Thursday, December 3, 2009

Winter's Almost Here, but Planning for Bikes Moves on

It's cold, the days are short, and it's the bicycling off-season. But you'd never know it this week. Instead of going into hibernation, bicyclists and planners have held several promising meetings in the last few days.

Downtown Vision 2020, the Kroc Center, and a Salem Community Energy Strategy process each held meetings and advanced projects helpful for bicycling.

Wednesday the Vision 2020 Bike/Ped group met, and the group mapped out its projects for the next year. There's lots of work! Courtney Knox summarized the projects:
Priorities for future effort (in no particular order):
- Review and comment on bike/ped project list for $1.6M (January meeting)
- Develop communication plan re: sharrows (February meeting)
- Develop Winter Street as preferred bicycle and pedestrian route (as part of Transportation System Plan (TSP) update)
- Develop a better Union Street Connection from RR Bridge to Capitol (as part of TSP)
- Look at methods for reducing double right turn lanes
- Engage developers in collaborative discussion around planning for bike/ped access and treatment (continually)
- Promote increased awareness of bike facilities (to include mapping)
- Provide input in development of streetscape standards
- Develop codes/standards/requirements to A) include bike parking in new buildings and B) ensure future developments address bike and ped connections appropriately
- Include consideration of bike facilities in repaving projects
- Include bicycle and pedestrian representatives on advisory boards

A subgroup also gave a presentation on the junction of South Commercial and Liberty. They had combined site visits and meetings and developed a list of prospective solutions for getting south-bound bicyclists across the dual right-turns (onto Liberty) and back onto Commercial. The presenters stressed that "the solution matrix and list of prioritized solutions has not been refined. The solutions presented have not gone though City staff to determine feasibility." Even so, it's an amazing list of ideas.

In its first draft form, the preferred solution stops motorized traffic and, though there is no separate signal, effectively gives bicycle traffic a green light to cross the dual turns. The red arrows here show stopped traffic, the green arrows show moving traffic, and the green dots the bicycle movement.

The goal is to find a solution that can be coordinated with the rebuild of Commercial that is scheduled for next summer as part of the Keep Salem Moving bond.

Also on Wednesday, a large group met at the Kroc center to talk about the proposal to conduct a Salem-Parkway / Kroc Center Access Study. Participants from Congressman Schrader, Oregon Department of Transportation, Marion County, Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, City of Keizer, and City of Salem, agreed to start planning a study of alternative projects and alignments, including potential overpasses and/or underpasses of Salem Parkway and the Portland and Western rail line, to improve access and safety to the new Salvation Army Kroc Center. City of Salem will take the lead on the process.

Conversation focussed on getting kids from Keizer across the Parkway and to the Kroc, since using the signalized crossings at Cherry or Hyacinth requires more than a mile of out-of-direction travel for all modes, and is unattractive for walking and biking.

Less time was spent on the barriers of Salem Industrial Drive and Portland Boulevard. Representatives from the City of Salem noted that the study was timed well, as it would coincide with the updates to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Elements of the Transportation System Plan, and that this would result in coordinated planning for improved access from all directions.

One of the representatives from ODOT underscored, however, that the process will not be fast. Even in the best case, a crossing over the parkway was a 5-10 year project. The TSP update is nearly a 2 year project. Improving access to the Kroc will not happen soon.

On Tuesday, the City of Salem held a Community Energy Strategy forum.
In May 2009, the City of Salem became the recipient of a $1,521,000 formula grant from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. Development of an Energy Strategy is the first grant requirement.
After a morning context briefing, the audience broke up into smaller groups. One of the sections of the strategy will concern transportation and about 10 community members discussed the draft goal to "encourage resident and employee use of alternative modes." The group agreed that "transportation options" focussed the matter on individual choice and cultivating a robust system-wide flexibility better than the "alt modes" moniker, which risks relegating non-drive-alone auto trips to fringe behavior. The group also drilled into a number of specific actions and sought to make them more aspirational and substantive.

It will be interesting to follow this. Perhaps focusing on energy use will be a better way to focus transportation planning on real change. In Portland and in Salem ODOT is planning two megabridges. Governor Kulongoski spent yesterday plugging the I-5 megabridge. Yet, again, ODOT says that to meet the Governor's own greenhouse gas goals
Reducing on-road vehicle GHG emissions by 75 percent from 1990 levels would be equivalent to reducing Oregonian’s per capita annual consumption of petroleum fuels from 567 gallons to 68 gallons.
The disconnect between road-building and greenhouse gas goals is staggering.

All in all, though, three meetings, a real list of projects, and some progress. A good week for bicycling in winter!


Unknown said...

"... meetings... "? Meetings?!

Gee whiz, get wool, Ride Bike :-)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Got wool, rode bike to all meetings! The sun has been beautiful this week!