Editorial: Reasons for west-side campus site are clear and convincing

Opponents of the west-side Bend location for university expansion want more details about the site-selection process, claiming that planners haven’t explained their choice. In fact, Oregon State University-Cascades Campus officials have done an excellent job of detailing their reasons.

The better complaint, in our view, is that university planners have seemed almost disingenuous when they’ve suggested they can solve housing, parking and traffic problems by getting students to live on campus and travel by bike and bus.

Arguments in favor of the west-side location are many, starting with the fact that the surroundings will attract students because of proximity to food, shopping and entertainment. That proximity will also help reduce miles driven. It’s also close to the Central Oregon Community College campus, OSU-Cascades’ graduate facility and Bend Park & Recreation District property that could provide important support.

While the Juniper Ridge site often mentioned by critics would possibly impact fewer residences, it would have prohibitive infrastructure costs and isolate the university from the community.

That said, traffic and housing are legitimate concerns with the west-side location, and university response has been too glib. Initial maps didn’t show parking lots, and questions were answered with talk about getting more students to live in dorms, increasing mass transit and encouraging students to use bikes. All well and good, but hardly a sufficient answer to reasonable worries.

An additional issue arose over the holidays with release of geotechnical reports that revealed the need to address water runoff on the 10-acre segment where earliest construction is planned. That information will direct critical decisions, but it’s no surprise that Central Oregon’s unique geology will require accommodation, and so far there’s nothing to suggest the issue can’t be safely addressed.

As our readers know, we’re big supporters of the OSU-Cascades expansion, seeing it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community. But there will be challenges. We like the idea proposed by the Bend Planning Commission to assign a city planner to focus on the campus expansion and to form a group that focuses on city and regional issues that might be different from those addressed by the university’s advisory committee.

The challenges are large, but the opportunity is immeasurable.