Saturday, September 22, 2012

City Council, September 24th - The $687 Million Bridge and Highway

Even though there is no public hearing, no action item, and only an informational report, the Salem River Crossing process, like the proposed bridge design itself, looms over Council on Monday.

Unsurprisingly the Oversight Team has taken for its motto, "Go Big or Go Home." The hypertrophied alternative they are leaning towards is 4D. Interestingly enough, the April OPB guide had a picture of its twin, so it is not so difficult to visualize:

The April OPB Cover Shows the Cross-Section!

Other items include some right-of-way acquisition for sidewalks near schools on Ellis NE and Gerth NW.

More funding for the Glen Creek Trail connecting the Union Street RR Bridge to Glen Creek Road.

And some interesting real estate orts along Pringle Creek and the path, which the City proposes to transfer from Urban Development to the City proper - I suppose occasioned by the fact that the Pringle Creek URA is going to disappear.

But even without a hearing, the big item is the bridge of course.

Both the OPB picture and option 4D are six lane cross-sections, with very similar ramp systems!

A Superhighway Bridge, Just like the OPB Picture
Here's the overview, and you can see just how big is this thing.

4D Overview in Blue and Widening in Grey
The Ramp System Tears Up Highland and Creates Barriers
At Front Street in the Highland neighborhood a viaduct will make for ceilings and blight.  (Is it too snarky to point out that the buildings have all been removed, so there's nothing for the mailbox to serve?)

Front Street NE Viaduct and Desolation
On the West side the impacts are equally big.

Westside Impacts on Wallace Park,
Wallace Road, Glen Creek, and Edgewater
Big New Road System at West Bridgehead
Viaduct and Ramp Looms Over Wallace Park
Further Separates Edgewater from River
Ramp and Viaducts Create Huge, Looming Barrier

Here's an elevation view of the viaducts in Wallace Marine Park at Glen Creek and the Courthouse Fitness building. The ramps also take out all of the greenway on the south edge of Edgewater.

Elevation View of the Viaducts and Ramps
You may recall an article from July in which councilor Bennett expressed significant doubt about the funding scheme: "I would think we need to look at the tolls very early in the process and see if there is a political will to charge residents a buck a trip... I don’t believe (there is), which makes me wonder about the financing."

The current cost estimate for this bridge and highway is $687 million, and with likely cost overruns will approach or even exceed $1 billion. While ODOT trumpets its ability to bring projects in at budget, this holds true for only small and medium size projects; nearly every recent project of the magnitude of the proposed bridge and highway in Oregon has had significant overruns (see the Cortright report for Plaid Pantry), especially the debacle on Highway 20 near Eddyville as well as the Newberg-Dundee by-pass.

So while the hearing won't be until after the election, by creating noise now, you can help prepare the way for a rational decision. Email and urge Council to tell the Oversight Team to "go home" and quit wasting money (over $6 million so far) on fantasies!

Staff Report to Council Minimizes Dissent
The Task Force was unable to find a consensus or even a clear majority.  None of the solutions proposed actually solve problems.  Tell Council to adopt the no-build recommendation and direct staff to consider lower-cost and more effective transportation solutions - like walking and biking! 

Update, mid-day Sunday

Commenters rightly ask for data! Here's a graph with traffic on the bridges, and two locations on I-5, the Market Street interchange and the Battle Creek - Sunnyview interchange on the southern edge of town.

Only the Market Street shows an increase. (Source: ODOT Traffic Counts and discussion here.)

Contrary to Modeling, Bridge Traffic (Red) is Declining
For more on the River Crossing see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

You know, I failed to point out that the Glen Creek path has already had some $100K in overrun.

So if a dinky 850 foot path has an overrun (and there might be more, as construction hasn't even started yet!) of 50% or so, what makes us think the considerably more complicated job of several miles of bridge and highway will come in at or under budget?

There is no reason to trust the cost numbers we are being given.

Jim Scheppke said...

Great post SBOB. You laid it all out. What an amazingly bad idea this is. A fantasy indeed. The only thing you failed to mention is that traffic on the existing bridges is DOWN, not up since 2006 (a little over 4%). So this is a $687 million solution to a a problem that doesn't exist.

Curtis Fisher said...

Sightline Daily has some of the best reporting on how flawed forecasting as lead to revenue shortfalls for a number of Northwest highway and bridge projects. Plus a nifty little report projecting VMT to fall 6.5% in our region by 2030. Its not because of shifting modes either, only demographics. The boomers are past their peak driving years and cycling out of the driving pool and there are not nearly enough gen. Xers to replace them.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks! Updated with data. I think I've seen 2011 numbers floating around somewhere, but the ODOT site didn't have them. I'll update the graphs when I see the data, as I believe it shows continued decline as both of you suggest!