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Bend City Council talks Hwy. 97 'expressway'

By John Hendricks
Published On: Jan 31 2013 12:51:41 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 31 2013 10:24:09 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's John Hendricks reports on the discussion to remove the designation of 'expressway' from Hwy. 97

BEND, Ore. -

Talk about parts of the region's highway system took center stage at a work session before Wednesday night's Bend City Council meeting.

The city wants to drop the expressway designation for part of the parkway on the north end of the city.

The designation means traffic can move along a lot quicker, and entrances are a bit further apart. The goal by the state is to move traffic efficiently and safely.

Some councilors like Mark Capell had questions about why the designation was needed.

"It seems to me that the issue of this comes down to the future plan for the reroute," said Capell, referring to long-discussed plans to shift the highway east from the busy Cascade Village Shopping Center and build a new Cooley Road interchange or intersection.

Capell was concerned that having the designation on the current stretch of road would prevent access to a new Hwy. 97 re-route sometime in the future.

"If this was an expressway, wouldn't we have Robal (Road) already be shut down?" said Capell. "Because Empire (Avenue) is too close."

Councilors wanted to know what the point of having the "expressway" was if some of the requirements weren't being met.

Earlier in the meeting, ODOT Regional Manager Bob Bryant explained that the rules for the designation were unclear in the late 90s and early 2000s.

"We are in the position of recommending the removal of more miles of previously designated expressway than any of the other regions," said Bryant. But he also said allowing more access or not will be based on safety issues -- not that expressway designation.

Ultimately, the importance of the designation comes down to money. The ODOT official warned that giving up the "expressway" designation could make it more difficult to apply for state funds for an eventual re-route of Hwy. 97.

"It would be more difficult to point public investments, major investments to a segment that we've said isn't particularly important," said Bryant.

The council will take up the issue again at one of their next two meetings.

ODOT did tell the council that it supports removing the designation from two stretches of Hwy. 20, one on the east side of the city, the other on the north.

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