Sunday, October 10, 2010

City Council, Oct 11th - Ferry and Liberty Streets need more than a Welcome Center

More than bicycling, walking is in on stage Monday at Council. But people who care about recreation and all forms of active transportation should be interested.

Most intriguing is Go Downtown's proposal to create a "welcome center" in the Liberty Parkade at 365 Ferry St.

As you can see from the map and streetview images, the Conference Center and Liberty Parkade straddle the parkway, a State Highway. The Parkade actually has planter barricades along the sidewalk to ward off cars that occasionally jump the curb as a result of taking the corner at excessive speeds.

This is an extremely unfriendly environment for people walking or bicycling. The multi-lane highways and arterials unfortunately isolate the Conference Center from downtown. They are moats.

Over the summer a business on this corner, and directly across the street from the Conference Center, closed. Tea Party/Tigress Bookshop left the Crystal Garden building for a site next to a bed and breakfast in Monmouth. The internet is killing independent bookstores, so this is not simply a story about a difficult location or other factors. Still, even with a curb extension, a bench, and planters out in front of the store, this stretch of Liberty is not pleasant. The lack of walk-by traffic must have hurt.

Just last week a new downtown group, the Salem Downtown Partnership, unveiled a conceptual plan for traffic calming and pedestrian medians for people who would like to walk more downtown. Note the large planter strip in the middle of Liberty, just one block north, between State and Court streets.

Drawing people from the hotel and conference center into the downtown core is a problem of getting people to walk just a block or two. A lack of information is not the problem! Travel Salem has a couple of kiosks in the hotel and conference center for the information.

The problem is more the aesthetic dimension of walking along state highways. Not fun. Without traffic calming and streetscape improvements, landing a "welcome center" across the street risks being just a cosmetic fix.

There's an opportunity here, but will Go Downtown and the City seize it?

Two Parks

Another item is almost $150,000 and approval for the Fairmount Park Master Plan. If you click on the map you will get a much larger version, and you can see that the "forest path" which creates a very useful walking connection to Minto-Brown park (many people dismount and walk their bikes), is slated for some improvements.

Speaking of Minto-Brown...Council will decide whether to purchase an easement for the proposed bridge between Riverfront and Minto-Brown parks. The consulting engineers will also give a report on bridge height (report not available on Friday). The easement would give the city maximum flexibility in case the high bridge (and longer landing strip) option is necessary (separate Urban Renewal report contains map). The discovery of "hazardous waste" gives parties an "out."

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