$290 million for transportation. One way or another Bend residents will be paying for that. How do you want it to happen?
Not at all! … That is one answer. But if the city doesn’t do more to address its transportation system, waiting at a light is going to get longer, walking and biking won’t get safer and transit will not be as good an option as it could be. Things will only get worse as Bend grows.
The $290 million is what a city committee has determined the city needs for transportation projects over the next 10 years. It’s money for roads, safety and includes projects aimed at cars, bikes, walking and transit. The $290 million is above and beyond other spending already lined up — about $74 million in city projects and another $150 million or so coming through the state.
Let’s assume for a minute that $290 million is the right number. It’s a huge assumption. There are projects and things about the mix of projects that people disagree about. But the city committee that came up with them did represent a spectrum of views. And they knew they needed to come up with a balance of projects that people would be willing to pay for or the more than 50 meetings they held could be for naught.
The city is going to ask voters in a survey in the coming weeks to gauge community support for one way of paying for transportation. It’s a bond that could be put on the May ballot. The city will outline how the money will be spent and voters get to say yes or no. That’s a much better way of paying for it than the Bend City Council using its power to slap a transportation fee onto homeowners and businesses without a vote.
Those surveyed will face two options. One would be a package of transportation projects for $150 million, which would cost homeowners about $150 dollars a year on average in property taxes over the course of the bond. A second option would be for a package of projects worth $250 million, costing homeowners roughly $250 a year.
No matter how that survey turns out, though, there are some things to keep in mind. It won’t be enough, if $290 million is what is needed. And if there continue to be problems, the Bend City Council may look to raise the money in ways where voters don’t get a chance to vote. That doesn’t mean anybody should vote for a bond if they don’t support the projects in it. It is a reminder that the discussions that councilors will be having in the coming months about what projects will be in the bond are sure worth paying attention to.
Mayor Sally Russell has rightly insisted that the meetings to refine those choices be open to the public. Councilors Gena Goodman-Campbell and Bill Moseley will be on the newly established city subcommittee. It will also include two members of the city’s transportation committee. If you have an opinion about what Bend needs in transportation or what should be in the bond, now is the time to be heard. The easiest way to reach councilors is to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .