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Franklin Tunnel Revival? 

BCD looks to turn underpass into a work of art

DANIELLE MEYERS
  • Danielle Meyers
Riding your bike through trash, puddles of human waste and avoiding the occasional napper can make the route to downtown through the Franklin Avenue underpass a little less than pleasant. But if groups including the Bend Central District, Central Oregon LandWatch and local businesses have their way, the tunnel could end up a gem for Bend, modeled at least in part after the Highline trail in New York City.

The BCD sent out an initial proposal in July. Its objective: "to transform the Franklin Avenue underpass into a site specific art installation, in order to promote awareness of pedestrian and bike access in the artery, and create an aesthetically interesting and thought provoking experience around public spaces."

Landwatch's Moey Newbold, along with local artist Kaycee Anseth, are spearheading the project, with an initial cleanup scheduled Aug. 20. Anseth said volunteers can meet up at Oregon Spirit Distillers at 4:30 pm and then walk to the project site. Anseth said she's waiting to get the go-ahead from the City of Bend for the art portion of the project. The project also needs permission from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which operates the railway, because they have overlapping jurisdiction in the area.

The goals of the proposal are to generate interest in the BCD, to foster long-term art installations in unexpected parts of Bend, to make east-to-west human-powered transportation safer and more enjoyable, to catalyze improvement of public spaces and to highlight the needs of Bend's homeless people.

The first step: finding a team of volunteers to clean the tunnel underpass and walkways leading to it, as well as power-washing the sidewalk, walls and roof of the railroad tunnel. If the City allows, a team of artists will apply a design to the underpass walls, creating an outdoor gallery and using colored fabric to weave a pattern along the chain-link fence inside the tunnel—essentially creating a mural with fabric, as a large scale embroidered piece. The sidewalks on the west side of the tunnel would become a landscaped promenade, with the potential for sidewalk carnival vendors, art installations, farmers market stalls and other projects.

Interested volunteers can connect via the Project Underpass' Facebook page or through Central Oregon LandWatch.
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