News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Roundabout concept taking shape

Most local residents avoid trying to enter Highway 20 from North Locust Street. There are long delays for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists wanting to cross the highway, or for vehicles wanting to turn left onto or off the highway.

Plans are currently underway to remedy that situation with construction of a new roundabout intersection the same size as the one at the other end of town at Barclay Drive and Highway 20. Because Highway 20 is a state highway, the City is working with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) in a partnership to acquire the property necessary to build the roundabout and funding for its construction. Most of that property belongs to the Sisters School District, the majority being part of the elementary school’s playground, including the tennis courts, and some on the corner of the Administration building property.

According to a draft update presented at last week’s City Council meeting, the Highway 20/Locust intersection went through a thorough feasibility study in 2011 due to both safety and congestion issues. The feasibility study included polling Sisters’ citizens. Residents favored the roundabout solution over a traffic signal by 93 percent.

Additional public outreach occurred with the 2018 City of Sisters Transportation System Plan (TSP) update, resulting in overwhelming support for a roundabout. Continued backing from the community made this a high-priority action item in the recently completed 2020 Sisters Country Vision Plan.

This project proposes the construction of a single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Highway 20 and Locust Street on the east end of downtown.

A roundabout at this location will provide the first place where local traffic — including pedestrians and bicyclists — can cross Highway 20 at a controlled intersection as they approach from Bend or Redmond.

The roundabout will provide access to the newly constructed pedestrian and bicycle improvements throughout downtown.

The roundabout will also provide easy access and departure from the alternate transportation route since this location is the eastern terminus.

Improving access to the alternate transportation route will help relieve congestion on Highway 20 in the downtown core.

Project development for the roundabout has already begun. ODOT and City staff are finalizing the 30 percent design package that will be submitted to the State traffic engineer for review and approval. Right-of-way acquisition for the project has begun between the City and the Sisters School District. The final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction of the project should be completed in nine to 12 months, once 100 percent funding becomes available.

The current cost estimate is $4.5 million. To date, the City has invested $250,000 to initiate project development and proceed to 30 percent completion. ODOT has strategically used in-house resources to leverage the City’s investment to perform additional hydraulic, hazmat, and environmental work.

The City’s funding strategy includes additional investment from the City’s Urban Renewal and transportation Systems Development Charge funds that can be leveraged as matching funds for State and Federal grant applications, as well as asking for funding assistance from Deschutes County, ODOT, and the State Legislature.

Gary Farnsworth, ODOT Region 4 manager, told The Nugget, “there is a lot of discussion at the Federal level for earmarks for certain projects,” which haven’t been available over the last eight years or so.

Farnsworth went on to say, “We have a good track record in Sisters with finding funding for the Cascade Avenue improvement project, the Barclay/Highway 20 roundabout, and the Connect Oregon funds for improvements at the airport. Hopefully, we can build on that track record for the Highway 20/Locust project.”

The City, ODOT, and the Oregon Motor Carrier Transportation Advisory Committee, made up of trucking freight haulers and other key freight stakeholders, unanimously concurred that the roundabout on the west entrance to Sisters was appropriately sized and approved to proceed with construction. The roundabout has proved to work very well for the freight industry, and it has accommodated all of the oversize loads going through Sisters. This has resulted in moving ahead with the same size roundabout at Highway 20 and Locust on the east end of downtown.

With the completion of the new roundabout, it will be possible to move heavy freight traffic out of and around downtown.

 

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