BEND, OR -- The dispute over how to handle Highway 97 congestion in Terrebonne continues. Several Terrebonne business owners are now asking Deschutes County Commissioners to get involved in talks with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Jeff Jordan, owner of the Pump House Bar & Grill, told Commissioners Wednesday that ODOT refuses to consider alternative plans created by an independent engineer he hired, "And we’ve been working very diligently with them and trying to reach out, but whatever they propose, they can do no wrong. In the interim, I guess I’m asking for help to facilitate some kind of orientation – what’s best for the community, best for commerce and best for the public safety of north Deschutes County."
ODOT officials have said the best way to relieve congestion in Terrebonne is to widen Highway 97 to five lanes or, more likely, use 11th Street to create a couplet. But, Jordan and other members of the "Save Terrebonne Coalition" say neither of those proposals addresses the real safety issues, nor the access problems for Crooked River Ranch residents at Lower Bridge Way. "In a perfect world, it would be nice to bypass the whole town of Terrebonne, and we probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking a whole bunch about this," Jordan said Wednesday.
Randy Lunsford, owner of Ferguson's Market, also spoke, telling Commissioners a questionnaire inside his store has collected more than 420 signatures, the vast majority of which are opposed to ODOT's plans. He says some in the community are worried the county will automatically side with ODOT or the Board of Commissioners don't understand the real issues. All three Commissioners said they've attended meetings on the plan, at various times, and committed to stay engaged and will try to attend future work sessions in Terrebonne. Commissioner Tony DeBone acknowledged something needs to be done, "We know, I mean, there’s a constant stream of vehicles coming north to south through the town, and it really makes it hard to go back and forth. The state legislature put in this ‘X’ amount of dollars, which is the seed money for the discussion. The community is engaged now, so let’s work together [and] work through the process." Commissioner Phil Henderson said, "I’m encouraged you’re working together because I think it would be a shame to have this money allocated to the Terrebonne area and that intersection and we don’t get to a plan that works, because we have other areas in the county we’re trying to get money that aren’t allocated. But, I am interested in making sure that it’s something that works for the community."