BEND, OR -- a Plan to reroute Highway 97 on the north end of Bend is getting a big funding boost from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday it will provide a $60.4 million INFRA Grant to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Henderson says this is one of the last pieces of funding needed for the project, "So we can do some major improvements on the north end of Bend, realign the parkway and make things better at the Cooley Road interchange. So, this is really an exciting funding approval for all of us in Central Oregon and Deschutes County." He believes it will improve traffic flows and safety for everyone in the region. "Moving the Parkway from Empire over to the east, a little bit, and going behind the buildings there, that you now see when you go by the shopping area," he tells KBND News, "It moves the whole Parkway over there; and then Cooley Road becomes - is an underpass."
Henderson says ODOT has done much of the preliminary work already, "It may be in 2020-21, they'll be doing work on it - I think was the hope. Because, they've already done the environmental studies, or whatever they have to do, which is a big part of doing any roads like this."
Earlier this year, Henderson and other local officials met with Congressman Greg Walden to discuss the importance of the project. Walden then met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to express support for the work. "having traveled that section of Highway 97 myself many times and after hearing the concerns from local residents and community leaders, this is excellent news," Walden said in a statement. "Helping this project move forward is one of my top priorities as it widely impacts many residents and visitors in the area. This project will significantly improve freight mobility and help reduce traffic congestion and dangers to drivers."
ODOT requested $66.7 million in INFRA funds for the full project, but officials say the agency is committed to completing the work and securing the rest of the funds needed. State and federal funding now totals $110 million; the city of Bend and Deschutes County will each contribute $5 million.