Perhaps nothing is so symbolic of Bend’s growth in the last 13 years as the changes to its roads. Roundabouts and medians are common, providing better traffic flow and safer driving throughout the city.
The first roundabout, the one at the intersection of Colorado Avenue and Southwest 14th Street, set the tone. All have been designed to be pleasing to the eye, landscaped traffic managers that not only make driving easier but the city more attractive.
Unfortunately, unless they receive routine doses of maintenance, that attractiveness diminishes rapidly. Roundabouts got that dose this summer, thanks to the generosity of local businesses. But given the current state of the city’s budget, it’s no surprise that major and minor medians alike have become more notable for their ragtag appearance than for their spiffy landscaping.
Now the city plans to do something about that. This month it will put nearly $46,000 into median landscaping. It’s the first of several such projects that aim to make the medians look good once again.
More important, the landscaping projects will make it easier and less expensive for the city to keep medians attractive. Some will be planted with native species that require less maintenance and less water.
Others, particularly narrower ones, may see even bigger changes as plants are replaced with river rock or something similar. That’s what has been used to divide the U.S. Highway 97 bypass east of Redmond; while it isn’t green, it is attractive and taking care of it is relatively simple and inexpensive.
City officials believe spending relatively small amounts of their $9 million road maintenance budget on new landscaping will both save money and keep medians looking good in the future. That budget is funded in part through the city’s general fund and currently has a reserve that allows the work to begin.
It’s money worth spending. Bend prides itself on being an attractive place to visit, and medians overgrown with weeds are anything but.