Midtown Crossings: Bridges to Better

Ashley & Vance rendering of a straight bridge to span the divide at Hawthorne.

There are some things in the active transportation world that can lead to despair. But, only if you focus on what’s dispiriting – chiefly, why haven’t we made more progress towards a better system for walking and bicycling around Bend? What sometimes gets overlooked are the signs of potential.

The BCD Initiative, a program of Central Oregon Landwatch, has played a key role in bringing together lots of disparate voices with an eye towards making it easier and safer for those who would choose to walk or bike or roll between downtown and midtown in Bend.

Bend Bikes joins them in support of safely connecting the east and west sides of the BNSF railway and Bend Parkway as a top priority. Not only will it fuel a more equitable type of growth than the historical precedent by encouraging density and middle market housing, but it will also help ensure that the Bend Central District develops into the economically vibrant complement to downtown that it’s promised to be.

Here’s a summary of what’s being fleshed out by local advocates and policy makers.


Enhanced western approarch to the tunnel on Franklin at the train tressel
Enhanced western approarch to the tunnel on Franklin at the train tressel. Image credit: COLW.

Yes, sadly it is true the tunnels at Franklin pose significant redevelopment challenges (historic designation of the BNSF railway bridge, ODOT jurisdiction at the site, among others), but there’s plenty that can still be done, including:

  • Enhance the westbound approach to the existing tunnel;
  • Repurpose a car travel lane on Franklin between 1st and 3rd for multi-use path;
  • Improve crosswalk and safety to cross Franklin 1st at 2nd Streets;
  • Protect the intersection at 3rd Street;
  • Improve southbound Hill right-out onto Franklin to better protect those who walk, bike and roll;

And, (can’t a cyclist dream), possibly, maybe pedestrian and bicycle overpasses at Franklin?


Since 2016, visions of under and overpasses at Hawthorne to literally bridge the railway and highway have been bandied about. It’s not until recently though that sitting City Councilors have begun to add heft to the calls for a better east/west connector at Hawthorne. Of course, much like anything the devil is in the details. The City of Bend has become serious enough about it that there has been talk of a midtown crossings feasibility study (not to be confused by one developed by ODOT) which will look at several options. 

Here’s what we hope is incorporated into the conversation for an overcrossing at Hawthorne:

  • A park-like user experience atop the bridge; and
  • A bridge with as few loops or switchbacks as possible for a better experience for all users (including people who bike, walk, and roll).

What leads up to the overcrossing (whatever form it eventually takes) may be as important as the bridge itself. Ideas on that front include:

  • Upgrade the crossing at 3rd to a HAWK or PHB along with a raised crosswalk;
  • Dedicate half of NE Hawthorne to active transportation; and 
  • Install a public plaza at east side mouth of the bridge. 


There have been no lack of plans about how to make Greenwood (west of 3rd to the bridge) feel less like a highway and more like an invitation to downtown. Here are a few:

  • A road diet on 3rd to calm traffic to make room for bike lanes and wider sidewalks;
  • Safety improvements for pedestrians and bikes at Harriman, Hill, 1st and 2nd Streets; and
  • A protected intersection at 3rd. 


Sometimes forgotten in discussions about midtown crossings is the lower car volume Olney Avenue. Lower volumes don’t necessarily translate into safer though, as a March 2021 serious collision involving a driver and a person on a bike at 3rd and Olney attests. Some enhancements for the Olney corridor could be:

  • A protected intersection at 3rd;
  • An improved bike crossing surface and width at the railroad; 
  • A better bike lane transition on eastbound Portland at Hill/Wall; and
  • Additional bulb outs or otherwise narrowed intersection at 2nd street.

Stay tuned for updates on midtown crossing as the funding and planning pictures become clearer!