After nearly a year of work, the City of Bend's Transportation Bond Oversight committee will share its priorities for the next five years with the Bend City Council Dec. 1. Voters approved the $190 million bond in 2020 to improve traffic flow, east-west connections and improve neighborhood safety.
City staffers scored the projects based on how they aligned with goals around cycling, pedestrian travel, crash reduction, safety, equity, synergy with other funding, travel time reliability and mobility, construction fatigue and project readiness. The TBOC is responsible for sequencing the projects, and approved prioritization scores for 28 projects at its regular meeting on Oct. 5. The scores themselves depend on how much of the criteria they met, and not necessarily the urgency of the projects.
"I hate to say ranking, because it's not a correct term, but it created a list of projects that may meet a certain value within these criteria," said LeeAnn O'Neill, chair of the TBOC. "No matter how highly two projects score, let's say they score equally, if they're right next to each other, and it's going to shut down two east/west corridors, they're not going to go at the same time."
Though there's now an outline of project timelines, O'Neill said that timelines are subject to change if other projects are more favorable.
"This sequencing is dynamic, and the committee will be reassessing every time they get new information, funding. And so, for me, the important thing is that we get a package approved, we get started, and so that we can start seeing improvements on the ground," O'Neill said.
Four projects are scheduled to begin in 2022, including an extension of Purcell Road, Newport corridor improvements, the Wilson Avenue Corridor and the north corridor project in coordination with the Oregon Department of Transportation. The improvements to Newport and Wilson Avenues both aim to improve pedestrian travel.
The project on Newport—where commuters have recently seen detours due to roundabout reconstruction throughout the summer—will add continuous sidewalks, striped bike lanes, pedestrian crossing, accessible ramps, landscaping and lighting. Wilson Avenue was identified as a major route for commuters and pedestrians, and upgrades will focus on modernization of traffic signals and better facilities for walking and biking. The road and pedestrian improvements are meant to work in tandem to alleviate pressure on the transit system.
"This idea that having safe infrastructure for people who walk bike and roll somehow is not going to improve the system for people who drive, I think, is a little bit of a fallacy.”—LeeAnn O’Neilltweet this
"When we're looking at travel time reliability, one less person in a car is reducing the amount of traffic we have," O'Neill said. "These all are intertwined, so this idea that having safe infrastructure for people who walk, bike and roll somehow is not going to improve the system for people who drive, I think, is a little bit of a fallacy."
The Wilson Corridor improvements and the north 97 project will continue until at least 2023, and other projects will trickle in over the next five years once it's determined it won't overwhelm other parts of the system and geographically dispersed so different sections of Bend see improvements.
The TBOC will present to the council on Dec. 1 before it votes on the timeline at its next meeting.
"Once that happens, then the Transportation Bond Oversight Committee is going to be charged with putting together metrics for monitoring project process. And then also having some involvement with the neighborhood street safety program, which is going to have some monies allocated it to each year," O'Neill said. "And throughout this process, we'll be keeping the public informed of the process and any changes."