On Wednesday, we criticized the Oregon Department of Transportation for suggesting in a key safety document that Central Oregon is inhabited by dangerous drunks. Today, we’re raising a figurative pint glass in recognition of the speed with which the agency removed the insult.
The dig at the area’s alleged drinking habits, reported by The Bulletin’s Gary Warner, appeared in the 2019 Oregon Transportation Safety Performance Plan, which is essentially a lengthy application for federal funds. The plan includes synopses of safety challenges in each of the state’s five ODOT regions, and these tend to be fact-driven rather than moralizing.
The exception is Region 4, whose biggest city is Bend, known far and wide for its craft-brew scene. Here is how the safety plan described one of the region’s key problems:
“Central Oregon is a major tourist destination, not just for its winter and summer recreational opportunities but also for its drinking culture. Bend, only metro area in the region, has the bragging rights for the most breweries per capita in the state and is actively marketed around the country for its ‘Ale Trail’ by the city’s Economic development organization. This culture of drinking, combined with the increased dangers of recreational driving, increases the dangers on the road.”
This characterization might have been fair if the report had offered evidence to support it. But it didn’t, as we noted Wednesday. It was nothing more than a gratuitous dig, which we, being from Central Oregon, naturally attribute to jealousy.
In any case, the issue was brought up Wednesday during a meeting of the Oregon Transportation Safety Committee. According to a June 20 memo, the committee agreed unanimously to kill the original wording and replace it with: “Impaired driving continues to be one of the top highway safety concerns for Region 4. The number of fatal and serious injuries peaked in 2016 to the highest count in five years.”
The memo, from Troy Costales and Victor Hoffer, administrator and chair respectively of the OTSC, apologized for the original language and promised to involve representatives of ODOT regional offices more deeply in reviewing future iterations of the safety plan.