No one would call Third Street Bend’s most attractive thoroughfare. That said, any plans the city has to spruce things up along Third cannot be allowed to impede traffic on the street.
We’ll agree that Third Street could use a face-lift. Parking lots are not necessarily the prettiest landscaping tool around, after all. The street could use some trees, no doubt, and power lines are visible everywhere.
Yet the Parkway aside, Third Street remains the most direct and most heavily used north-south road in the city, and it’s one of only two roads that run the entire length of Bend. On average, about 20,600 vehicles per day pass through an Oregon Department of Transportation counter on Third Street near Greenwood.
The other, 27th Street and its extensions, lies so far to the east that it is inconvenient for many local drivers. At the same time, its connection on the north is not to U.S. Highway 97 or shopping but to Butler Market Road. On the south, it connects to the highway at the entrance to Deschutes River Woods, well south of the city.
All that being true, we have serious doubts about any effort the city might want to put into creating what it calls a Multimodal Mixed-use Area, a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly chunk of Third complete with high-density commercial development and residential development. The area would extend roughly from the Third Street underpass on the south to the street’s intersection with Revere Avenue on the north.
It now includes a grocery store, several restaurants, both drive-thru and sit-down, motels, gas stations and the like. Though Highway 97 has moved west, Third remains arguably the busiest city street in Bend, with literally thousands of motorists a day traveling on some or all of it.
Those thousands already face traffic delays at the busiest times of day.
Much as some in the city might think turning Third Street into something that resembles downtown’s Wall Street might be a good idea, we disagree. Third’s use as a north-south route through the city remains critical, and anything that would make traveling it more difficult is hardly wise.