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What Went Right - and Wrong - on Newport Ave
Three years and 1 million dollars later, the Newport Corridor Project is finally complete.
The project is backed by five different city funds with the main objective being “replacing the failing stormwater infrastructure and aging sewer and water pipes''. Because is obtained through grants, most of the money is legally obligated to be used specifically for rainwater purposes. On that front, the City did an excellent job - but many in the community aren’t happy about the minimal upgrades for people on foot or bike.
The new infrastructure will ensure less stormwater flows into the Deschutes River and damages wildlife ecosystems. Stormwater can be detrimental to rivers and wildlife because it picks up vehicle waste, landscape material, and trash. Planters now line either side of Newport Avenue and capture and clean the stormwater. The native plants, layers of soil, and natural bacteria help break down pollutants and clean the runoff water.
The city used the opportunity to improve safety along the heavily used corridor and increase accessibility for pedestrians and bike users. The avenue is home to Highland Elementary, a popular supermarket, over a dozen businesses, and hundreds of single-family homes, and is a huge connector to Cascade Lakes Highway.
Two roundabouts were added outside of Newport Market, crosswalks at 11th and 12th Street were upgraded to increase visibility, safety signage was added throughout the corridor, and sidewalks on both sides of the street were repaved and made to be more continuous. All of which will help increase safety for everyone by reducing the speed of traffic.
The crosswalks at these new roundabouts were, for a time, being used as car lanes until the city added flex posts. Virtually no improvements were made outside Highland Elementary.
The Deschutes Chronicle sat down with one of the Bend Bike’s Board of Directors, Ben, a retiree of the National Forest.
He admits that Bend Bikes wasn’t heavily involved in the project, something that they hope to change in the future. They are now advocating for the Portland Avenue project and will be at the table when talks heat up about Galveston next year.
Ben understands the money funded for the Newport Corridor is obligated to be used for stormwater purposes but thinks adding even a few enhancements would increase the experience for everyone.
Bend Bikes would have liked to see either multi-use paths that are wide enough so they can accommodate both people on bikes and on foot, or protected bike lanes that are separate from car traffic. Additionally, physically raised crosswalks that make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians. It also helps people in wheelchairs, or with other mobility issues, cross the street without going down and back up onto the sidewalk.
During the course of the winter interview, The Deschutes Chronicle and Ben saw multiple people nearly hit by drivers who couldn’t see the crosswalk paint underneath the snow. Ben adds that anytime you add more asphalt, it’s going to be expensive, but to them having students, shoppers, and residents be able to cross the street safely, is worth it.
If they didn’t add multi-use paths, he would have liked to see protected bike lanes, whether separated by concrete or flex posts. There has been pushback on protected lanes due to plowing. It causes operational issues within the city’s Street Operations Department and means they will need to acquire a fair amount of mini plows - though the City is planning to allocate money towards buying two. They could also be used for sidewalks and multi-use paths like the Deschutes River Trail that are still heavily used during the winter.
Ben pointed out that inducing demand for locals - and Bend’s many visitors - to walk and bike around town, saves tax dollars because roads are incredibly expensive to maintain. Additionally, people walking and biking in a neighborhood are far more likely to stop at a restaurant or shop than if one is going by in their car.
The improvements would help gain the City progress on its ambitious climate goals. By the end of 2030, they hope to end fossil fuel use by 40%.
During the Great Recession, Bend was hit harder than most cities because of its reliance on tourism dollars, and one of its many large cuts was street maintenance. As of 2023, the City’s now accumulated over $80 million worth of deferred street maintenance.
City Councilor Ariel Mendez, who pioneered the newly passed Bend Bikeway, thought the middle car lanes should have been removed to reduce dangerous unprotected left-hand turns.
In an interview with The Deschutes Chronicle, Gina, the President of the RiverWest Neighborhood Association agreed with others that the new drainage wales and sidewalk pavement are excellent, but a lot of other upgrades were left out.
Like Bend Bikes, they would have liked to see wider sidewalks. She pointed out that the city-run project had 5 feet wide sidewalks whereas if a developer had been in charge of the project, they would have been required to have sidewalks starting at 8 feet wide. That length is usually enough for a multi-use path. Much of South Century Drive has 8 feet sidewalks and is used comfortably by bikes and people walking.
Another upgrade Gina and the Riverwest NA wanted was pedestrian-scale lighting. She cites the Box Factory which has lots of lighting that is closer to the sidewalks and better illuminates people.
Before Gina and the Riverwest NA got involved, there were no plans for bike racks, which was soon reversed to include multiple, newly designed City of Bend bike racks.
The RiverWest NA also wanted painted sidewalks like on the corner of 10th and better bus facilities which according to CET is in the works.
Bend Bikes and the Riverwest NA felt they have a good relationship with the City of Bend and various departments involved in projects like these, with Gina saying, “They came to us for the Galveston project.”
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