Voters in Bend this November will decide whether they want to fund a $190 million transportation bond to pay for dozens of major traffic improvements.
City Councilors on Wednesday voted 5-2 to officially place the bond measure on the ballot, after pulling the measure from the May ballot due to the financial uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while a “yes” vote would approve a tax hike for homeowners, the first payments wouldn’t happen until 2022 to let the economy rebound from the current COVID slowdown.
“This new (transportation system plan) is a great foundation for protecting Bend’s quality of life and environment as we grow,” said Mike Riley, Co-Chair of the City Transportation Advisory Committee and Executive Director of The Environmental Center. “It will be an important step forward towards ensuring the safety of all users and improving travel routes for people, goods and services across our community,”
It’s the largest bond measure ever requested by the city.
The estimated cost to property owners would be about 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
According to the city, a home with a real market value of $415,000 and an assessed value of $220,000 (Bend’s citywide average) would pay about $170 per year.
The payments would be much smaller during the first few years of the bond issuance, increasing from $8 to $30 to $119 over the next five years.
Among the key projects slated for the bond are $36.5 million for work on Reed Market Road, including a railroad overpass; $10 million to build a northbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp on Highway 97 at Murphy Road; $5 million to build a roundabout or improve the traffic light at 3rd and Wilson and $1.4 million to widen Empire Avenue to five lanes near the Highway 97 interchange and add a traffic light at the southbound ramp.
New roundabouts or traffic signals also are in store for several busy east-west intersections including 4th and Revere, Olney and 4th, Ferguson Road and 15th, Wilson and 15th and O.B. Riley Road and Empire Avenue.
The money would also be used to improve sidewalk/bike path infrastructure in neighborhoods and along busy city streets to make it safer to walk and bike across town.
“This transportation plan was an inclusive effort that reflects the many perspectives and needs from across our community on the connectivity and livability of Bend’s future,” said Katy Brooks, CTAC member and CEO of the Bend Chamber of Commerce.
While the city is delaying taxing residents, it can begin the projects right away if voters approve the measure.
If the bond passes, the city would then form a bond project oversight committee to review and make recommendations on project scheduling and sequencing.
The council approved the ballot measure back in February and planned to put it before voters in May.