BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors, this week, approved a contract for engineering and design of improvements at the intersection of Neff and Purcell (pictured, left). City Manager Eric King says its location near the hospital and long-standing congestion problems make the intersection a priority project, "We’ll be increasing some lanes so the intersection will handle the capacity; right now, there’s just long queues on all ends and the signal doesn’t really work very efficiently. So, the signal will be replaced. The grade is a little funky – there’s a slope. So, we’ll be flattening it out to make it safer, filling in some missing sidewalks. It’s a pretty comprehensive project." He tells KBND News, "Even simple things like putting in a right hand turn lane, or a dedicated left hand turn lane, it’s amazing what those types of things will do to the efficiency and prevent some of that backing up. What happens is, there’s a lot of rear-end crashes, too; people don’t expect those long queues."
But, he says, for now funding is only available for the initial design, not the actual work. Councilors are expected to look for that money in the next budget cycle, but King admits it may involve increasing revenue somewhere.
The city is also looking to fund improvements at another troubled intersection. At Wednesday's meeting, Councilors agreed to apply for a federal transportation grant to supplement state money to fix Highway 97 and Cooley Road. King says a large portion of the project will be paid for by the 2017 state transportation package, "We wanted to leverage that $50 million and combine with some other local sources, both the city and the county, as well as apply for a federal grant. And that’s what we’re doing right now is applying for what’s called an INFRA grant. We applied last year; we made it all the way to the Transportation Secretary’s desk, so they encouraged us to apply again. There was a lot of competition for those funds." He adds, "[The] City stepped up, the county stepped up and the state did as well. We all did to improve our chances because, as the federal government is looking to dole out money, they’re looking to which communities have more skin in the game." Applications for the INFRA grant are due March first.