|It's a highway bridge, for highway speeds and dust|
not for pleasant walking
You can see a very large (12mb) map here of the "Salem Alternative." Additional notes here.
Currently the "Preferred Alternative," the so-called "Salem Alternative," is in process between draft Environmental Impact Statement and final Environmental Impact Statement.
Current Action - Mid-February 2019
On February 11th, Council voted 6-3 not to complete the land use actions necessary for the "Preferred Alternative." This sets in motion a final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the "No Build" alternative.
After the Land Use Board of Appeals remanded the land use and urban growth boundary decisions back to City Council (see just below for more on that), for most of 2017 and 2018 the current City Council did not have the appetite to schedule a new round of formal Public Hearings and to revisit the decision.
|The most recent schedule (May 2018) has lots of TBD|
At the same time, news of a blown deadline emerged. Some of the funding for the Environmental Impact Statement came with an expiration date, and we missed it. At the MPO, pro-bridge advocates sought to leverage this and pressure Salem City Council for action. On November 26th, Council considered a motion brought by Councilor Lewis to restart the process. A substitute motion by Councilor Andersen was adopted instead, and Council will hold a formal Work Session on the SRC. Because the process in late 2016 (see section below on UGB analysis) was rushed and guided to a pre-determined outcome, Councilor Andersen writes:
Council had not had any work session or even any real discussion about the facts surrounding the bridge (as opposed to emotional arguments)....there has been no real public or council education as to the real facts concerning the bridge and its effects on not just the issues in my motion, but on other aspects....A work session will provide much needed transparency by evincing the actual facts surrounding the bridge.The Work Session is intended to remedy that defect in the previous "process."
Here is a discussion of documents publishes as part of the January 30th Work Session:
- Summary on the SRC as a bad wager
- The SRC is not a good bet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- The traffic forecasts show no statistically significant difference between Build and No Build
- The traffic forecasts fail to consider induced demand sufficiently
- Tolling or decongestion pricing is erased in several parts of the analysis
- The cost estimate is almost certain to be way too low
- The effects of the Mission Street overpass and widening suggest we aren't considering neighborhood disruption enough
- The authors of the Q & A admit indirectly the DEIS and land use process was flawed
- The opportunity cost is high. Under the SRC, periodic allocations of Federal funds, like this one for $15 million over four years, will all get sucked up by SRC-related projects and will not be available for other good things like safety, walking, biking, and transit. Over the payment lifetime of SRC this is estimated to be $200 or $300 million total that would be lost to the SRC.
|Summary of 15 out of the 16 recommendations|
The Task Force also considered a suite of "longer-term" actions for widening the Marion and Center Street bridges and their approaches, and while there was not consensus on them, Council may take up these also.
(The City's page for the Task Force is here, and blog posts are here.)
Urban Growth Boundary Analysis (2016-2017)
On December 5th of 2016 Council voted 5-2 for the Urban Growth Boundary expansion to fit the bridge and for a set of amendments to the Transportation System Plan for the bridge.
That decision was appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals, and early in August of 2017 LUBA remanded the decision back to the City for a do-over.
Here was an analysis of the Preferred Alternative and the proposed UGB expansion. Councilors who supported the bridge did not engage the critiques in any way. (The list has been updated with new posts.)
- The 2014 letter from the DLDC - Third Bridge Cranking Up Again
- A right-sized Marine Drive can be separated from the UGB expansion - OAR on Rural Roads
- N3B brought to light two new memos; they treat bikes, the Comprehensive Plan, and TDM/TSM measures strangely - New Land Use Memos
- The analysis of Alternative 2A - Can Widening Existing Bridges Meet Need?
- What about Contra-flow, Flex Lanes on existing bridges inside the UGB?
- The Preferred Alternative Scores Poorly on Volume/Capacity Measures
- Cost Overruns and poor planning for unstable soils on the US 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville Echo in Geology Report for SRC. It also fails badly to account for the Cascadia Subduction Zone quake.
- But wait! It turns out that buried in the Findings Report is a claim that the bridge will be engineered to a 9.0 standard. The $430 million cost estimate almost certainly does not include this level of seismic work.
- The Wildlife Addendum is cavalier about the McLane Island heron rookery and other agencies call for more time for review. (Not very relevant to the UGB argument, but perhaps interesting for other reasons are two history notes on McLane Island, here and here.)
- The SRC will increase energy consumption by 16% over No Build, and this is inconsistent with Statewide Goal 13 and our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals in HB 3543.
