For some local businesses, construction on Bend’s Highway 20 is just another project.
“I don’t think it’s really impacted us a whole lot,” said Tracy Rieder, a sales representative at Emerald Hearth, Spa & Patio. “It is difficult to get out of the driveway, especially with Winco across the street…a little bit dangerous.”
But for others, a different story.
“It’s impacting me in a big way already…yesterday I estimated I lost about $1,500 in retail sales due to no access from the north,” said the owner of Fast Market, Scott Villastrigo.
It all started just a week after ODOT broke ground on the project on Nov. 30, setting up barriers and cutting off the middle lane.
“It’s terrible, I’m sending employees home early, adjusting orders from my distributors to lower my inventories,” Villastrigo said. “I’ve been in business 19 years here, and other than March of 2020, this seems to be the roughest week that I’ve had thus far.”
ODOT says the construction between Mervin Sampels Rd. and Greenwood Ave. is part of a larger plan to improve safety and efficiency on the roads in Bend.
“We’ll be putting in additional stoplights, additional lighting, ADA ramps, bike lanes,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Peter Murphy.
“When all that is done, we’ll come back and repave it, so it’ll have a new feel, it’ll have a new look, and it’ll be a lot safer for people who are traveling on it.”
The $17 million project is the result of population growth in Central Oregon.
“It’s not a surprise to people here that the surface of the highway has deteriorated over time, and we’ve patched it,” Murphy said. “But there are other issues. As the traffic volume in Bend has grown, so has demand on this particular highway.”
He said traffic has increased by roughly 33% on nearby Hwy 97, which saw an average of 45,600 vehicles from both directions each day in 2009, and 60,000 each day this year.
The project will take roughly six months to complete, but Villastrigo said the effects will be devastating.
“We’re looking at probably half a million dollars in sales between now and then,” he said. “They basically are telling me ‘sorry’…but sorry doesn’t feed my children or pay my mortgage.”
“It’s noisy, it’s messy, it affects people,” Murphy said. “There’s just no getting around that. If we want to make this highway system better for the future, we have to do it under these kind of conditions, because that’s what we live with.
“It’s frustrating, it takes more time, you have to make plans to go a different direction maybe, but it’s what’s necessary to accommodate what’s going on with the transportation system here in Bend.”
The Highway 20 revamping is the beginning of a 1 1/2 year-long project, which will involve improvements to Highway 97 in north Bend and adding roundabouts at Robal and Cooley roads.