During his time as a firefighter, Bend resident Monte Payne saw plenty of pedestrians after collisions with cars. Even just being bumped by a relatively slow-moving vehicle was enough to break bones and change a life, he said.
Payne, retired, lives on Federal Street near Galveston Avenue and serves as the parking and traffic representative on the River West Neighborhood Association board. He and other neighborhood association members want the city of Bend to repaint curbs and crosswalks and add signs and lights to help make Galveston Avenue safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers in the congested area.
“There are near misses all the time,” Payne said. “When people know what to do, they don’t park all the way down to the curb. They don’t walk out in between cars.”
The Bend City Council voted in October to finish an $840,000 design of Galveston Avenue improvements with the hope that private development will pick up most of the $3.9 million construction price tag. Short-term safety-based fixes, such as painting curbs or adding signs, would be separate from this as-yet-unfunded project.
“The big picture takeaway is that there are some real low-hanging steps that can be taken independent of the design,” Councilor Bruce Abernethy said. “It may be as simple as striping or signage.”
Abernethy and councilors Bill Moseley and Justin Livingston heard from the neighborhood association at its annual meeting in November. Moseley, who voted against finishing the design, asked fellow councilors to consider smaller improvements during a Wednesday City Council workshop.
“One question is ‘well, should we really use a million dollars for a quick fix to small problems, even if it isn’t the ultimate solution to every crossing and safety issue that exists in the city?’” Moseley said.
Moseley said he didn’t hear from a single River West resident who approved of the initial Galveston design, and Livingston agreed.
“They thought that paint, alone, could go a long way, or lighted pedestrian crossings,” Livingston said. “They were very divided on what the design should look like, but yet, it seemed there was pretty much consensus on ‘let’s make it safer; let’s make it brighter.’”
Council members have discussed traffic improvements on Galveston as far back as 2010, and the design has gone through multiple iterations as different city councils tried to find a solution that residents and businesses liked. The current design is a stripped-down version of initial plans.
The redesigned section of road, between the Tumalo Avenue bridge and 14th Street, won’t include a roundabout originally proposed for the intersection of Harmon Boulevard and Galveston or additional onstreet parking suggested for Columbia Street and Harmon Boulevard. It will also have shorter stretches of median than originally proposed, so pedestrians have a place to stop if needed before crossing another lane but cars won’t be limited from turning left into alleys, driveways or streets.
The city can easily add paint to curbs or repaint crosswalks, City Manager Eric King said. Bend recently revived a curb-painting program it killed during the recession, and consultants behind a Galveston Avenue parking study completed this fall recommended painting curbs to prevent drivers from parking too close to intersections. The Galveston area sees parked cars illegally blocking driveways or intersections, particularly near businesses like 10 Barrel Brewing, the study found.
“If it’s some of those things, we’re fine looking into it,” King said.
But the city has to be careful about where it adds new crosswalks to avoid creating a false sense of safety, he said. City staff will look into other immediate improvements that could help safety in the area.
Mayor pro tem Sally Russell, who owns property along Galveston, has recused herself from council votes on the main design project. However, she said any small improvements should really be small. Paint is OK, but installing a roundabout, like some River West neighborhood association members suggested, would not be.
Galveston Avenue is still the old Century Drive highway people drove in the 1940s and 1950s, and it’s a mess, Russell said. Storm sewers under the road drain directly to the Deschutes River, and it will take a full plan to fix the road’s issues without pouring money down the drain, she said.
“Sometimes, a short-term fix may or may not be a good thing,” Russell said.
Jim Hamilton, who lives on Federal Street, said he regularly walks by Galveston and has closely followed the city’s plans and comments from nearby business owners.
These simple fixes won’t preclude a bigger street makeover, Hamilton said, but they could help improve safety on the street. Most recently, a 72-year-old man was critically injured in March after a car struck him at Galveston and 12th Street.
“There seems to be a desire for a big-ticket item here and a complete lack of response on simple fixes,” Hamilton said. “It’s really a puzzle to me as to why the city’s pursuing this big-ticket item with no funding.”
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