Some Bend roads are in horrendous shape. They are overstuffed with traffic, pocked with potholes or not safe for bikers and pedestrians to cross or move alongside other traffic.
If Bend’s growth keeps up, those problems could get worse. What would it take to stop it? The city says it will need about $655 million over the next 20 years in revenue it does not expect to have.
The first part of a solution is a transportation bond that the Bend City Council is scheduled to vote on this week. The bond is likely to pass and be put on the May ballot. And voters should be given the chance to invest in improving their town.
The $190 million bond is targeted at congestion, transit and safety. Roads with projects include Reed Market, Colorado, Purcell, Portland, Butler Market, Empire and more. They were selected in a public process with two years of debate and discussion. There is more information about the projects at the city’s website.
Will the bond fix everything? Will you sail along to work or the grocery store without a hiccup or hitting the brakes? No. It is mostly an investment in keeping things from getting worse, as we said, though there may be some improvements. For instance, trains won’t bring traffic to a standstill every day on Reed Market. There is an overcrossing planned across the tracks.
If voters approve the measure, it will increase taxes by an estimate of $0.47 per $1,000 of assessed value. That would be $170 per year for the average homeowner, assuming an average assessed value of $220,000, which is about a $415,000 real market value. That’s the projected average for the life of the 10-year bond. The projects will not all be done at once, so in the early years of the bond the property taxes will be lower and then higher in the later years.
Councilors are also scheduled to vote on a sort of guarantee that the money will be spent as promised. The existing members of the Bend City Council cannot bind future councils to spend the money on the exact project list that this council has planned. But this council wants to deliver on the promise to voters. So it is creating a bond oversight committee that will add transparency and accountability in how the money is spent. The committee of perhaps seven-11 people will meet about once a month to talk about the bond and how the money is being spent. The committee won’t control the spending. It will be another way to ensure the money is spent as promised.
Of course nobody likes voting for new taxes. This bond proposal isn’t simply city government treating taxpayers as an ATM. It’s a solid compromise among many different perspectives of what the city needs to limit congestion and improve safety.