Monday, May 14, 2012

Downtown Vision 2020's Incoherence: Promoting Keizer Station

One of the high level goals of the Downtown Vision 2020 project is to "Expand Options to Get About the City Center," and nested under this goal as one of the 24 preferred projects is "Support a third Willamette River traffic bridge."

There's the lure of a dreamy image:
Imagine Salem’s historic City Center enhanced - into a revitalized, welcoming, and vibrant community gathering place, a magnet for visitors, where unique, distinctive establishments are waiting to be discovered.

Imagine a City Center that bustles from morning to night, with a diverse array of special places to shop, live, work, and enjoy entertainment.

Now, that vision is ready to come to life!
But will the bridges that are on the table contribute to this vision?

The most likely alignments for such a bridge will accomplish no such thing!

On the contrary, the bridge will by-pass downtown Salem and make Keizer Station the preferred shopping destination for many.

Is this really the policy goal we want to enact for Downtown Vision 2020?

Apart from the incoherence here in the Vision 2020 goals, the project has backed into the wrong solution. The bridge solution is to remove regional traffic from downtown by a by-pass.

But we want more people coming downtown, not fewer! So the goal should be not to get traffic out of downtown, but to make it easy for people to reach downtown, to make more people want to reach downtown, and to make it easy for people to avoid short-hop trips by drive-alone trip. The solution is better circulation and access for downtown, not a by-pass: For addition, not subtraction.

The bridge that's on the table is a giant curette for downtown.

While may seem convenient to remove a certain amount of traffic from the downtown bridges, as new habits are formed, Keizer Station will gain pre-eminence over downtown. Just look at the history of Lancaster Drive and its shopping malls.  How is that the vision for downtown?

For more on the River Crossing see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing


Cory Poole said...

I find it so interesting that the idea of a tunnel is dismissed so soundly. I find it hard to imagine that a tunnel really would cost 10 times as much as a huge bridge and think about what a tunnel could mean for livability downtown. Get the thru traffic off the surface and underwater!

Anonymous said...

From the "Dismissed Alternatives" memo, here's why a tunnel was dismissed:

"The cost for a tunnel under the Willamette River would be approximately ten times greater than the corresponding aboveground solutions ($3 billion vs. $300 to $500 million). The project is unfunded and already expensive relative to its function because of the large floodplain crossing and extensive structures required. Therefore, it is very unlikely that funds could be raised for a tunnel...

[T]he key connections from the Willamette River crossing to the surface transportation system are close to the river on both sides (e.g., the Liberty/Commercial couplet, Wallace Road, and OR 22). These connections are also primarily in a north-south orientation, requiring space for intersections or interchanges to make the connections. In other words, it is infeasible to make the needed surface-street connections from a tunnel; the facility would still be underground at the location where the connections need to be made to meet the project Purpose and Need."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Heh. No 3rd Bridge posted a note on one of the "technical memos" and in it is explicit language about Keizer Station harming downtown businesses!

"[D]owntown businesses might experience less patronage compared to the No Build Alternative. This might happen if West Salem shoppers opted to travel to Keizer Station or other future north Salem locations instead of downtown. This change in accessibility could potentially affect the relative importance of the downtown area to the region, and could alter the pace and location of future development."