BikePortland

ODOT project will build carfree path between Bend and Sunriver


Detail of proposed underpass.

An exciting new project in Central Oregon would connect the popular vacation destination of Sunriver to Bend with a carfree path.

Today the Oregon Department of Transportation opened a public comment period and online open house for the I-97 Multiuse Path (Bend to Lava Butte) project. The proposed path would be about six miles long. It would start south of Bend, wind through high desert forests and lava flows adjacent to Highway 97 and connect to an existing path at the Lava Lands Visitor Center. At the visitor center, riders could connect to another path that goes directly to Sunriver.

This would be a huge deal because there’s currently no safe, easy-to-ride, paved route between Bend and Sunriver. The riding around here is also really interesting and fun. There are dynamic rivers, huge lava flows, forests, mountains, and more! I’ve biked in the area a lot and it would be a game-changer if folks staying in Sunriver could get to Bend without ever riding on a highway. The path would also create more connections to the hundreds of miles of unpaved/gravel roads in this area.

And of course it’s worth keeping in mind that Sunriver is a major destination for Portlanders and already boasts the best bicycle network in North America.

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ODOT is still in planning stages for the path and wants to get your feedback for which alignment to build.

An initial analysis revealed that a path on the east side of I-97 received the highest score. This alignment would provide direct access to the High Desert Museum and would come with a tunnel under I-97 at the boundary of the US Forest Service and City of Bend land. The path would continue on a winding route on an existing unpaved forest road to Lava Lands Visitor Center with the final section taking riders directly through a lava flow in order to “create a unique experience for trail users.” (ODOT completed a 5.5-mile path between Sunriver and Lava Lands Visitor Center in 2014.)

The path would be 10-feet wide with a two-foot gravel shoulder on each side.

This project is funded with a $5.8 million Federal Lands Access Program grant and is expected to begin construction in 2023. Check out the online open house to learn more and share feedback. The open house will accept comments through April 30th.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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