BEND, OR -- With more people moving to Bend each day, the pressure is on to create more housing. But new developments typically lead to more traffic congestion. Bend City Manager Eric King says that’s taken into consideration before construction begins, "There’s traffic modeling that has to be completed before a new development is approved. And we look at intersections, and if they are failing, we then require mitigation. So, the developer might have to make improvements or add a right turn lane, those types of things."
The city collects System Development Charges from developers, as well, to pay for additional infrastructure, but King says there can be a lag in upgrading things like local roads. "The infrastructure doesn’t always come before, so there are some legitimate concerns around traffic pinch-points."
A large apartment complex currently under construction on Empire Avenue, just west of NE 18th Street (pictured above) is leading some to question what's being done to improve traffic flows in an already congested area. King says there are no plans to widen Empire between 18th and Boyd Acres, but they are working on changes just up the street, "To provide improvements to that area, both the intersection at Third and Empire [and] the ramps leading on to 97, so there’s a project in the works and the city is looking to partner with ODOT to get that done." According to the Oregon Department of Transportation Highway 97 and Empire is one of the busiest intersections in the city.
According to King, the city is only allowed to ask a developer to mitigate traffic problems in the immediate area surrounding a project. "That’s the challenge with transportation: there’s things you can extract out of that development. But, by law it only goes so far, and there’s sort of ‘background traffic’ that needs to be addressed and we have to get creative with our funding for that." However, he points out the city is trying to address concerns, "Namely extending Empire and improving the ramps along 97." And, he says more is coming, "We’ve just, as part of the Transportation Package, received $50 million earmarked towards Cooley and 97; we’re focused on extending Murphy up and over the railroad to provide another crossing on the south side of town, to ease some of the traffic that folks experience on Reed Market."
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