- More on Greenhouse Gases and Energy - Greenwashing the SRC? Air Quality/Emissions and Energy Analyses may not Match
- The document dump just before the Public Hearing is inconsistent with Statewide Planning Goal 1, on "Citizen Involvement."
- Questions about Public Process and Schedule with regard to Statewide Planning Goal 1 on Citizen Involvement: Two Interpretive Questions: Goal 1 for Part or Whole? What does Implement Mean? In advance of the December 5th conclusion to the hearing, the SRC published their response to public comment, but again left only a few days for Council to absorb nearly 400pp of materials.
- Comments submitted from DLCD don't contest many claims head-on, but instead suggest that there are many, many gaps in "the findings" and analysis in support of the UGB expansion.
- A July 2015 memo, essentially secret until now, on the Alternate Modes Study overstates its progress on recommendations to avoid drive-alone car trips across the river, Part 1 and Part 2. The lack of progress is not consistent with OAR 660-12-0035(4) to "increase transportation choices and reduce reliance on the automobile."
- Three posts developing a critique of the way we understand the directive to "implement" alternatives before building new highways: The Mostly-Ignored High Level Consensus to Reduce Drive-alone Trips, Two Interpretive Questions: Goal 1 for Part or Whole? What does Implement Mean?, and ODOT Memo on Highway Plan Policy 1G seems Shallow.
- A critique of the whole Transit/TDM/TSM analysis that attempted to debunk walk/bike/bus/carpool type mobility solutions: The Origin of the 8% Reduction is a Rhetorical Sleight of Hand!
Much earlier in the process, the Task Force was deeply split, however, far from agreeing on the bridge alignment.
|Task Force Assessment, Pro and Con|
Whether you think a bridge like this is necessary or a bad idea, it would be the largest infrastructure project in a generation here and therefore should receive exceptional levels of scrutiny.
(All of the significant Breakfast Blog pieces on the bridge are tagged "Rivercrossing - Third Bridge" and can seen here.)
Needless to say, many of us think it's a bad idea. Here's why:*
The Case Against the Highway and Bridge
Modeling and projections for future demand are wrong
- Total mileage and trips across the bridge are not rising: Absolute trip counts are flat
- Each person is driving less: Vehicle miles traveled per capita is down - this started before the Great Recession!
- Young people are getting fewer licenses and are driving even less
- Pricing used in the modeling is wrong: gas and energy costs will rise; carbon, congestion, mileage will likely be taxed in the future
- Salem Weekly has a story on population modeling: 2012 forecasts are significantly below the 2004 forecasts used in the DEIS process, and the modeling should be updated with the new, revised figures.
- Using the project's own internal assumptions, tolling itself depresses demand so much that no new bridge is needed.
- Even the Feds are beginning to doubt 20th century growth rates: The FHWA has recently changed growth rate projections downward and a Federal Judge in Wisconsin criticized projections for a project there.
- Modeling from the late 1970s and early 1980s badly missed and overestimated trip counts in downtown. There is a systemic bias towards overestimating driving and trip counts.
- Obesity and diabetes are increasing (national and state reports, also nice summary here at The Atlantic)
- Maintaining and preserving existing infrastructure should be higher priority. The Marion Street Bridge is rated "structurally deficient" and will require repairs; the Center Street Bridge is "fair" but that's not a whole lot better than the Marion St. Bridge and it too will require repair.
- The proposed alignment goes over risky soils and unstable banks.
- There is a desperate need to invest in seismic retrofits for our existing bridges. A seismic reinforcement of the existing bridges is far cheaper than a brand new bridge.
- Investing in transit and other alternatives to drive-alone-trip will better allocate existing capacity
- In fact, a ridiculous level of 10-minute rush hour service and weekend service could serve West Salem for about $15 million a year, about 1/3 of the yearly debt service on the current $430 million planning level cost estimate for "the Salem Alternative."
- Both AAA and the CDC suggest the costs of death and injury and property damage significantly exceed "the costs of congestion" and that investing in safety, risk- and harm-reduction offers better returns.
- The onramp system (here and here) will degrade highland neighborhood and harm historic properties
- Other cites are taking out, not adding, urban highways and viaducts.
- Privileging through-movement drastically harms internal connectivity and create barriers and the supposed "benefits" to people on foot and on bike are a sham.
- The proposed bridge is outside of the Urban Growth Boundary and is not consistent with Oregon Land Use goals. (See above - at least at the moment, Council has decisively rejected this claim.)