After years of talking about it, the work on the Bend North Corridor Project is beginning.
A ceremony was held Monday morning with several state and local officials sticking golden shovels into the ground for the ceremonial first dig.
“The extension on the Parkway will mean no more traffic lights to get out through the north end of town or as you coming in,” said Gary Farnsworth, ODOT regional director. “You will be able to go right in without having stop at stoplights on Cooley or Robal road.”
The project has two major components.
The first part is to add a pair of roundabouts on Highway 20 — one at Robal Lane (the back entrance to the Cascade Village Shopping Center) and at Cooley Road.
There will be a median barrier between the roundabouts and multi-use paths and enhanced shoulders at certain locations. ODOT says the multi-use paths will tie into a multi-use path that will be built along Highway 20 between Cooley Road and the Old Bend-Redmond Highway.
These two roundabouts are separate from a roundabout project on Highway 20 at Old Bend-Redmond Highway.
The second part of the Bend North Corridor is a complete reroute of the northern portion of the Bend Parkway — Highway 97.
A new portion of the Parkway will be built along the railroad tracks between Empire Avenue and just north of Cooley Road.
“This stretch of 97 carries more than $54 million in freight value each day fueling the world’s most powerful economy,” said Erin Parker, Federal Highway Administration. “Once completed, this project will improve safety on the road and create new multi-use paths off the road for Bend’s growing bike and pedestrian population.”
The current Parkway between Cooley and Empire will then become an extension of 3rd Street. This new section will allow drivers to skip the intersections next to Cascade Village Shopping Center if they want to.
Because the new Highway 97 will be built next to the current Parkway, ODOT says the effect on traffic will be minimal until it is time to actually connect the highway on the north and south ends.
“I think it’s going to do a lot to reduce congestion. It’s going to provide much more multi modal access this north end of town,” said Sharon Smith, a representative on the Oregon Transportation Commission. “It’s not just for Bend and Redmond. It’s a regional freight hub so eastern Oregon, Central Oregon, the entire state will benefit.”
A multi-use path will also be constructed between Empire and the northern end of the project.
The Highway 20 section is set to be finished by the end of 2023 and the new Highway 97 should open in late 2024.