The Cascade Lakes Highway is located in Central Oregon, southwest of Bend. The highway is within the Deschutes National Forest and provides access to many recreation sites in the Forest. The highway’s underlying ownership is USFS, but is maintained by Deschutes County. Deschutes County has become a major tourist and recreation destination. Cyclotourism has become popular and there is also a significant and robust local cycling community. An analysis of the facility relating to safety and bicycle use has never been performed.
Deschutes County and the Forest Service applied for Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) funding in 2016 for a planning study. The scope of the study was to study the corridor and identify opportunities for safety improvements. The project was selected for FLAP funding, started in 2018, and completed in November 2019.
The study area consists of the Cascade Lakes Highway from where the County takes over maintenance (MP 21.90) to the Klamath County line (MP 60.87). The entirety of the study area is on public land. CLH accesses over 440,000 acres of federal land, including the Three Sisters Wilderness area. In the project area, CLH provides access to:
- Rustic resorts - Elk Lake Resort, Cultus Lake Resort, Lava Lake Resort, South Twin Resort and Crane Prairie Resort;
- Campgrounds – established campgrounds, both traditional and horse camps, and dispersed campsites;
- Trailheads – many popular hikes are in the area, including the South Sister climb, Green Lakes basin, Todd Lake area, Broken Top, and access to the Pacific Crest Trail;
- Day use sites used for boating, fishing, and horseback riding;
- Forest Cabins – at Elk Lake there are 31 cabins that are privately owned and are on leased FS land.
Through discussion with project partners, research on existing conditions, conversations with corridor users, and information from the FLAP application, the following problems were identified:
- Congestion, especially in the northern section of the corridor
- Parking on side of roadway which can cause safety issues
- Sight distance is compromised in some locations, due to grades, curves, and vegetation
- Speeding, especially in straightaways
- Unclear signage or lack of advanced signage
- Enforcement of speeding and parking violations is limited
- For some users, low awareness of cyclists and pedestrians
Goals and Strategies
This study had two goals with related strategies:
Goal 1: Improve safety for all users of the corridor
- Alleviate congestion in northern part of corridor
- Remove or limit parking from side of road
- Improve sight distance
- Improve signage
- Provide geometrical or cross-sectional improvements
- Provide education to promote understanding of “rules of the road”
- Increase enforcement of existing or proposed laws
Goal 2: Provide a positive visitor experience
- Provide safer and more convenient access to public lands by improving parking efficiency and providing alternate transportation options.
- Document how changes to the transportation network may affect public lands and consider when making funding decisions.