Deschutes County releases road improvement list

Capital improvement projects could improve Powell Butte Highway, replace aging bridges

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

The rural intersection of Powell Butte Highway and Alfalfa Market Road has the highest crash rate of any in Deschutes County’s 900-mile road system, with twice as many car wrecks there as expected based on traffic volume.

The county’s Road Department hopes a major redevelopment project will lower the crash rate there by installing a roundabout or taking some other step. It’s one of nine proposals to improve roadways across the county as part of a five-year, $8.1 million capital improvement list released this month.

Other projects include reconstruction of Skyliners Road west of Bend and a replacement of a pair of aging, structurally deficient bridges. Nearly half of the $8.1 million figure would be spent on projects slated for 2017 or later, but five of the projects could be done sooner.

The department wants to spend $2.5 million to reconfigure the Powell Butte Highway/Alfalfa Market Road intersection.

Right now, a flashing yellow light slows traffic on Powell Butte Highway, which runs roughly south to north, toward Bend Municipal Airport. Two stop signs and a flashing red light stop traffic heading west to east.

“We’ve tried various countermeasures there, but none have been successful reducing the (crash) rate,” Road Department Director Chris Doty said Thursday. Possible solutions could include a roundabout, or some other reconfiguration, but no firm decisions have been made yet.

“We’re in the budgeting process right now,” Doty said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to start by the spring of 2015,” though timelines for all the projects are tentative. Each project needs approval from Deschutes County Commissioners before it can move forward.

The county plans to overhaul an 8.4-mile stretch of Skyliners Road, from Bend’s west city limits to its intersection with Forest Service Road 4603.

Deschutes County is on the hook for $928,000 of the nearly $10 million Skyliners Road cost, with a federal highway program paying the rest. The project is slated to start next spring and wrap up by fall 2016.

Two county bridges could be replaced in the coming years. The Road Department wants to replace Tetherow Road bridge, west of Redmond, and the Fall Creek span on Cascade Lakes Highway, 26 miles west of Bend.

As with the Skyliners Road work, state and federal funds will cover nearly 90 percent of the bridge replacement costs. The county’s share for the work on the two bridges totals $370,000, according to the Road Department capital improvement documents.

Other projects on the improvement list would fix some stormwater drainage issues in downtown La Pine, add a turn lane at Helmholtz Way south of Redmond, and repave parts of Rickard Road, southeast of Bend city limits.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com