Monday, September 19, 2011

Bend encouraging more gridlock, new bypass

Since Bend is in the midst of a $220 million fix to the mess it created on the north end of the Parkway (Hwy. 97), it is now considering more retail development on the adjacent roadway, Highway 20, so that we can spend another $200 million or more trying to fix future traffic problems there.

Doesn't this all seem "counter-intuitive," to put it nicely?

For 30 years, Bend has been one of the most over-retailed cities in America. Of course, it's not the government's business to say we have enough retail to last us decades. The marketplace is supposed to control all of that. As we've seen in Bend, the marketplace is incapable of doing that.

We have two supermarkets across the street from each other on Bend's west side, an area that can barely sustain one supermarket. No matter. We have two malls a mile apart on Bend's north end. Oh well.

But, it becomes a major problem when taxpayers are left to pay the fixes that new businesses create for our infrastructure.

The state and city spent about $120 million to build the Bend Parkway/Hwy.97, which was a bypass to Division Street which was a bypass to Third Street, which tripled as Hwy. 97 and Hwy. 20.

Initially, Third Street was the bypass when Hwy. 97 was rerouted from winding through downtown Bend.

There is little long-range planning in Bend. It's just one bypass after another, leaving frustrated drivers needing a gastric bypass.

As a state transportation commissioner noted a few years ago, "we spent $120 million dollars so that the Parkway could end in a parking lot!"

As soon as plans for the Parkway were drawn up, major retailers like Target, Home Depot, Lowe's and Best Buy jumped at the chance to capture all those gridlocked vehicles. The city and the state made little attempts to limit development on a roadway that has been planned for quite some time to be a major north-south freeway from border to border.

Consequently, we have one of the more dangerous stretches of highway in the state with two signals and hair-raising left turns. For some reason, traffic safety is not considered public safety.

Highways 20 and 97 split to form a "V" on Bend's north end. It is an area known as the "Golden Triangle" for retail since its draws customers from Bend, Redmond, Sisters and beyond.

Walmart wanted to build a "super" store in this area at the intersection of Highway 97 and Cooley Road, to go with its regular Walmart on Bend's south end. Well, a hearing's officer finally put her foot down and said enough is enough. No "super" Walmart unless it wanted to fix the traffic problems at the intersection. Rejoice!

But wait. On the east side of Highway 97, the city started Juniper Ridge, a huge mixed-use development where the city "gives" land away to attract businesses.

So now the city needs the new Parkway bypass as much as Walmart does.

Now, we have a developer from Idaho who wants to add a major retail development along Highway 20 between Robal and Cooley roads. The city is encouraging these plans by forgoing fees that such a development requires.

Highway 20 kicks into a freeway at this point and is the state's main highway connecting western and eastern Oregon.

The city will likely okay the development and the state won't pay attention until it's too late. Dangerous gridlock on another state highway will be the result.

Which means, we'll need another mega-million bypass to Highway 20. It will be difficult to build, because the Parkway bypass will interfere with it.

Maybe they should just build a massive cloverleaf in the area.

Or, the heck with it. Let's build the world's biggest roundabout. We wouldn't need any sculptured art inside it. Big box stores will suffice.

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