A new traffic signal or a roundabout could be coming to the intersection of Neff Road and Purcell Boulevard in the next few years, following a Wednesday Bend City Council vote.

Councilors voted 6-0 to pay Omaha, Nebraska-­based HDR Engineering about $1.1 million to design improvements at the intersection, which the Oregon Department of Transportation considers among the most dangerous in the state. Bend expects the contractor to have construction plans done by May 2020.

The existing signal was installed in 2002 and meant to be temporary, said Bend project engineer Sinclair Burr.

“Generally those are only planned to be in place for about 10 years,” he said. “It’s showing its age.”

At times, the signal has failed and turned into an all-way stop, he said. That’s a big problem because the intersection is so close to St. Charles Bend and is used by emergency vehicles bringing patients to the hospital.

Wednesday’s vote means the engineering firm will begin work immediately to analyze whether a better traffic signal or roundabout is the best choice for the intersection. That decision should be done at some point this summer.

A roundabout probably isn’t feasible because the intersection is sloped, Burr said. However, the city still wants the engineering firm to consider it as an option.

A new signal would most likely include left-turn lanes on Purcell Boulevard and right-turn lanes on Neff Road, Burr said.

The intersection is listed in Bend’s transportation plan as a frequent crash site.

Some of those crashes result from traffic queues being so long that drivers don’t expect other cars to be stopped where they are and rear-end them, Burr said. Others come when drivers try to make turns in small gaps between traffic.

As part of the construction project, builders also would fill in long gaps in sidewalks along Neff Road. Both Pilot Butte Middle School and Juniper Elementary School are off Neff Road just blocks west of the Purcell intersection.

Improving the intersection also could spur development of housing on vacant land in the area, City Manager Eric King said. The city’s community development department had heard from developers who were interested in building nearby, but city requirements that builders improve infrastructure resulted in those projects fizzling.

In other business, the council agreed to spend about $3.1 million on sewer pipe and manhole materials for the first section of a major sewer line to the northeast of the city. A new sewer line will eventually run east from O.B. Riley Road to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, allowing development in areas north of Bend.

The first phase, which is now being designed by Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction Co., starts east of Deschutes Market Road.

The City Council also voted 6-0 to pledge $5 million as a match for a federal grant the Oregon Department of Transportation is seeking for improvements on U.S. Highways 97 and 20 and Cooley Road.

Bend made a similar pledge when the state transportation department applied for the grant in 2017, but the application was not successful.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com