EDTIOR’S NOTE: The city council planned to vote on this transportation plan Tuesday, Dec. 8. Follow-up details will be published on redmondspokeman.com
Redmond city staff have unveiled a new 20-year transportation plan that advocates for millions of dollars to be spent on upgrades throughout the city.
Projects including road extensions, new multi-use paths and the construction of two expensive U.S. Highway 97 overcrossings at the city’s southern and northern edges are all in service of Redmond’s rapid population growth since the last transportation plan was approved 12 years ago.
“It was very slow for a long time, but growth has caught up quickly,” said Mike Caccavano, Redmond’s city engineer.
The city has gained more than 6,000 new residents in the past nine years, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. And city staff expect the city’s population — currently about 32,000 — to pass 40,000 by the year 2040.
The Redmond City Council will vote on the transportation plan at its Tuesday night meeting, along with a proposed new urban renewal district for the southern corridor of Highway 97. If approved by the council, these plans could bring marked change to Redmond’s streets and the highways running through it.
A good portion of the proposed upgrades are located on Redmond’s western edge, where housing developments continue to sprawl into the desert.
One road in particular that will receive attention is Helmholtz Way, which runs along the city’s west border.
The plan recommends spending an estimated $29 million to add a center turn lane to the two-lane road from SW Canal Boulevard to NW Maple Avenue, a street that would be extended west a half mile to reach Helmholtz.
That $29 million Helmholtz price tag would include adding 8 miles of multi-use path — a lane for pedestrians and bikes, separated from the street — alongside the road.
All in all, the city hopes to eventually build 35.5 miles of multi-use path in Redmond in the next 20 years, at an estimated cost of $104.7 million. That’s much more than the city’s planned spending for bike lanes ($17.4 million) or adding or upgrading sidewalks and ramps ($16.8 million).
Multi-use paths are more comfortable for bikers and pedestrians than traditional bike lanes or sidewalks, which are closer to vehicle traffic, Caccavano said.
“Separating (the path) from traffic, you get a lot more people interested in using alternate lanes of transportation,” he said.
The city also hopes to build two new overpasses over U.S. Highway 97, one at the city’s southern border and another at the city’s northern border.
The more expensive of the two is a $26 million, 1.3 mile extension of SW Elkhorn Avenue from Ridgeview High School, over the highway, to Juniper Golf Course and the Deschutes County Fairgrounds at SW 19th Street.
The city is also proposing an $11 million extension of NW Upas Avenue from NW 10th Street to a little east of NW Canal Boulevard, which would include another overcrossing of U.S. Highway 97.
Adding more west-to-east connectivity is a priority for Redmond, and there’s more space in the northern and southern edges of the city to do so, Caccavano said.
“It’s important for us, because the highway, the canal, the railroad tracks make things difficult,” he said.
Another important piece of Redmond’s transportation future is a proposed new urban renewal district in the southern corridor of U.S. Highway 97. The district would fund upgrades to the corridor such as building new connector streets and canal crossings, constructing a median barrier in the center lane and adding more stoplights.
This proposal — which has been discussed since the summer of 2019 — will also be voted on by the Redmond City Council at Tuesday night’s meeting.
However, the south Highway 97 upgrades are the only proposed projects that have confirmed funding sources, Caccavano said.
There isn’t a proposed timeline or schedule for any project in the sprawling transportation plan, but if the plan is passed, city staff will begin discussing how these upgrades will be funded shortly afterwards.
“There’s a big price tag associated with this … (and) we need to work on how we’re going to pay for it,” Caccavano said.
Some potential options include looking for outside funding like grants, using development fees, or even asking voters to pass a bond, similar to what the City of Bend did this November.
Mayor George Endicott did not respond when asked for comment about the proposed transportation bond or urban renewal district.