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City Council Moves Forward with Transportation Bond 

Bend City Council to draft a $180 million bond measure for the May Primary Election ballot

The Bend City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward on a transportation bond measure. The Council will finalize the language for the ballot at its Feb. 5 meeting.
The motion directs the City Attorney’s office to draft the language for the bond measure that would fund $180 million in capital transportation projects. Once the resolution is finalized, the measure will appear on the May 19 Primary Election ballot.
  • City of Bend
The City split-tested two bond measure amounts—$190 million and $275 million—in phone surveys by DHM Research in December. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed supported the $190 million measure, even after they heard that it would cost the average household $195 more in property taxes per year. While a majority of voters (57%) supported the $275 million measure, once they were told that it would cost the average homeowner $270 a year, support dropped to 44%.
The Citywide Transportation Advisory Committee worked for two years to create the list of projects for the bond. City Council prioritized the projects most frequently listed by people who filled out the City’s one-minute transportation survey in 2019. These included better east-west connections (especially along Reed Market Road), traffic flow on U.S. 97, intersections along Third Street, and improvements to Empire Avenue, Wilson Avenue, and Butler Market Road.

After traffic congestion, “safe travel to schools, parks and jobs” was listed as a top concern for voters in both quantitative and qualitative surveys last year. The bond addresses these issues by funding safer road crossings, a network of cross-town bike routes and a series of sidewalk projects and improvements.

DHM Research presented the results of their latest survey and compared these with prior surveys during the work session at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting. In both the May and December surveys, 57% of people interviewed said they thought that the city was headed in the right direction. One significant change from May to December was that in the first survey, 43% of people interviewed answered “transportation” to the question “What is the most important issue in the City of Bend that you would like to see your local leaders do something about?” By December, this number had dropped to 37%, while those who listed affordable housing and homelessness as their top issue went from 25% in May to 30% in December.

After the DHM Research presentation, City Manager Eric King told the City Council that due to some efficiencies at the city level, councilors could potentially add $10 million to the smaller bond project list, and still keep the overall cost under $180 million. Councilors spent the remainder of the work session debating how the money should be spent.

City Councilor Justin Livingston suggested that they add $5 million for “intelligent transportation systems” technology. This would coordinate stoplights to traffic flow and add about 18% more efficiency to intersections where it was implemented. The Council agreed to add $4 million for ITS in the bond.

City Councilors Bruce Abernethy, Barb Campbell, Gena Goodman-Campbell and Chris Piper all advocated for more funding for public transit, but the group reached consensus by only adding an additional $1 million to the $7 million already designated for public transportation. Councilor Bill Moseley said he would rather not see any increased funding for transit.

“I think the trick is we’re working with a smaller package,” said Mayor Sally Russell. “We’ve had to make a lot of really strategic and careful decisions. We’re not getting everything we identified in the larger project.... How do we begin to catalyze and move projects forward knowing that it is going to be a continuous effort over time? There are certain things that will make a difference in our community today.

“We can see in our polling, statistical data and online surveys: neighborhood safety and street safety programs have been incredibly well received.”
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