BEND, OR -- While state and federal lawmakers continue to debate how to fund infrastructure improvements, the Oregon Department of Transportation is highlighting just how road maintenance impacts everyone. The agency recently released a report showing the need for increased investment in the state’s roads and bridges.
"ODOT manages 8,000 miles of road - over 1900 miles in Central Oregon, alone," says ODOT's Abbey Driscoll. She tells KBND News 88% of state highways are currently ranked in fair or better condition, "But, without sufficient funding, 35% of those will be in poor condition in the next 10 years." Driscoll says poor pavement conditions not only lead to greater wear and tear on vehicles, it impacts the economy because one in five jobs in the state is transportation-related. "Oregon is largely trade dependent; we rely on our farms and our forests and moving those goods and services efficiently. So, it’s really important to keep roads and bridges maintained. And obviously, rough road pavement leads to greater wear and tear on vehicles, which is money out of our pockets to maintain our cars." The report also shows more than half of the state’s bridges were built before 1970 and many should be replaced; current funding levels only cover rebuilding three each year.
Driscoll says there are a few improvement projects slated for the next year, throughout the Central Oregon region, "Highway 20, between Sisters and Tumalo, we have a large repaving project. That area of road is really badly rutted, as I’m sure most drivers know; also, near Madras. And then, next year, south of Sunriver on US 97, we have a really large paving project; then, additional work on 97 and US 20 east of Bend and west of Sisters." To keep pavement in good condition, statewide, ODOT estimates it would need to pave about 400 miles annually, at a cost of about $200 million a year. However, its paving budget is just $85 million a year.