The Old-Bend Redmond Highway is about to get some new features — including possible roundabouts and turn lanes — designed to make it safer.

Prior to the construction of U.S. Highway 97, the old farm-to-market road served as the main route between Bend and Redmond. And as the region’s population has grown in recent years, traffic along the Old Bend-Redmond Highway, several miles to the west of U.S. Highway 97, has increased alongside it.

Chris Doty, Deschutes County Road Department director, said traffic along the highway and surrounding traffic corridor has grown by 50 percent in the last five years, thanks to population growth and congestion along Highway 97. While congestion levels have changed along the Old Bend-Redmond Highway, Doty said little else has.

“I’m guessing that road looks a lot like it did when it was a state highway,” he said.

“It’s a classic farm-to-market road.”

As such, the road, with speed limits of 55 mph in most places, has several areas with poor markings and bad lighting. Last winter, the road department brought on the consulting firm Parametrix/Kittelson & Associates to look at the road and the surrounding corridor.

The firm produced an audit of the corridor, looking at crash data, traffic analysis and recommendations for five particularly troublesome intersections in the area.

“These are systemic issues that we’re going to address,” said Cody Smith, Deschutes County engineer.

Doty said the road department chose those five intersections — S. Canal Boulevard and Helmholtz Way; S. Canal Boulevard, SW 61st Street and SW Quarry Street; Old Bend-Redmond Highway and Tumalo Road; Tumalo Road and Tumalo Place; and Deschutes Market Road and Dale Road — because they were at or nearing capacity, had seen a lot of crashes in the last five years, or were challenging for drivers in some other way.

For example, Smith said the six-way intersection at SW 61st Street forced drivers to check five lanes of oncoming traffic, including several at non-perpendicular angles, before continuing.

While only 14 of the 147 accidents recorded in that traffic corridor occurred at that intersection, Smith said it was still a source of concern for drivers.

“If you spend any length of time near this intersection, just observing driver behaviors, you see a lot of scary, interesting things,” Smith said.

For each, the firm determined a low-cost solution, a medium-cost solution and a high-cost solution that would limit congestion or improve visibility at the intersection, and the road department provided a recommendation for each.

Doty said the passage of House Bill 2017, which provided money for transportation projects throughout Oregon, made it easier to look at more comprehensive fixes.

The county set aside over $8 million for capital improvement projects, including the Old-Bend Redmond corridor, and more than $11 million in 2018.

The county will receive more than $1.5 million through HB 2017 in 2018, with around $1 million going to capital projects.

The recommended fixes include roundabouts for two intersections along Tumalo Road, at Old Bend-Redmond Highway and Tumalo Place, as well as a new four-lane intersection at SW 61st Street that would re-route traffic and make the intersection less confusing.

Doty said the next step would be reaching out to nearby property owners about the proposed changes. Construction is expected to begin in 2019.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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