Thursday, July 20, 2017

1980 Bridge Widening FEIS Overestimates Traffic Growth

A reader sent along a copy of the 1980 "Willamette River Bridges Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement."*

1980 FEIS on widening the bridges
As these things always are, it is fascinating to see what they got right, what they got wrong, and how our cultural norms have changed or remained the same.

One of the biggest things is that like with all the other traffic modeling done circa 1980, they significantly overestimated traffic volumes.

They overestimated by a little over 10% in year 2000
(inset color chart with actuals from
"New FHWA VMT Forecasts Implications for Local Planning")
Another fascinating admission was that it would take 27 years (and the reality was probably longer because the traffic didn't grow as fast) to "pay off" the additional energy used in construction. That's evidence that this kind of project is not sustainable. Additionally, once we subtract the energy inputs from on-going maintenance, like the paving this summer, it seems likely there is never a net energy advantage from projects like this. (And this doesn't touch greenhouse gas emissions at all.)

Monday, July 17, 2017

In the Neighborhoods: West Salem, Northeast Neighbors, and the Parks Board

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tonight, and several items on the agenda, which look to have formal presentations, look interesting:
  • Salem-Keizer School District's Citizens Facilities Task Force Report & Recommendations;
  • Capitol Manor Improvement & Expansion Report;
  • Edgewater Crossing Retail Center Proposed Project;
  • Riverbend Site Plan & Project Update;
  • Cherriot's Proposal to Change Bus Service in West Salem from Connector to a Fixed-Route System
Last month's minutes from the 19th have the summary of the epic contest over the Association's formal position on the Salem River Crossing:
Motion...that the West Salem Neighborhood Association vote to officially support the Salem River Crossing, completion of the Environmental Impact Study and encourage city council to act as soon as possible to complete a new bridge. 2nd....

[A]n amendment to direct the WSNA Land Use Committee to send a letter to City Council reporting the results of the motion and the response. 2nd....

Discussion

Question was called for at 8:15 pm....Motion to stop discussion and vote CARRIES.

[A board member] explained voting qualifications for WSNA. Bylaws define voting members as residents of West Salem that live within the Urban Growth Boundary, full time West Salem workers, business or property owners of West Salem within the Urban Growth Boundary. Voters are on the honor system to determine their qualifications. Neighbors must have signed the sign in sheet to vote.

Vote on the amendment to the motion 16 Oppose, 8 Abstain, 330 SUPPORT. Amendment CARRIES.

Vote on the amended motion 49 Oppose, 3 Abstain, 302 SUPPORT. Motion CARRIES.

The West Salem Neighborhood Association vote on this decision was made only by those in attendance on June 19, 2017 without prior public agenda notification.
It seems likely that there will be something of a power struggle for positions on the board and policy positions it takes. Also on the agenda is an information update on the annual elections in October, which look to be rather more lively this year.

The Cherriots conversation could be especially interesting in light of the prospect of about $9 million in new funding annually as a result of the new transportation package the Legislature passed.

This is the leading concept for replacement -
but it's still very conceptual!
Back in May this was the leading concept, and maybe it will change in response to both the desires of those who live and work in West Salem as well as the new possibilities created by the new funding. (Here's the Cherriots project site.)

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets Monday the 17th at 7:00 P.M. in Roth’s West, Mezzanine (1130 Wallace Rd NW).

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bikes offer Best Mobility During Eclipse; and the Agentless Car

A couple of items in the paper yesterday express two different forms of autoist bias, both a kind of erasure.

Editorial today + ODOT Advice
Eclipse mania is heating up. The paper published an editorial on the eclipse, and this past week the City announced a website on the eclipse.

Both of them miss what at least ODOT hints at: Your bike will be the best mobility around! Super easy for short trips, and still excellent for medium-length trips. At a moderate pace of 12mph, or even a slow pace of 8mph, you can traverse the length or width of the whole urban area in less than an hour. Silverton is a little more than an hour.

People on bike whiz by and have way more fun!
in Halifax via Twitter
Bike mobility is your best bet!

The City should correct this. They've got a long bit on "Parking in Salem & the Surrounding Area During the Eclipse" and don't mention the advantages of bicycling at all.

This is just silly. Instead of erasing bike mobility, the City should be saying, "bikes, bikes, bikes, bikes," hammering away at their utility and advantages in exactly this kind of situation.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Don't Dump Fertilizer on the Weeds: Downtown Development Talk July 25th

Remember this?

Via Strongtowns and CNU Public Square
The value/acre in jobs and in taxes generated by a downtown mid-rise vastly outstrips the value/acre generated by big box development on the edges of the city.

In a terrific summer surprise, its author, Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 will be giving a talk at the Library on Tuesday, July 25th!

And in an equally wonderful win-win, the Oregon Association of Realtors is one of the sponsors: Urbanists, advocates for livability, advocates for fiscal prudence and efficiency, and Realtors should be able to find common ground here.

You might remember a memorable phrase:
Even low-rise, mixed-use buildings of two or three stories—the kind you see on an old-style, small-town main street—bring in ten times the revenue per acre as that of an average big-box development. What’s stunning is that, thanks to the relationship between energy and distance, large-footprint sprawl development patterns can actually cost cities more to service than they give back in taxes. The result? Growth that produces deficits that simply cannot be overcome with new growth revenue.

“Cities and counties have essentially been taking tax revenues from downtowns and using them to subsidize development and services in sprawl,” Minicozzi told me. “This is like a farmer going out and dumping all his fertilizer on the weeds rather than on the tomatoes.” [italics added]
More recently, Strong Towns discussed "The real reason your city has no money," which featured the city maps with bar graphs, and the underlying analysis, you see on the talk poster.

The talk is free, but it is in the morning on Tuesday. Strongly consider attending!

(SCV posted it as an event, and if the City also posts a web page - I didn't find one anyway - I'll update this post.)

Some previous related posts here:

Monday, July 10, 2017

At the MPO: Starting to Plan for the CMAQ Bonus Funds

The Technical Advisory Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 11th, and they will be talking about the schedule for project selection to be funded by the new "Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality" funding.

From "Narrowed List of Eligible CMAQ Projects"
In the minutes from last month, there was also an interesting note about complications on the project to move the Doaks Ferry/Highway 22 intersection farther east west! in the old townsite of Eola.
[ODOT member, Dan] Fricke announced that due to unanticipated concerns, ODOT intends to pause work on two construction projects related to Hwy. 22 and Doaks Ferry Rd. in order to monitor conditions in the area for another year. The additional data will help with the evaluation of slide conditions in that area. Financial considerations related to the projects were discussed. It is unknown at this point if there will be any financial issues, how they would be resolved if there are, or when. [italics added]
From the Options Map, Summer 2015
(comments in white added; this also is a little old,
and it might be superseded - but you get the idea)
Fricke is also one of the project leads for the Salem River Crossing. And that project too has a problem with unstable soils.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

City Council, July 10th - Minto Bridge Change Order No. 6

Council meets on Monday, and for our purposes here they've got a very light schedule. So just some items in passing.

Minto Bridge - via Facebook
In the administrative purchases report of the City, there's another change order, change order no. 6, on the Minto Bridge for $211,671.  Perhaps related to this, next week on the Downtown Advisory Board's agenda is an item, "Does the Downtown Advisory Board recommend Agency Board approval for increased funding for the Peter Courtney Pedestrian Bridge?"

Some will want to see in these overruns an argument against the bridge at all. That's not going to be the argument here of course.

Eugene's Greenway Bike Bridge, completed in 1978
It's true a side argument that emerged after the soft opening of the bridge is that a plainer, and somewhat less costly design would have better served the scenic qualities of the slough, river, and the wildlife while accomplishing the same connectivity. But this only became clear in retrospect, and the decision Council made for the "tied arch" design was defensible.

Commercial Street Bridge Replacement, March, 2013
Second Stage Demo, West-side Beams in place
But why the delays and overruns? It appears the Commercial Street Bridge replacement a few years ago was much more straight-forward, and was completed on-time and on-budget.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Century Ago: Speed Maniacs, Autoists, and the Fight over Road Space

Routinely we hear about how it is "common sense" for people on foot to "get out of the way," to wear bright clothing, to be constantly on the lookout for more powerful cars and their drivers. It is "common sense" that we must prioritize the free-flow of traffic, and manage for that flow around the effects of "pedestrian impedance."

It wasn't always this way, and this mid-century philosophy of autoism, we never tire of saying here, is something new, something culturally constructed, and not common sense at all.

100 years ago, common sense suggested that speed demons and autoists were trying to take over the roads.

July 5th, 1917:
About Speed Maniacs

Last Tuesday night a speed demon claimed another victim when Willie Ector was crushed beneath the wheels of a huge car driven by some speed crazed man - man is hardly the word - because had he been a man he would at least have stopped to learn whether or not his victim was killed, and to render assistance, instead of which he rode on leaving him maimed and bruised and he now lies in a hospital with small chance to live. This happened a few rods from my home.

Where are the laws of our state that these things are allowed to continue? The road north, called the river road is a very popular one for autoists and hundreds of them pass daily. Living on this road I have excellent opportunity to see the reckless driving and-speeding out here. Drivers are not content to drive decently but some of them race and those who don't happen to race drive all the way from twenty to fifty miles an hour. About one out of a dozen drives at a safe speed. If we don't need a traffic officer I don't know where one is needed, and the people of this district appeal to Sheriff Needham to protect us from these demons who think no one has a right to the road but an autoist.

Mrs. Pearl Cooper.
For an academic study of this, see Peter Norton's book Fighting Traffic:
Motorists arrived in American city streets as intruders, and had to fight to win a rightful place there. They and their allies fought their battles in legislatures, courtrooms, newspapers’ editorial pages, engineering offices, school classrooms, and the streets themselves. Motorists who ventured into city streets in the first quarter of the twentieth century were expected to conform to the street as it was: a place chiefly for pedestrians, horse-drawn vehicles, and streetcars. But in the 1920s, motorists threw off such constraints and fought for a new kind of city street—a place chiefly for motor vehicles. With their success came a new kind of city—a city that conforms to the needs of motorists. Though most city families still did not own a car, manufacturers were confident they could make room for motor traffic in cities. The car had already cleaned up its once bloody reputation in cities, less by killing fewer people than by enlisting others to share the responsibility for the carnage.
And previously here:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Transportation Bill Includes Seismic Retrofit of Center St Bridge

A negotiated package of amendments to the proposed omnibus State transportation bill were released last week. Supposedly the votes are there for it to pass, although it has encountered some static from those who want to leverage their vote for other big legislation. (Update: It's passed both the House and Senate and is onto the Governor.)

Among transportation groups, the Street Trust is really plugging it for "record funding for cycling, walking, and public transit." Locally, it is also significant for an earmark on the Center Street Bridge.

A decade of support, via Street Trust
Transit dominates the non-auto numbers and seemingly the headlines.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Driver Struck and Killed Teenager on South Commercial Yesterday Afternoon

Late yesterday afternoon, a person driving south on Commercial Street struck and killed a teenager trying to cross Commercial in an area with very few signalized crossings.

From Salem PD:
Salem Police are on the scene of a serious injury crash involving a motor vehicle and a pedestrian on Commercial St SE near Royvonne Ave SE.

The investigation is currently underway, and the southbound lanes of Commercial St are closed from Keglers Ln SE to Boone Rd SE. Please avoid the area if possible. If you must travel south on Commercial, traffic is being detoured southbound on Sunnyside Rd SE, then back to Commercial St on Kuebler Blvd.

No further information on the crash is available at this time. Further information will be released as it becomes available.
Police investigate crash near Royvonne and Commercial SE
Shatamera Pruden later died from her injuries (Photo: Salem PD)
And late last night, the update with the saddest news:
Salem Police Officers were dispatched to Commercial St SE and Royvonne Ave SE at 5:55 pm this afternoon on a report of a vehicle/pedestrian crash.

Officers arrived to find that 14-year old Shatamera Pruden had been struck by a southbound vehicle as she was crossing the street. She was transported to Salem Health where she later died of her injuries.

The investigation has shown that Shatamera had been crossing Commercial St in an westerly direction when she was struck by a southbound FJ Cruiser. Shatamera had been crossing north of the intersection of Commercial St and Royvonne in an area without a crosswalk. The driver of the vehicle, 31-year old Zane Hilton, was not injured and remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation.

There have been no arrests or citations and the investigation is continuing.
The area is near Winco, Goodwill, a pet store, and a bottle redemption center. Signalized crosswalks are not frequent here. There are also many ambiguous intersections where driveways look like a street but may not meet the legal definition of an unmarked crosswalk. The nearest signalized crosswalk north is at Kegler, and the nearest one south is at Kuebler, nearly a half-mile apart - so at the mid-point, that's nearly five minutes of walking on Commercial to reach a crosswalk with paint and a signal. This profoundly disadvantages people on foot.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Article on Downtown Restaurant Mixes Parking and DUI Strangely

In the paper yesterday there was an announcement about a new restaurant going into the space formerly occupied by McGrath's and Urban Alley. As what is probably a rewrite of a press release, it is not very remarkable.

But at the center of it is a very interesting incoherence.

It wouldn't do to make too much of this, but there's a semantic slide or elision of difference between parking and impaired driving in the piece. In the way it casually conflates the two, it actually opens up a lot of the nonsense in our attitudes about driving and the system of subsidy for it.

Is parking or impaired driving the number one concern?
From the piece, with quotes from a "written statement":
While deciding to move to the downtown location, Kunke chatted with his customers for feedback. Because many of his regulars live in South Salem, car trouble came up again and again.

"The number one biggest concern was parking downtown," Kunke said. "We serve high-end cocktails and have a sophisticated wine selection. I want to make sure our guests get home safe afterward. ... There's nothing worse than driving in circles looking for a parking spot."

Kunke plans to combat the parking problem with two alternatives: Valet service and driver service. Rudy's staff will make Uber reservations for diners, with the cost of travel added to the final dinner bill. Schedule a pickup while making your dinner reservation, and a car will arrive at your home 15 minutes before. After dinner (or a few cocktails), a car will take you home.
So was the number once concern about drunk driving? Or was it about finding a parking spot in the giant parking structure immediately above your restaurant - which makes it totally unnecessary to "drive in circles looking for a parking spot"? What is the real nature of this "car trouble"? The phrase usually means mechanical trouble, the kind of thing that requires a trip to see the mechanic. But it does not meant that here. Instead it means difficulties in driving safely and legally, and perceived difficulties in arranging temporary car storage.

How is "driving in circles looking for a parking spot" an issue?