TERREBONNE, OR -- A plan to change Highway 97 in Terrebonne is drawing criticism from area residents and business owners. Peter Murphy, with the Oregon Department of Transportation, says money was allocated in the 2017 transportation package to address Terrebonne congestion, and a project must be on the books by 2021. "Now, it’s time for us to do something about it, present that to the community, hear what they have to say and go from there," Murphy tells KBND News, "And, that’s kind of where we’re at." After a number of community meetings, Murphy says ODOT is leaning toward a couplet where existing 97 would convert to two lanes southbound and 11th street would turn into northbound 97, "We heard what people had to say. And no, not everyone is supportive of the idea." The other option under consideration would widen existing 97 to five lanes; two northbound and two southbound lanes, along with a center turn lane. "These are kind of the options that we come up with, neither of which is perfect. So, we’re left with a choice to make of the lesser of two evils." says Murphy.
Drivers through the area can’t miss the “Stop ODOT” and “Save Historical Terrebonne” signs posted along the highway. Randy Lunsford, owner of Ferguson’s Market, says the community is frustrated that ODOT isn't addressing the biggest problems, "The issue here isn’t ‘is a couplet good for Terrebonne or is it not?’, ‘is five lanes good for Terrebonne or is it not?’ There are so other many things that are being touched here." Lunsford tells KBND News he served on ODOT's advisory committee and says many are frustrated with the entire process, "Smith Rock is a problem; Lower Bridge interchange is a problem; getting access to the post office is a problem; getting southbound out of Terrebonne is a problem. Those things, though the advisory committee brought those up in the first meeting, they were never addressed in any of the meetings beyond that." He says, "The number one stance of the majority of the blowback that ODOT is getting from the community is, ‘you need to address the Lower Bridge interchange, first and foremost.’ And it needs to accommodate everybody in movement of all directions." He adds, "We are in complete favor and will do whatever we can to help resolve the Lower Bridge interchange, first and foremost. Moving from there, it’s let’s get some safety in this town with regards to crossing roads, speeds and an easier flow for people in different directions."
Lunsford says neither plan addresses the big issues, and could lead to access and parking problems for businesses. He and other business leaders host a community meeting every Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Pump House restaurant, which he says ODOT has attended in the past. Murphy says the agency continues to meet with the community to find solutions.