Bend transportation package might not include healthy options

If you’ve been reading The Bulletin these last few months, you’ve seen a more than a few articles about Bend’s failing roadway surfaces. ¬†By most estimates, we would need to spend between $60 to $80 Mill to rejuvenate our roadways. ¬†The topic of deferred road maintenance however has since bloomed into a broader discussion about¬†healthy transportation infrastructure; think walking and biking. That was partly driven by an¬†online survey¬†and a forum hosted by the folks at Bend 2030.

It appears a majority of those in Bend are not only
in favor of funding better street maintenance, but
also a more complete bike lane and sidewalk network.
Click here to download the online survey’s findings.

The trouble comes when deciding how to pay for the improvements. On that front, divisions were laid bare in the last City Council meeting. Councilors voted 4 Р3 to pass a resolution to form a committee of citizenry and key business stakeholders to explore what the details of a comprehensive transportation package might look like. They also passed a motion by the same margin to put a gas tax before Bend voters in March.  According to Mayor Clinton, the motion seemed like a good idea as it would very directly tell the yet-to-be-formed group that a gas tax would be on the table.  He felt this type of surety would allow the group to focus on other equally important recommendations.

Councilors Doug Knight, Victor Chudowsky, and Casey Roats voted against¬†the¬†gas tax resolution expressing frustration that¬†it¬†had¬†snake-bitten the committee’s work of striving to find a consensus recommendation. ¬†Their opposition, which was at times strident, likely marks a stark division on the issue emerging on the Council. ¬†Their dissent¬†proved prescient, as not a week after the vote, the¬†Bend Chamber of Commerce became¬†the first to signal it will likely not participate on the committee. Even Bend 2030, the main driver behind the committee’s forming, is publicly wondering if it¬†should pull out as well.

What went partially unnoticed was the fact that there were¬†discussions just before the City Council’s meeting on¬†August 5th, to remove active transportation entirely from consideration. ¬†Wobbly language in support of healthy¬†transportation like this bullet-point¬†in the resolution that passed to establish the temporary advisory committee¬†gives you some insight into how much attention is still being paid to just road maintenance:

“Develop a timeline and potential funding sources to address multi-modal and sidewalk needs”

Mayor Clinton went a step further making the¬†statement that any gas tax revenue¬†should¬†be expressly used to “fix the roads.” ¬†

It is important to let your City Councilors know how important a role healthy transportation will play in the future livability of our town.  Send them an email (click here for their addresses) and let them know your thoughts.

Here’s a statement made on behalf of Bend Bikes during the session if you’re curious about some of the talking points we bring up when speaking¬†to policy makers.

A path forward to  ensuring the City of Bend commits funds towards better sidewalks and bike lanes is very unclear at the moment, but Bend Bikes plans to play an active role in shaping any Bend transportation package.