The Salem River Crossing Oversight Team meets on Thursday, August 23, 2012 from 12:00 to 2:00 pm at the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (100 High St. SE, Suite 200, Salem), to start working on a final "locally preferred alternative" for the "record of decision." (See the Citizens Guide to the NEPA for more on the process.)
The agenda suggests the process will go well into the fall - and given the track record so far, winter or even spring of 2013 seems more likely.
It doesn't take a complicated thought experiment to show the problems. Again, spending $75 million on 25,000 battery-assisted e-bikes, one for every citizen of West Salem - that would solve a lot of problems: Reduce greenhouse gases, reduce automobile congestion, improves freight mobility, improve emergency vehicle response, and cost a lot less. Other solutions that more accurately meet the purpose and need are not difficult to accumulate. (And better ways of articulating the purpose and need are possible, too!)
The alternatives on the table, however, show a poverty of imagination. They are all from the 1950s, big highways and bridges, a legacy of Eisenhower-era thinking. None of them are likely to meet the real needs of citizens in 2050 or 2075. They all look backwards, imagining a world of more of the same, rather than forwards, a world in which there will be important differences in mobility and resources constrained and allocated differently than they are today.
If one of the alternatives was really forward-looking, we would certainly see something closer to a consensus - probably not unanimity, but surely a more of a majority.
The final memo summarizes opinions on the alternatives that made the final cut.
Here's the summary on the most popular - and most expensive - 4d:
Displaced businesses, homes, and families; increasing local tax burden at the same time we are making cuts in schools, fire, and police; the cost to riverfront parks and natural areas.
There's not much here, actually, for people who live in Salem. (If it's jobs you want, a public works project to pour missing sidewalks would generate far more local jobs at a lower cost than a massive highway and bridge project, by the way!)
And the process has not been intellectually honest. The modeling is suspect - again, it uses the very same modeling of the CRC, and even the State Treasurer, hardly a contrarian figure, has suggested that the modeling is inadequate in important ways, and uses 20th century assumptions rather than our best guesses at 21st century conditions.
|The State Treasuer thinks Tolls and Traffic will be Lower|
So it may or may not be an exaggeration to say the process is rigged. But it's certainly biased.
(Bridge supporters might point to the just announced "expediting" of the CRC, but as Willamette Week points out, the same thing was done 4 years ago. It's just rhetoric, not funding.)
As the Grant Neighborhood Association wrote in their public comment,
If Salem cannot afford to run buses on weekends, how can we support another river crossing? And if we are financially capable to support another crossing, why not use those funds to support and improve our current infrastructure, invest in alternative transportation and raise the quality of life for our residents?For more on the River Crossing see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing.