Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fish and Flowers and Walking; A Quibble on Mill Creek

A little over a week ago there was some twittering chatter about big fish in Mill Creek. The days of a salmon run in the creek are in the mythic past, it seems, and so it was something to investigate!

At the Front Street Bridge there were fish! Lots of them.

Unfortunately, a reader confirms, the fish are almost certainly suckerfish - but they're big! 18 - 24 inches, maybe more. They're probably spawning.

Still, life in the urban creek is interesting.

We don't talk about life in the creeks enough, and our city parks and plans don't really involve the creeks much. It's like we only talk about them when there's flooding. Once the Boise project is done, there will be a path along Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek almost continuously from 12th street to the Willamette River. That's going to be neat. But we have very little pathage along our other downtown creek, along Mill Creek.

Moreover, the paths always sit on the shoulder or benchland, well above the creek, never related to a wading pool or anything. Only behind the Departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs is there a picnic table at the creek. Mostly we turn our backs on the creeks.

So chasing down the fish story was a bit of a special adventure.

On Front Street where it and the tracks cross Mill Creek a very pleasant discovery was an old cherry or plum tree in bloom by one of the Truitt Bros. warehouses. Especially adorning the industrial area, it was a minor astonishment.

This year!
Unfortunately the tree blossoms will be mostly be gone this weekend but the early and sunny spring has offered special treats. Camas, for example, is blooming right now. Don't miss it!

Camas in Bush Park, the second week of April 2014
We're two or three weeks ahead this year - don't miss it!
With Mill Creek on the mind...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carnegie Library Architect George Post, not Polk, Designed McKinley Elementary School!

You probably saw the hullaballoo over House Concurrent Resolution 13 observing the 100th anniversary of McKinley Elementary School.

The anniversary was also celebrated in the most recent issue of the newsletter by the Historic Landmarks Commission.

Salem Landmark, Spring 2015
It was interesting to learn that during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the school was actually used as a hospital.

But there's one important detail that's not quite right.
The city awarded the contract to build the school to the firm of Snook and Traver. The total value of the contract was $20,130.13. The city also paid architect George Polk $400 to complete plans and specification. In October 1915, construction on the McKinley School was complete.
But the architect wasn't George Polk, he was George Post.

October 9th, 1915
The Capital Journal says
Designed by Architect George M. Post, the building is regarded as much the best in this district, and has been constructed with economy and efficiency.
And the Statesman agrees.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cherriots Board Considers Standing up 4 Transit

The Cherriots Board meets tomorrow, Thursday the 26th, and in many ways the most interesting item on the agenda is a resolution to participate in "Stand Up 4 Transportation" Day, April 9th.

From the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):
On April 9, 2015, APTA Chair Phil Washington is asking members to coordinate and hold events and advocacy in their local communities, while Members of the U.S. Congress are in their home districts during the Spring congressional recess. The effort is intended to convince federal officials to support passage of a good surface transportation bill before the expiration of the MAP 21 extension. Its focus will be on media events and rallies and other defined actions where participants might include mayors and other state or local officials, U.S. Senators and Representatives, and coalition partners in the community.
We need a new transportation bill - APTA
The hashtag and motto say "transportation," but the bullets are mostly about transit:
  • Public transit and highway grants funded from the Highway Trust Fund cannot be made without an authorization bill. Congress needs to pass a new surface transportation authorization before MAP 21 expires on May 31!
  • Show how public transportation spurs growth in your community, using Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows message.
  • Outline how your community will be at risk if there is no federal funding, i.e., service reductions, layoffs, stoppage of projects, etc.
And it goes on with many more.

So here's a great opportunity for Cherriots to "Stand Up 4 Transit."

Cherriots' "New Vision"
Remember Gil and the idea of a "new vision"?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crossing Wallace Road at West Salem Business District Open House Wednesday

Don't forget about the Open House for the West Salem Business District tomorrow, on Wednesday.

Open House on the 25th
They'll be showing a solid idea that has metastasized - and it needs a therapeutic intervention!

Marine Drive-2nd Street connection
overwhelms the path and park
For several months now there has been talk of making a connection along Second Street by going under Wallace Road. Earlier versions of the underpass showed car access terminating at Cornucopia, just a block or two in from Wallace.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Local MPO meets Tuesday, Draft Regional Transportation Systems Plan Released

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets on Tuesday, and they'll advance the 2015-2035 Regional Transportation Systems Plan with a public draft and public review process.

Carbon is a huge void at the center of the plan
Draft RTSP, with chart from CO2Now
The most significant thing about the RTSP is the donut hole: At the center of it there is a huge void where we should have talk and policy about greenhouse gas emissions.

In the complete document of 219 pages, the word "carbon" appears 15 times - but 14 of them are about "carbon monoxide" only.

"Greenhouse gas" appears 8 times, and the sentiment is summed this way:
Greenhouse Gases (GhG), which were a major topic in 2008‐2009 for the Oregon legislature, has not received much attention in subsequent sessions. It remains to be seen when the SKATS area will be required to address the issue as Portland and Eugene‐Springfield were required.
The Policy Committee has been skeptical, unwilling to do more than was "required." At last month's meeting on the 24th, they reaffirmed this:
At this point, SKATS is essentially unaffected by the greenhouse gas reduction process. SKATS was asked if they would like to perform a baseline assessment. The response at the time of the request was to wait....

Mike Jaffe expressed concern that SKATS might miss funding opportunities if SKATS doesn’t perform a baseline assessment. He suggested that the SKATS Policy Committee should consider this issue further....

Salem City Councilor Jim Lewis commented that it may not be prudent to appear uncooperative to funding organizations.

Commissioner Brentano commented that he believes that the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions is based on faulty information.
The Carrot has failed, and it's time for the Stick! As it stands now, the only thing that will move our MPO on this is the threat of penalty. Withholding funding is the only language that will have meaning.

There will be a public hearing on the RTSP on May 26th, and perhaps there will be more to say then, especially depending developments with the Legislature or DLCD.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

City Council, March 23rd - Transportation in the CIP and ARTS

A couple of wonky transportation things leads for us on Council's Monday agenda.

The Salem Bicycle Boulevard Advocates hope to be out in force as the City starts adoption of the five-year Capital Improvement Program. Public Works is also applying for a grant from the All Roads Transportation Safety program.

Transportation

When the "future report" for the CIP came out, it was pleasant to note an expansion of the Union Street bikeway project.

There are no other new bikeway projects, and perhaps the Boulevard Advocates will ask the City to consider more of them. But the rejoinder will be, of course, how do we fund them?

Overall funding sources for transportation
You'll see that the bond funds from property taxes are all obligated and no longer visible in the tables - it's a quirk of accounting that even though the work's not even started, the money is still "spent."

Several of the funding sources are constrained. ODOT grant funds can't be shuffled around, and Urban Renewal funds have separate processes for allocating them.

But some of the funding sources may be deployed by some amount of staff discretion with no public application or public comment. Here are some two of them it looks like:

System Development Charges ($5.2 million total over five years):
  • $220,000 out of $2,777,000 for 12th Street widening between Hoyt and Fairview widening
  • $1.6 million out of $3.1 million for Fisher Road NE Extension to Market St. NE 
  • $50,000 for flashing yellow light signal upgrades at various sites, $25,000 for signal interconnects, and $500,000 for fiber optic interconnects
  • $200,000 for developer reimbursement on Battle Creek Road improvements.
  • $750,000 for 22nd Street extension at Madrona
  • $1.1 million for Marine Drive "design, analysis, and Right of Way acquisition"
  • $750,000 for Lone Oak Bridge across Jory Creek
It's interesting that two little stub road connections at Fisher Road and 22nd will be funded out of SDCs.

Maybe most interesting is that in addition to some bond proceeds for Marine Drive, now some SDCs are contemplated. That $1.1 million could instead be used for better bike lanes in West Salem instead of car lanes along Wallace Park. That's a pretty clear policy choice for autoism over human capacity.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Transit Center at a Cost of More than Coal; Eugene Big Winner in ConnectOregon

You probably saw the headline: "Coal's loss is South Salem's gain."

But the full story of the final round of ConnectOregon V is considerably more interesting - and more complicated.

Corvallis, not Coal, had the Relevant Loss

First off, there's the funding. It's not just about saying "no" to a coal project. Back in December the Portland Tribune reported on the project list:
Among them was the Port of St. Helens, which sought $2 million for reconstruction of Berth 2 near Clatskanie. Ambre Energy, an Australian company, proposed to match it with $3 million to rebuild the 70-year-old dock for ocean-going ships to carry coal to Asia.

But a majority of the commission had questions about the project’s readiness, and by a 3-2 vote, dropped it from the list of 37 projects recommended for $42.3 million in funding....

Since the commission acted Aug. 20, an additional $2 million in savings makes possible $4 million more for projects.
That $4 million grew, in part because a sidepath linking Albany and Corvallis also ran into trouble. The letter to the OTC from ODOT says
In a letter dated February 18, 2015, Benton County formally withdrew the Corvallis to Albany Trail project, making an additional $2 million available and bringing the total remaining from ConnectOregon V to $4.5 million. In addition, $2.45 million is available from savings realized from ConnectOregon I, II, III and IV projects. As a result, the OTC now has $6.95 million to allocate.
ODOT staff had advanced a list of projects that included the coal project - it was out, and staff the Final Review Committee tried to put it back in - and at the meeting the OTC decided against that and slotted in the transit station. In a sense the coal project did lose out - but we have to remember that it was already out!

So the funding isn't exactly simple. As the letter from ODOT suggests, there are three distinct pots that contributed to this new funding:
  • Savings from other projects coming in under budget
  • Cancelling the coal terminal
  • Cancelling the Albany-Corvallis bike path
If new funding had only come from the $2 million coal terminal, the South Salem Transit Center would not have ranked high enough. If the funding had only come from the $4.5 million savings+coal terminal, the transit center didn't rank high enough.

As seemed possible earlier this month, with the deleted coal project was already supplying some of the funds, it's really the cancellation of the Albany-Corvallis bike path that is funding the extra portion that enabled the transit center, wait-listed if you will, to slide up into the funding list.

And that's a bummer. And not nearly as much of an "environmental" win as perhaps we all would like.