Bend will receive $50 million to improve the U.S. Highway 97/Cooley Road intersection and $10 million for road maintenance during the next 10 years under the contentious transportation bill passed by the Oregon Legislature at the end of its session.
The bill, which Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign, also will provide additional funding to improve road safety and routes to schools.
It will add to the roughly $5 million the city already receives from a state highway fund each year, Bend Metropolitan Planning Organization Manager Tyler Deke said.
“The city will be able to continue what they’ve been doing,” Deke said. “We’ll see more work in the summertime and better road conditions.”
Work on Highway 97 and Cooley Road will also allow the city to continue development at Juniper Ridge, a 1,500-acre plot of land it has owned since 1990.
Les Schwab Tire Center is headquartered in Juniper Ridge, and Suterra Corp. and Pacific Power each have facilities there. Full-scale development has to wait until the intersection is replaced because the Oregon Department of Transportation limits the number of cars that can travel the road. The city borrowed close to $10 million through bonds and bank credit to develop the area but has yet to recoup its costs.
“I never thought I would see the day when the city would make money on Juniper Ridge,” said City Councilor Bill Moseley.
The city has yet to design the changes to the intersection, but they could include shifting Highway 97 west, adding entrance and exit ramps and separating Cooley Road from the railroad tracks. Work likely won’t start for several years.
Additional state funding, in addition to extra money the City Council allocated in its budget, means the city won’t need to pursue a local gas tax again, said Moseley, also the chairman of the Bend Metropolitan Planning Organization. Bend voters rejected a 5-cent-per-gallon tax last year.
“We’ve basically solved the problem with no additional local tax,” he said.
However, the bill does come with additional statewide taxes. Oregonians will pay an additional 4 cents per gallon for gas starting in 2018, and the gas tax will increase by 2 cents each subsequent two years until 2024.
Vehicle registration fees will increase in 2018, 2020 and 2022, meaning that registering the average car that gets between 20 and 39 miles per gallon will cost its owner an extra $25 a year by 2022. More fuel-efficient vehicles will pay more.
Adult bicycles that cost more than $200 would carry an extra $15 tax, and anyone who buys a car from a dealer would pay a 0.5 percent tax. A statewide payroll tax of 0.1 percent would fund public transportation.
Those taxes were too much for Rep. Knute Buehler and Sen. Tim Knopp, both Republicans from Bend who voted against the bill. In a statement, Buehler said the payroll tax will reduce the take-home pay of all Oregonians to fund transit in a few communities. Knopp said he couldn’t support “massive tax increases.”
“In terms of the taxes, they’re disproportionate on low-income workers,” Knopp said. “I just couldn’t support it because of the tax.”
Deschutes County will receive about $26 million over 10 years for road maintenance, which County Commissioner Tammy Baney said will go a long way toward keeping up paved roads.
County roads score in the 80s on the Pavement Condition Index, which measures road quality on a scale of 1 to 100. It needs to stay in the 80s or higher to avoid more costly road repairs, Baney said.
“It’s like the difference between putting oil in your car and having to replace your engine because you didn’t put oil in your car,” she said.
The transportation bill also designates funding to improve safety on Highway 97 in the Terrebonne area. Traffic backs up there, Baney said, and it’s led to multiple crashes.
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