Transportation Issues and Potholes Loom Large at Council Meeting

L-R: Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell, Councilor Justin Livingston, Mayor Casey Roats, Councilor Bruce Abernethy, Councilor Barb Campbell, Councilor Nathan Boddie, and Councilor Bill Moseley. Courtesy: City of Bend.

Originally published in the Bend Chamber Business Edition – March 2, 2017

Transportation issues loomed large at last night’s city council meeting. The future of the upgraded 14th Street Corridor and approval of Uber and Lyft-type transportation options were approved. And the issue of potholes weaved in and out of the discussions throughout the evening with public frustration topping the visitor section.

Uber/Lyft Ride-hailing Services Approved

After weeks of heated debate, amendments; and long-winded discussions about horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs, the council finally approved the repeal of the Bend city code regulating taxicabs with updated language that factor in ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. The new transportation options will premiere on May 1. An estimated 800-1,000 full-time and part-time drivers are expected to be vetted and approved by the two Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

14th Street Corridor Design Improvements

The 14th Street corridor stretching from Newport Avenue to the Colorado intersection is slated for a much-needed upgrade. The former rural highway has seen an increased traffic flow, partly in thanks to an increased commercial district and, lately, the OSU-Cascades campus. As part of the 2011 voter approved $30 million GO Bond, the left-over funds have been set aside for a design study of the corridor. The project team presented a 30% design and project estimates to the council in December 2016, and last night, the council approved the final $1.4 million to complete the design study of 14th Street.

The corridor is a becoming a parade-example of the city’s wish for a multi-modal transportation network. The design incorporates separate vehicle, bike, and walking lanes and other streets in the central Westside area, will see similar improved streetscapes, Galveston is a prime candidate. Once the design study is finalized, funding for the upgraded look will come from the city’s transportation, construction and water funds.

North Triangle Sewer Project Approved

If you are one of the daily 20,000 cars arriving into Bend, prepare for an interesting summer commute along Hwy 97 around the “North Triangle,” the commercial area around the Cascade Village Mall. Last night, the council approved an expansion of the sewer line from that area towards Bend’s eastside treatment plan.

As part of the city’s UGB expansion areas, the new sewer project will benefit future commercial development in the 188-acre “North Triangle” area. In a competitive bidding process, the city of Bend awarded Jack Robinson and Sons the construction contract, coming in at $3.8 million, far less expensive than the original $8 million estimate. Besides constructing a 1,700 feet gravity main under Hwy 97 and along Nels Anderson Road, the contract also includes rerouting the force main discharge at the Sawyer Lift Station to a larger gravity pipeline.

The construction project will start immediately and will continue throughout the summer months for a completion at year end. Cognizant of the traffic load on Highway 97, the city will do its best to avoid frustrating traffic jams in an already busy part of town by limiting lane closures and moving certain parts of the sewer construction to evenings and nights.

Pothole Derby

If you have just come back from a day of “pothole derby” on Bend’s street, you’ll be happy to hear city council is very aware of the situation. The topic moved in and out of conversations throughout last night’s city council meeting. The pothole debacle was first raised by Dakota Rea and Rondo at the council’s visitor section, who both told the council they were frustrated with the current situation.

Later, during the discussion about the future of the 14th Street corridor, city manager King reminded the councilors that money from the GO Bond cannot be used for street maintenance, no matter how pressing the current need. And finally, at the end of the regular council meeting, King mentioned the city is reliant on public input for pothole maintenance. To date, crews have fixed over 3,600 holes, but the city has more than 800 lane miles to keep track of and needs the public’s help to identify tire-swallowing holes.

City of Bend Receives Oregon Heritage All Star Community Award

Finally, the City of Bend was awarded the Oregon Heritage All Star Community Award in recognition of the city’s historic preservation efforts. To date, only seven Oregon cities are recognized recipients of the award, Bend included.