News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

City of Sisters bulletin

We all understand and appreciate the importance of the small-town feel that makes Sisters so special. Over the many decades and accompanying changes this essence has evolved but remained strong.

One factor that has impacted so many pieces of our community is traffic, especially on Highway 20 right through the middle of town. As we have grown, so too has Central Oregon to our east and the Willamette Valley to our west. As one of the few gateways into Central Oregon, Highway 20 has seen increasing numbers of trip counts, particularly in the summer months. The City of Sisters has long discussed this topic and the successful completion of the roundabout at Barclay and Highway 20 is a testament to the progress of planning, prioritization, and project management. Yet it is only half the necessary progress.

There is not enough space here to cover the amount of discussion, work, and time that went into accomplishing the roundabout at Barclay and Highway 20.

Many deserve praise, yet most of the same people involved then are still now and not satisfied because the purpose — a complete, functional alternate route away from Cascade for freight and through traffic — is only half accomplished.

Like only having one bookend, the alternate route needs a roundabout at the Locust and Highway 20 intersection to complete the necessary movements heading either east or west through Sisters.

It took over a decade with obstacles on many levels to complete the Barclay roundabout — at the time only the third roundabout on a state highway.

In 2018, the City was told the state had no funding to put towards the Locust roundabout until, hopefully, the 2028/31 STIP (State Transportation Improvement Program). The project cost is estimated at $5.1 million and the state historically contributes the majority of funds. This was unacceptable news and the City prioritized taking a decade-plus project to a self-revised goal of accomplishing it in half the time. To do so, there must be three main components: design and engineering, necessary property for the right-of-way, and the funding to build it. In 2018 there were none of those pieces in place.

Since then, the City has taken significant steps to further this project and stay on track for the timeline goal.

In the fiscal year 2019/20 budget, the City directed $250,000 to jumpstart the engineering and design process through ODOT. A partnership plan was successfully implemented with the Sisters School District for property acquisition for project footprint right-of-way (not yet completed).

The Sisters Urban Renewal Agency, through the City, updated its project list and among other priorities added the Locust roundabout, allocating up to $1.1 million toward the project with support from local taxing districts, understanding the importance of this project for safety, mobility, and vitality.

Just last week the City submitted an application to the federal government to bridge the multi-million dollar funding gap.

This project has and continues to be at the top of the priority list for the City.

It will take a partnership between the City, County, and ODOT (and possibly federal) to accomplish this project benefitting Sisters, Deschutes County, and the state/federal highway system.

This partnership has been coming together through the leadership of the City.

From the outside perspective it may look like no progress has been made since the intersection has not changed but there have been important steps taken.

If the grant request is unsuccessful, we continue to monitor a new (albeit limited) funding source through the state and the on-going discussions of an infrastructure package through the federal government.

One way or another, we are well on our way to making the project happen.


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