Imagine if there was a way to walk or bike between Juniper Park and Drake Park in one straight shot, in 15 minutes or less, in Bend.
That possibility is what a group of people in the world of engineering and development is currently proposing to the Bend City Council with the creation of the Hawthorne Avenue pedestrian bridge.
The bridge, which would span U.S. Highway 97 and the railroad tracks, would be a direct way to connect the east and west sides of town, said Councilor Anthony Broadman, who has been an advocate for the proposal. Connecting east and west Bend has long been a goal for the city, with several projects included that improve connections in the transportation general obligation bond passed last fall.
Out of the $190 million approved for transportation projects in this bond, $12 million was earmarked for jump-starting east to west improvements at Greenwood, Franklin and Hawthorne avenues.
A proposal presented to the Bend City Council Wednesday by Todd Taylor of Taylor Northwest, Ashley & Vance Engineering and the architect firm Ten Over Studio suggests using this money to help fund a pedestrian bridge that would act as a cross-town greenway at Hawthorne Avenue.
The proposal is a volunteer effort between the companies, which have been a part of a grassroots effort to reinvigorate Bend Central District for years, said John Fischer of Ashley & Vance Engineering. Each has donated time to help develop a conceptual design to help the community envision the project.
The vision is to invest in a bridge that would be a visual icon for the city, and help spur development in the Bend Central District, James Teeter, with Ashley & Vance Engineering, said Wednesday.
The city has been trying to redevelop the Bend Central District — which sits east of Highway 97 and stretches to Fourth Street — into a more walkable, denser area with more housing and commercial development for years.
The bridge would be good environmentally, as it would give people a convenient commute option that didn’t require a car, he said.
“To me this bridge is about so much more. … It’s really about taking care of the people who live here,” Teeter said.
Jim Duffy, of Ten Over Studio, offered a case study on how a similar kind of bridge helped spur development in a similar way in Spokane, Washington.
“Public investment in a project like this could be the catalyst that spurs private development,” Duffy said.
In the presentation to council, the group estimated the cost of the bridge to be roughly $35 million. In addition to the $12 million from the city, an additional $6 million could come from urban renewal funds, which is a percentage of tax dollars the city allocates away from other taxing districts to pay for improvements in blighted areas. About $2 million has also been allocated from the state Legislature to Bend for midtown crossings.
That leaves a funding gap of about $20 million. City Manager Eric King said Wednesday there could be opportunities to close that gap with federal funding if a federal transportation package is successful.
The group hopes to have council support for the project by this fall, and complete construction in 2025.
“It’s a heavy lift,” said Taylor, of Taylor Northwest. “Is it doable? Yes.”