Monday, February 13, 2012

City Council, Feb 13th - The Madness of a $500 Million+ Rivercrossing Project

Courthouse Square is a $50 Million fiasco. So let's think about something ten times as big, a $500 Million fiasco. Think about ten whole downtown blocks, each with all the buildings condemned.

Here's the bad news at City Council tonight, a local issue that really does merit DEFCON 2 status. Nothing in our best available modeling suggests in 50 years we will need a hugely expanded transportation infrastructure built around the drive-alone car trip and cheap energy. Absolutely nothing. There's no reason we should be destroying neighborhoods and building for a world of cheap energy and cheap transportation.

On the contrary, everything in the best available modeling suggests we need to attend to seismic reinforcement and general preservation of existing infrastructure and the reallocation of that infrastructure for a more efficient use of transportation choices and modes. A half-billion or more is a lot of money, especially just now. It's an extravagance we just cannot afford - in so many different ways.

Just look at the flood and how little we are prepared for $10 or $15 Million in repairs.

Or consider Courthouse Square, a 50 Million dollar problem.

This is a 500 Million dollar problem. And likely more, much more.

Maybe you say, well, the financing isn't going to come together right now, so this isn't really viable. But why, then, have we spent $6 Million on it already? That's half of the flood damage. That's a lot of bike lanes and sharrows. That's a Minto bridge.

Regardless, the project should fail on its merits, not because we're gunshy about tolling.

In any case, it seems a bit rich to stress the cost of each document:
In advance of publishing the Salem River Crossing DEIS, ODOT is mailing postcards to more than 4,000 separate mailing addresses, including property owners and site addresses within the project notification area. Notices are also being distributed to interested parties via email....Responses are due by March 1, 2012, and will be used to determine how many COs and printed documents will be produced. The public will not be charged for copies of the DEIS, but the cost to the project and the State of Oregon is about $90 per printed copy, $40 per printed executive summary, and $2 per CD. The document is roughly 1,000 pages.
That's a lot of material, and it will need to be digested and commented on in short order:
The currently anticipated release date, which is subject to change, is April 6, 2012. A newsletter that provides an overview of the project will be distributed at the start of the Salem River Crossing Draft Environmental Impact Statement public comment period. The DEIS will be open for public review for 60 days. During this time, the public will be invited to comment in writing, on-line, or at public hearings on the project. Two public hearings are tentatively scheduled to occur during May 2012. It is important that public comment be collected at these venues in order for the project staff to document and respond appropriately.
The irony piles up.

For more on the size of the project, see here.

This is the single most important and costly transportation project in a generation. The most likely alignments would cut a gash through the Highland neighborhood, destroying significant parts of it. Other alignments could harm the historic Union St. Railroad Bridge. If you care about Salem, you need to care about this!


Walker said...

Wow, quite the twofer today, ADDING a staff member at the airport and talking about the DEIS for the megabridge boondoggle o'er the Wilamette.

You know, everyone shakes their heads at the Easter Island megaliths and asks "What can they possibly have been thinking?" as they squandered their energy on gigantic ceremonial projects of no real utility, while destroying their own life support systems.

All you need to do to understand the thinking of the Easter Island folks at that time is to look at the Salem River Crossing.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I'm glad you highlighted the airport staff! Thanks for catching that. Fortunately, if they move forward with that, it can be undone quickly and conveniently in a way that concrete and asphalt cannot. Dumb, but not irreversible. Unlike the Salem Easter Island Commemorative Bridge & Monolith!

Curt said...

I think this story of an similar Australian megaproject that is now broke and underused is very relevant: