Bend’s growth plan could be costly

Boundary expansion likely means millions are needed for street upgrades

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

Published Apr 19, 2014 at 12:01AM

Bend city leaders have as many questions as answers on a proposed urban growth boundary expansion at this point, with any actual change two or more years away.

But who will pay for major road upgrades may be one of the largest questions still to be resolved.

The city’s new proposed boundaries haven’t been finalized. But any expansion figures to bring as much as 100 miles of Deschutes County-managed roads into the city of Bend’s jurisdiction.

“We have not gotten there yet,” Damian Syrnyk, a Bend senior planner who’s heading up the city’s UGB expansion effort. “But it is something we’ll be dealing with once we get to point of having a proposed boundary.”

The last time Bend expanded its boundaries, in 1998, taxpayers footed the bill for county road fixes in the form of a $3.1 million bond.

“That ended up costing taxpayers a lot of money,” Bend Mayor Jim Clinton said Friday. He said he’d rather not put that burden on city residents again.

But finding a source of funds without asking the public for help could be a challenge.

Many of the county roads just outside Bend city limits are 24 feet wide, with no sidewalks or bike lanes, Chris Doty, Deschutes County’s public works director, said Friday.

That’s especially true east of 27th Street, where open land and long, straight county roads make a boundary expansion into that area likely.

Doty said most streets in Bend’s urban areas are 36 feet, including sidewalks and medians, so the county roads would need major renovations.

Streets just east of the boundary, like Butler Market, Hamby and Hamehook roads “are in decent shape as far as the county is concerned,” Doty said, “but they’re not at urban standards by any stretch of the imagination.”

The county offered Bend a helping hand in 1998, transferring some of its state fuel tax money to the city for several years after.

But that help is less likely this time around, Doty said. Gas tax funding to counties could come in $500 million lower by 2020 than it was just five years ago, an Oregon Department of Transportation report this month said, a result of drivers hitting the road less often and vehicles becoming more fuel-efficient.

Syrnyk said Bend is eyeing April 2016 to get its UGB expansion approved by the state.

And developing a road plan is just one of several major decisions still to make. Planners also have to figure out where to zone the new land for homes, retail businesses and industry.

Most of the issues are interconnected.

“Roads and transportation are part of the criteria for being able to determine which areas are ultimately included in the (new) boundary,” Syrnyk said. “We’ll engage with Deschutes County and (the Oregon Department of Transportation) to figure out how and where certain roads may come into the boundary.”

But Clinton said he hopes road and infrastructure decisions are in place before Bend gets the go-ahead from the state to expand — something that didn’t happen in 1998.

“The upgrades ought to be funded more carefully than has been the case in the past,” Clinton said, “not just sort of bumble into it, but plan ahead how these upgrades are going to be paid for.”

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