The Oregon Department of Transportation hopes to find common ground with Terrebonne residents and the Deschutes County Commission on a proposal to improve highway safety in the area after it was shot down by commissioners last month.
The proposal, which was the product of months of public comment, calls for two southbound lanes on the existing U.S. Highway 97 and two northbound lanes using 11th Street in Terrebonne. A roundabout would be built at the Lower Bridge Way intersection to circulate traffic north and south.
But in a 2-1 vote, commissioners voted to stall moving the proposal forward to the Oregon Transportation Commission in September over complaints they heard from Terrebonne residents about the solution and how it was created.
So on Monday, Gary Farnsworth and Bob Townsend, ODOT officials who manage Central Oregon, suggested a meeting later this month with disgruntled residents, the state transportation department and the commission to work on finding a compromise.
“How do we get to a point where we are moving along?” Townsend said Monday. “The point is not to be in conflict. It’s to find out what our common ground is.”
The meeting, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22, is focused on speaking with the business and property owners about what changes could be made to help ease their concerns. In past public hearings, several residents took issue with rerouting the northbound section of the highway onto 11th Street, where there are businesses.
This proposal was partially shaped because it was able to fit within the transportation department’s budget in a way other solutions, like a bypass, couldn’t.
The estimated cost for the stalled plan is $27 million, with about $5 million from the county and the rest from the state. The Legislature initially budgeted $20 million for safety improvements in Terrebonne.
But if an agreement can’t be reached, the department could look at phasing the project out, meaning it could take the money it has now to start on a more extensive, longer-term solution, and then work on finding the rest of the funding over time.
“My point is … I would hate to see us get hung up in situations where we feel like we have to design to a dollar target based on what we have in the budget,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth also said a goal of his is to bring Deschutes County and Jefferson County commissioners together to facilitate more conversation that could produce a solution.
“I don’t think I’ve done that, or done it very well,” Farnsworth said. “I’m very interested in getting the dialogue going between the two county boards.”
But among the disagreements, almost everyone can find consensus in one idea: that transportation can’t stay the way it is in Terrebonne, Townsend said.
“The project isn’t shut down,” Townsend said. “This is just in limbo.”
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