BEND, OR -- Deschutes County is set to gain millions of dollars for road projects, thanks to the $5.3 billion transportation package passed by state lawmakers, earlier this month. The 10-year plan raises the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, and Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney explains, "That increase in the gas tax will go directly to the roads. It is split 50% with the state of Oregon, 30% with the counties and 20% with cities. So, you’ll see it both in the city and the county. For us, we’ll be making improvements to places like out in La Pine, Redmond, Old Bend-Redmond Highway." The legislation also adds a tax on new cars and bicycles, and includes tolls on two Portland-area freeways.
County Road Department Director Chris Doty says Deschutes County’s allotment will go toward new construction projects. "Straight away, we’ll get anywhere from $3.1 million in the first year, upwards of $7 million annually towards, I think, year seven of the package. So, it’s going to be a huge impact to the county. We have a long capital list of projects that, for a while, we didn’t know if we’d ever get to." Doty tells KBND News, "We will direct most of that to the capital program to build capital projects: roundabouts in certain areas. Projects that we’re contemplating at the moment are anything that connects Bend to Redmond, from a county road facility, is getting hammered with growth. Existing safety problems that are being exacerbated by new growth and just the amount of traffic volume on those legs are creating traffic problems that need to be fixed."
Commissioner Baney says the package also includes, "The ability for us to take care of the Lower Bridge area, which is down near Terrebonne; Cooley/97 is on that short list. That’ll free up capital project dollars from the county to be able to address things like Tumalo. It’s an opportunity for us to make sure that that is not only safe but efficient." She expects work funded by the new state package won't begin until at least next year.