I just received my ballot to vote on whether or not Bend should authorize another $30 million to be spent on road improvements. I think there are serious questions we should all be asking before this money is approved or not, but it seems that no one asks them. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years. But like almost everyone else, I come from elsewhere in the country, which, in this case, gives me enough perspective to ask some questions. While there is no disagreement that something needs to be done about the state of repair on these roads, and I’m sure that safety could be improved, there is a very serious need to examine what “we” get for our money. And yes, I say “we” because even though I wasn’t born here, I still pay taxes here.
I have watched several road projects, such as the debacle on Brosterhaus and Murphy roads. I’m sure there are technical difficulties with this type of construction in this type of environment. But here are some basic issues: Roads around these parts certainly seem to fall apart quicker than elsewhere in the country, including areas such as Vermont that get much worse weather. Construction of roads in this area takes much, much longer than in other areas of the country, such as New York where I have seen entire highways built in less time than it has taken to “improve” Murphy road. The planning of improvements in other areas such as New Jersey is done to standards that work, as opposed to the limited access bypass that has been built with stop sign entrances, lack of, or blind, merge lanes and painted pedestrian crosswalks that literally kill people.
Maybe, what we need to be asking is where is this proposed $30 million going, and how will it be monitored? Why is it that construction, which is poorly planned and has a short lifespan, takes so long to complete? Are the crews that are doing the work understaffed because the job goes to the lowest bidder? Are the construction techniques used the best for this environment? Do the construction companies have a cash cow in the city that will keep paying for “cost over runs”? Are the construction companies hamstrung by inspectors that have some kind of stake in keeping the projects going? Do the planners have the background to approve or disapprove these projects based on safety and realistic timeframes, or are they just guessing? Are there more politics involved in these projects than simply which road needs improvements?
I certainly have my doubts after seeing this sort of boondoggle for the last 20 years.
– Dave (no last name given)