better east-west connections that will reduce drivers’ time behind the wheel and improve Bend’s livability and safety. Priority routes targeted for traffic flow improvements include Reed Market Road, U.S. 97/Parkway, Third Street intersections, Empire Avenue near U.S. Highway 97, Wilson Avenue, Butler Market Road and other key routes. The project list also includes neighborhood traffic safety improvements:
- Safer crossings to access schools, parks and jobs
- A network of cross-town bicycle routes
- Completing missing sidewalks along priority routes
The Transportation Bond Oversight Committee was appointed by City Council to provide transparency and accountability on the progress of projects funded by the transportation GO bond. The committee began meeting in May 2021. The committee established evaluation criteria for prioritizing Bond projects, received public comments and developed the 5-year CIP recommendation to City Council.
The committee’s recommendations can be found at bendoregon.gov/tboc.
The committee will continue working in its oversight and advisory role to the City Council by evaluating project progress and costs. The oversight committee will review progress reports and benchmarks and recommend any changes or adjustments in project scheduling or sequencing.
City Council will consider the recommendation and make the final decision on the first 5-year transportation GO bond project schedule at the December 15, 2021 City Council meeting. Find more information about the 2020 transportation GO bond projects at bendoregon.gov/gobond.