By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Imagine what Bend’s traffic would be like with 53,000 more people, as is projected in the next 20 years, and transportation planners did nothing? More gridlock.
ODOT is proposing changes to keep traffic moving, including removing the Lafayette Avenue exit from the parkway and altering the Hawthorne ramp to be only an exit into downtown.
The options were discussed Monday during a meeting hosted by the Downtown Bend Business Alliance.
Transportation planners have flagged the Lafayette and Hawthorne accesses as safety concerns due to a high proportion of rear-end crashes. Those occur as drivers slow to exit the parkway, and while turning on to the parkway.
According to ODOT studies, drivers demonstrate aggressive gap selection behavior at Lafayette, in other words, motorists take risks while exiting or entering the parkway.
If growth predictions are accurate, the problems at “right-in, right-out” ramps like Lafayette and Hawthorne are only going to get worse.
“We are going to have 53,000 people moving here in the next 20 years and we already have more than 2 million tourists a year so it’s going to get worse,” said Rick Williams, ODOT Region 4 principal planner. “We don’t have funding to go out and add a lot of lanes to the parkway see we are trying to manage it the best we can to make sure we have mobility and safety into the future.”
As things stand now, transportation planners propose closing the Lafayette connection to the parkway and modifying the Hawthorne exit so it’s only open to exit the parkway into downtown. Community feedback has been mixed, both at today’s meeting and through online surveys.
“I think business and building owners are really concerned with increased traffic and traffic flow in downtown core,” said Mindy Ainsling of the Downtown Bend Business Alliance. “How are we going to make sure our visitors and locals are going to be able to access their downtown.
“ODOT needs to consider all the people who use these entrances and exits; of the congestion that they will create on the city streets and who will pay for it,” said Bend resident Robin Vora. “We have the city wanting to pass a bond to reduce congestion and at the same ODOT wants to use taxpayer money that will, in effect, increase congestion.”
One business owner says not everyone will be impacted.
“On lodging, I think they are still going to come. What we offer for lodging is pretty unique,” said Frankie Maduzia, co-owner of Bunk & Brew Historic Lucas House. “Community and affordability right downtown, a hostel based model kind of European but for the beer tap trucks and the food trucks and a few of the other business guys, yeah, I think it would affect them. We would have less traffic coming by our business.