Local News

Holiday Traffic Expected To Begin Today

BEND, OR -- Holiday weekend traffic congestion begins Thursday afternoon. AAA-Oregon predicts overall travel will be the second busiest ever, for a Memorial Day Weekend. But our roads? They may be the most crowded we’ve ever seen for this holiday period. "We are looking at car travel that is going to set a record," says AAA's Marie Dodds, "So, you’re looking at very busy roads pretty much most of the day Thursday and Friday. But the busiest, most congested time will be between about noon and six."

Almost 44 million Americans plan to get out of town. Of those, 38.4 million are expected to drive to their Memorial Day weekend destination. 

Dodds tells KBND News it’ll be especially busy in areas expecting the most visitors, like Central Oregon, Portland, Eugene, Medford, Baker City and the coast. "Part of that is, especially in urban areas, travelers will be mixing with commuters during that period of time. So, if you can avoid those times - leave early in the morning on Thursday or Friday, or later in the evening after six or seven, even eight o’clock," says Dodds. 

Saturday may be the only reprive from crowded roads, "Monday and Tuesday are actually the busiest ‘coming home’ days," says Dodds, "But we also find that Sunday afternoon is also a busy ‘coming home’ day. And, the times there- if you can avoid traveling on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday between about three and seven p.m. on those days, that will help you avoid the most congested periods."

Airports will also be busy, and travelers are urged to plan for long security lines. 

While all those tourists may try our patience, Dodds says this is likely just the start, "Usually, a strong Memorial Day travel period will signal that it’s going to be strong all summer long. And this year, on Memorial Day, we’re looking at the second highest volume on record, only behind the year 2005."


Crook County Race Headed For Runoff

PRINEVILLE, OR -- The race for Crook County Commissioner Position Three is headed for a runoff in November. Incumbent Seth Crawford was leading in early returns. But Wednesday morning, the County Clerk was still counting around 1300 last-minute ballots, which could’ve pushed Commissioner Crawford over the 50% mark, required to win the seat outright.

Those ballots appear now to have been spread between all three candidates, leaving Crawford with 44% and former Commissioner Ken Fahlgren with 39%, and sending both to the November General Election.

Commissioner Susan Hermreck’s Position One was also on this week’s ballot, but her re-election bid was unopposed.

Commissioner Chang Celebrates Re-Election

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang easily defeated his three Primary challengers in this week's election. At 61%, Chang had more than twice as many votes as the second-place finisher, Rob Imhoff. "I felt like I would win this election," Chang said the day after the election, "But the margin was bigger than I had anticipated."

Chang believes he won by focusing on a platform that resonated with voters, "Talking about housing, land conservation, mental health and addiction treatment, drought and wildfire resiliency." But, he adds, "I also, I want to emphasize that this was the first nonpartisan County Commissioner race in Deschutes County. And, we saw 61,000 voters turn up to vote. If only Democrats and Republicans were allowed to vote, more than a quarter of those people wouldn’t have cast ballots for Commissioner."

Until this election, non-affiliated and independent voters weren’t allowed to vote for Commissioner in the May Primary, "But now, all of those folks really have a say. And I think that, as a result, these Commissioner races are going to select for moderate, pragmatic, problem-solver candidates. And I would like to think that that is who I am and how I presented myself to the voters."

If no candidate earned more than 50%, the top two would have gone to a run-off in November. Chang tells KBND News he’s glad to be off the campaign trail, "I’m very excited to work on the full range of issues facing the county with that little bit of time given back to me, for the next six months."


Schools Pivot Following Failed Measures

BEND, PRINEVILLE, OR -- Voters on Tuesday rejected measures for Bend La Pine and Crook County Schools. In Prineville, School Board member Scott Cooper says with the defeat of a bond his district will need to find the money somewhere for building maintenance and repairs. “I think that's a really good question to ask current leadership of the board because two of the board members came out halfway through the bond and said they no longer thought it was necessary. I don't know where they thought we were going to get the funding because we don't have another source of funding for this and these repairs cannot go undone. So, I'm looking forward to that conversation.” Cooper doesn’t see a lot of alternatives, “We’ll certainly have to go back to the drawing board and figure that out. There isn’t just $17-million laying around.”

In Bend-La Pine Schools, Scott Maben tells KBND News there was a contingency plan if its Learning Levy failed, “We do need to make budget reductions over the next two years. We will look at eliminating positions and also reducing some other spending,” he adds the district will look for more state funding, “The focus will turn to Salem, and our legislature and the governor. Our superintendent is already starting to engage in that conversation. …Especially as we're getting ready for next year's legislative session and they will be voting on a new two-year funding package for public schools.”

Cooper isn’t banking on state lawmakers. “Well, I do laugh at Bend La Pine Schools, which is always talking about more funding from Salem, despite record and historic levels of funding. But certainly, should that come through, it would be helpful.”

It’s the second time Crook County voters have defeated a bond for school facilities.


Wilson Avenue Corridor Project Complete

BEND, OR -- A ribbon cutting Tuesday marked the completion of a major road project on Bend’s south side. City officials and those who helped make the project happen were on hand to open the final stretch of Wilson, between 3rd and 5th street. City Engineer Ryan Oster says safety for all transportation modes is a priority, “We've got widened sidewalks now, instead of a standard 6 foot sidewalk, it's somewhere between 8 to 10 9 (feet), so it's very comfortable for families to be on.” The work included upgraded infrastructure, two roundabouts, modernizing the 3rd Street signal, and adding bike lanes and sidewalks, “To get this done all the way from 15th to 2nd is a pretty dramatic improvement, not only for cars but for bikes and people walking, as well,” Oster says.

Work on the Wilson Avenue Corridor Modernization Project began in March 2022, with a budget of more than $15.5-million from the city’s Transportation GO Bond.

Bend’s COO Russell Grayson tells KBND News it's part of the effort to improve east – west travel, “There was some change in the scope which increased the budget, but it was all done as we got into the design that it was determined that this was a major corridor that we wanted to invest some more money in…just because we wanted to upgrade all the facilities.”

Mayor Melanie Kebler says this is the first major update to Wilson since she was a teenage driver in Bend, “…Definitely almost got in an accident at Wilson and 15 when it was the T intersection; that wouldn't happen now with that roundabout. So, just the safety improvements are so key here.”

City engineers are now planning a bridge over the railroad tracks on Reed Market Road.

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