Thursday, April 23, 2015

OSU-Cascades' west-side supporters unpersuasive

From civil engineer, Fred Gientke
OSU-Cascades, aka OSU-Pumice Pit
Awhile back, the daily paper urged supporters of the expansion of OSU-Cascades on contaminated land on Bend's west side to be more vocal because the opponents sure are.

Well, amid the preponderance of letters opposing the west-side location, we've seen a few letters/opinion pieces in the paper from backers of the ill-conceived plan, and they make no case for building the campus on junk land.

The latest is former city councilor Allan Bruckner who whines that the preferred alternative, Juniper Ridge, is no place for OSU-Cascades.

Well, Bruckner is getting old. His memory must be failing.

The city council, after Bruckner's tenure, designed Juniper Ridge to accommodate a "world-class" four-year, research university. Granted, OSU-Cascades is not world-class, but it is the only legitimate university this town will ever see.

Bruckner blathers on about infrastructure at Juniper Ridge as if he cared about such things when he served on the council and when Bend fell woefully behind in infrastructure during the building boom of the 1990s.

Yes, there are infrastructure issues with Juniper Ridge, just as there are with any undeveloped land, including the west side parcels.

The main issue he has with Juniper Ridge, and the only legitimate complaint about the site, is that the state Dept. of Transportation wants road improvements to Hwy. 97 next to Juniper Ridge as that mixed-use area develops.

Bruckner throws out estimates of $50 million (mostly covered by highway funds when available), but whatever is spent on improving access to and from Hwy. 97, it will be minuscule next to cleaning up the former dump sites on Bend's west side. In fact, the costs of mitigation of the toxic lands may never end.

On the other hand, improving Hwy. 97 on Bend's north end will make traveling safer and better there for everyone in the region. It would make OSU-Cascades at Juniper Ridge more accessible to more people at more times of the day or night. Plus, there is room to grow at the 1,500-acre site.

On the other hand, using a shoehorn to wedge OSU-Cascades into Bend's traffic-choked west side would only benefit the landowners who swindled OSU-Cascades/the taxpayers of Oregon.

Oh, brewpubs, future marijuana shops and eateries will see good business, too.

The location, though, is inaccessible even for many Bend residents, let alone others from neighboring towns.

There is no place to grow beyond a total of 100 acres, which is about half the size of Central Oregon Community College, a two-year school on Bend's west side.

Bruckner, and others, also make the ridiculous claim that students would bike or walk to school.

From where? The northeast side of town where the only "affordable" housing exists in Bend? That's about five miles away and, coincidentally, much closer to Juniper Ridge.

Traffic would increase dramatically to and from a west-side, 5,000-student university by students commuting from the more affordable side of town to the west-side campus.

There is no affordable housing on Bend's west side, not even for most Bend working families, let alone college students. And, there are no plans to build any affordable housing on Bend's west side for anyone, student or not.

About four years ago, Bruckner donated $800,000 for OSU-Cascades' graduate program housed in a business park less than a mile from the planned OSU-Cascades expansion site. It's easy to see why he is biased in favor of the west-side location.

Still, to claim that the west-side spot is "the best possible location for OSU-Cascades" is just plain idiotic, asinine and deceitful, with all due respect.

There is nothing but land in Central Oregon and anywhere else would be better than what is being considered on garbage property on Bend's west side.

(Full disclosure: I own a small rental house right next to the proposed west-side location and I would make a killing renting to college students. I still think it's a terrible location for a four-year university. And, it'll cost Oregon taxpayers untold millions just to get the land ready for any classroom or even a parking lot.)

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