By Yancy Lind

Our community is at an impasse over the proposed OSU-Cascades campus location. We can continue to argue and potentially fight in court, or perhaps we can try to think outside the box and find a compromise.

OSU-Cascades administrators claim they need a low-cost site with existing infrastructure. They say the cost of installing roads, water, sewer, power and other infrastructure at Juniper Ridge is prohibitive. They also state they need a location that will be highly desirable to students and staff, including easy walking to amenities. OSU-Cascades staff and boosters promote the idea that the benefits of an OSU-Cascades campus to all Central Oregonians are great enough that city of Bend taxpayers and local residents should bear the burden of increased congestion, the inevitable costs of improving existing infrastructure, the costs of additional public safety, increased competition for housing in an already tight market, etc.

While there are many concerns about OSU-Cascades’ proposed location, the impact of increased traffic is currently being debated. OSU-Cascades dismisses these concerns, pointing to its plans to limit traffic, plans that in turn are dismissed as unrealistic by others.

Here’s a potential compromise. OSU-Cascades administrators currently believe they can create a campus that has minimal car traffic, one that is primarily served by alternate forms of transportation. I suggest they make a strong and personal commitment to that vision by taking the next step and eliminate commuting to the campus altogether.

OSU-Cascades could prohibit all faculty, staff and students from driving to campus or parking within a mile of campus. Don’t just limit parking, completely eliminate all driving to campus by almost everyone associated with the campus. Service, maintenance, delivery and similar vehicles would be excluded, but otherwise create a car-free campus. Not only would this satisfy many critics of the campus’ currently proposed location, such a step would also allow OSU-Cascades to market its campus as one that is exceptionally environmentally friendly. This is a radical idea, one that has many obstacles, but perhaps we need a radical idea to bring our community together.

The details of such a policy would need to be worked out, but here’s a potential outline. Faculty, staff and students would be required to register their vehicles with the Bend Police Department. Those vehicles would be required to display a sticker that designates them as barred from parking in an area within 1 mile of campus. This includes residential and commercial parking areas. Weekends could be excluded. Commuter students could park in satellite lots established by the university near major thoroughfares like U.S. Highway 97. Public transportation or bicycles could be used for the final leg of their trip to campus. OSU-Cascades would shoulder the burden of implementing this plan, which would be far less costly than moving to a site like Juniper Ridge.

Clearly, it is debatable if this is legal, enforceable or would work in a town with our climate, but OSU-Cascades has already made the statement that they are going to rely on alternate forms of transportation to limit traffic.

Adopting a 100 percent car-free policy would eliminate concerns of traffic congestion and would show a real commitment by the administration to creating a campus with negligible traffic impact. Perhaps this is an unworkable idea, but without a bold traffic plan the proposed OSU-Cascades location will remain a flash point of controversy in our community for years to come.

— Yancy Lind lives in Bend.