Bend City Council considers transportation bond to address traffic woes

A steady flow of traffic moves down a section of Reed Market Road between 15th and 27th streets Thursday. (Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin photo)

The Bend City Council will vote next month on whether or not residents will be asked to consider a $180 million transportation bond in May. 

The bond would encapsulate more than two dozen transportation projects aimed at easing traffic congestion, improving safety and connecting east and west Bend.

The unanimous decision during a special meeting Wednesday requires city staff to draft a resolution that the council will formally vote on Feb. 5. If approved, the resolution will officially place the bond measure on the ballot in the spring.

"We are trying to create a package that recognizes a lot of diverse needs of the city," Mayor Sally Russell said.

The decision is the culmination of more than six months of polling and two years of discussions. Transportation has repeatedly ranked as the No. 1 issue for Bend residents, according to multiple public polls.

The city conducted a phone survey in December and tested whether the public would support one of two differently sized bond packages — one priced at $190 million and another at $275 million.

Polling showed that ultimately 62% of Bend voters would support paying $190 a year for a $190 million bond, but only 44% of voters would support paying about $270 a year for a $275 million bond.

But even though polling suggests the public would support a $190 million bond, consultants from DHM Research and Barney & Worth — who conducted the polling — strongly suggested the City Council reduce the amount to garner more support from more voters.

“Our suggestion is to find a way to somewhat lower that amount because there is price sensitivity,” said Libby Barg Bakke, of Barney & Worth.

Through refining estimates for staffing and fees associated with bond debt, the city was able to reduce the total cost of the bond to $180 million, said City Manager Eric King. The cost to the average homeowner will be between $160 and $170 a year. 

While a final list of projects will be formally approved when the resolution is voted upon, a general list of bond projects is on the city's website under what is labeled as the $190 million bond package.

Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

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