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Bridging Bend: City asked to consider special footbridge spanning Hwy. 97, railroad tracks

Project could cost $35 million; advocates hope it can happen by mid-2025

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- If you're someone who struggles to get from the east side to west side of Bend on foot or on a bike, there is a proposal in place which just might make your life a little easier.

Todd Taylor, CEO of Taylor NW and one of the developers of the vision, presented concept drawings to city councilors Wednesday evening. Taylor said he and his partners asked themselves, "How could we do something completely different than what's been done before? Something that's more pedestrian and bike friendly?"

They came up with a vision they call Bridging Bend.

Right now, there are two main ways to move east and west through the center of Bend. That's the noisy corridor on Franklin Avenue and the busy one on Greenwood Avenue.

That kind of limited access can be a problem for people like cyclist Gordon Wetzel, who travels across town on a weekly basis, going to Juniper Fitness Center, visiting his mother-in-law on the east side, or as on Thursday, leaving the post office downtown.

“I wanted to get over the Third (Street), and I realized I couldn't, so I had to go over a couple of blocks,” Wetzel told NewsChannel 21.

There’s some good news for Wetzel, though.

The a group of multi-modal advocates in Bend want to bridge the divide -- literally. They want to build a footbridge on Hawthorne Avenue, helping Bend's Central District project come to life, spurring interest and investment in the area.

The east and west sides of town in that area have long been split by train tracks and Highway 97. If the Bridging Bend project comes to life, that would no longer be the case.

“Connectivity to those assets I think -- we think -- will certainly prevail, to a level that we've never seen before,” Taylor told city councilors.

Not only did Taylor and his team call this midtown crossing a crucial part of the Bend Central District vision, but they also said it could become a landmark for the city.

When NewsChannel 21 told Wetzel about the plan, he was on board.

“Anything that improves surface transportation for walkers and bikers makes it a more livable city,” he said.

The project is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $35 million. Even if a portion would be paid in part by voter-approved transportation bonds, urban renewal funds and the state, the city would still need to find $15 million in the budget.

Taylor and his team hope city councilors will endorse the plan by October. With plenty more work and details to flesh out, the goal would be to complete construction by June 2025.

Allison Platt, the city’s core area project manager, told NewsChannel 21 the main issues are funding, funding sources, and schedule impacts. She said they need to get a better understanding of what can be done to improve the existing crossings at Franklin and Greenwood avenues before they can make funding decisions about this project.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.


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