Safety trumps nuisance

As it has been for thousands of other residents of southeast Bend, the rebuilding of Reed Market Road between 15th and 27th streets this summer has been an enormous headache for my family.

Construction has closed off a big chunk of Reed Market east of 15th Street.

Since May, we’ve had to take alternate routes to and from our home. On many days, that’s four-plus trips, by the time you factor in commuting to and from work, shuttling kids to summer day camps and athletic practices, grocery shopping and the odd run to the corner market for an ice cream or a growler fill.

In truth, since the construction started, there has been no such thing as a quick trip anywhere. Eliminating the main access point to my neighborhood has added miles of travel and hours of time to my transportation schedule. Not to mention the toll it has taken on my wallet, gas prices being unkind to those stuck on endless detours.

And it’s not over yet. Construction on this first phase is expected to be complete in early September, but there are several other phases of the two-year project. While the inconvenience to me personally will lessen once the current phase is complete, it won’t be over until the entire three-mile section from Third Street to 27th Street is done, including a new roundabout at Reed Market Road and 15th Street.

For residents of this part of town, the project has already turned out to be costly, time-consuming, annoying, noisy, dusty, inconvenient and even mentally taxing (it’s not always easy to figure out an alternate route — sometimes, you just can’t get there from here).

However, I gladly put up with it all. I don’t mind two years of inconvenience.

All I see when I look down the almost-finished section of Reed Market near my house is safety.

There are broad bike lanes and sidewalks safely removed from the lane of traffic. A median divides the east- and west-bound lanes.

Previously, this stretch of road barely had a shoulder, let alone a bike lane or sidewalk. It was dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and even for drivers — at peak traffic times, I often felt I was taking my life into my hands if I had to cross traffic with a left-hand turn.

Of the six major intersections along the section of Reed Market Road that is being rebuilt, four rank in the top 20 for either severity or frequency of crashes, according to a city study reported in The Bulletin last year. Much of Reed Market lacks a center turn lane, putting drivers who stop to turn across traffic at risk of being rear-ended.

But worse are the risks to those not in vehicles. A 16-year-old cyclist was killed by a distracted driver in 2011 just a few blocks from my house. I’ve seen seniors try to maneuver wheelchairs on the precarious gravel shoulder, and moms pushing strollers while holding tight to a toddler’s hand as cars whizzed by at 45 mph.

My kids have long been banned from riding bikes or even walking along Reed Market — it was just too dangerous.

But when the project is complete, I will happily let them pedal down Reed Market to visit the park a half mile away, or go to a friend’s house, or buy a popsicle at the corner market.

For many in Bend, the Reed Market overhaul was just a $30 million bond measure that showed up on ballots in 2011. Or it’s just another bit of traffic congestion, just another exercise in infrastructure building.

For my family and the thousands more that use this critical route daily, it’s so much more than that. It’s a step in making our neighborhoods more livable, safer.

Is the construction a pain in the neck? Undoubtedly. One we all gladly put up with.