BEND, Ore. - After months of public debate and plenty of public testimony, much of it critical, Deschutes County commissioners on Wednesday stalled a plan to make major changes to U.S. Highway 97 in Terrebonne with a goal of a safer thoroughfare.
Oregon lawmakers approved a $20 million budget for improvements to Highway 97 in 2017.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Tony DeBone made a motion to approve the Terrebonne Refinement Plan, created by the Oregon Department of Transportation. The potential projects involve improving parallel local routes by adding a couplet and improving bike-pedestrian routes through Terrebonne, as well as a safe crossing for U.S. 97.
But fellow commissioners Phil Henderson and Patti Adair declined to second DeBone's motion to approve the plan.
The proposed improvements to Highway 97 drew criticism from many Terrebonne residents. Henderson heard those complaints loud and clear.
"At the end of the day, they only had money for one option," he said later. "I felt like that wasn't the option the Terrebonne people wanted, and that is who we represent."
Henderson went on to say the money that has been designated for the refinement plan can only pay for one option. The recent proposal would have been spread out on a number of highway improvements.
Gary Farnsworth, ODOT's Region 4 manager, told NewsChannel 21 that ODOT will continue to work with the county to look for a path forward to resolve safety issues in Terrebonne.
“Technically, no decision was made, other than not to decide,” Farnsworth said. “We need to work with the county.”
“We are still talking about a section of highway that serves thousands of people every day every year,” he said. “We do care about the community. .. We heard a lot from folks along the way who liked where we were going. They tend not to participate (in the process) when things are going their way.”