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Bend Outlines Plans To Fix Flooding Underpasses

Published On: Apr 22 2013 09:32:38 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2009 11:38:12 AM CDT

The flooding in Bend's underpasses Tuesday (followed by another, briefer round Wednesday evening) brought some people to tears, caused thousands of dollars in damages to cars whose drivers underestimated the depth, and brought frustration to city officials.

So what is the city's plan to fix it?

We saw an 1 1/2 inches of rain in just 30 minutes in plates Tuesday. That, along with hail and downed leaves, clogged gutters and flooded businesses.

Using fees from water bills, the city has already begun construction to fix the Third Street underpass, but it'll be a few years before these water problems go away.

The sounds were of raging rapids on the Deschutes. The sights were even more unbelievable.

Common sense was not prevailing for drivers who insisted on going through the flooded underpasses Tuesday.

"Is my car smoking?" yelled one motorist from her car stuck in the Greenwood underpass. A passer-by yelled back, "Yeah, you got the wiring wet. We could smell it when we walked up."

Sabrina Pilaczynski of La Pine just bought her little car so she wouldn't have to hitch-hike into town. She got stuck behind a line of cars under the Third Street underpass, and before she knew it, she was trapped inside.

"I'm waiting for someone to help me get my car out," said the tearful Pilaczynski. "They said they were bringing pumps and they were supposed to help me tow it out, and now I have no car."

Close to 24 hours later, there's still snow on the ground in the middle of June. So were leaves that had to be cleared from a Wall street gutter that flooded businesses, and left them drying out the next day.

"Right away we scrambled to the overpasses," said Bend Public Works Director Paul Rheault. He says police and fire crews, on their way to a serious car accident and ambulance calls, were slowed trying to get around blocked roads.

Because of train tracks above each one, the underpasses can't be changed. The first solution though, is already under construction at the Colorado off-ramp, where water from the Third Street underpass will be pumped to form a pond.

The Greenwood and Franklin underpasses are next, but won't be done for two to three years. The money comes from the year-old storm water utility fee of $4 a month on city water bills.

Some question why spend the millions to construct these pumping projects for something that only happens once or twice a year?

"Yeah it may only happen a couple times a year," Rheault said. "But it's really difficult for emergency crews and our crews to get to those locations and take care of the problem."

Right now, $250,000 has been set aside for the first pumping project at Colorado Avenue.

Public works says that's not enough, and it'll be asking city councilors for more contingency money, which it says it has enough of set-aside to complete the project.

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