Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Salem River Crossing: Sandy and what $687 Million might Buy

If we were told that a catastrophic natural disaster was going to happen in the next 50 years, but we didn't know what it would be or when it would come, and area residents decided to come up with $30 million a year for 20 30 years and we could choose how to allocate it - would we spend it on a bridge and highway?  Or would we use it on other things?

Maybe you've seen stories about the evacuation of NYU Langone Medical Center, where backup generators failed Monday night, and all patients had to be evacuated to other hospitals.
[A]pproximately 1,000 hospital staffers (doctors, nurses, residents, and medical students), along with firefighters and police officers, carried some 260 patients down 15 flights of stairs, in the dark, with flashlights, to ambulances that transported them to other area hospitals.
The patients included four newborns "on respirators that were breathing for them, and when the power went out, each baby was carried down nine flights of stairs while a nurse manually squeezed a bag to deliver air to the baby's lungs."

1964 Flood, Evacuating Salem Hospital
In the 1964 flood, Salem Hospital had to be evacuated.  The National Guard had to be called in.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, the Cascadian Quake, and What we Value

With Hurricane Sandy in the news, it's a good time to reflect on the big and small infrastrucure we value.

The Historic Preservation League just came out with a report on unreinforced masonry buildings. Resilient Masonry Buildings: Saving Lives, Livelihoods, and the Livability of Oregon’s Historic Downtowns is more than a little relevant to Salem's downtown.

You may recognize one of our alleys, the one between Arbuckle Costic and Mary Lou Zeek.

Not long ago the City circulated a draft Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan, and in it earthquake and flood damage scores very high.

Lots of our masonry buildings and critical infrastructure will likely collapse in a big earthquake.

Meanwhile we're screwing around talking about a billion dollars for a new highway and bridge.

If we don't think more and think hard about choosing, funding, and preserving what we value, when the big one hits, there won't be any traffic to go across that big new bridge.

Don't forget tomorrow at 9:00am, host Melanie Belle will have City Councilor Chuck Bennett and Cherriots board member Bob Krebs on her "Melanie in the Morning" show on KMUZ to talk about the Salem River Crossing. They'll be talking about the the Nov. 4th presentation on the bridge by the "No 3rd Bridge" coalition and the City Council hearing on the 5th."

The show will be archived as a podcast and made available on the KMUZ website, hopefully before the 4th.

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

Mark Twain on Bikes - Was the Humorist Sincere?

With "Mark Twain" in town and on the front page Saturday, it seems like a good time to revisit a deliciously ambiguous anecdote. A couple years ago it occasioned a good bit of comment on BikePortland.

In August, 1895 Twain was on tour and after his talk in Portland he held court for reporters.  Among other things he remarked
"Portland seems to be a pretty nice town," drawled the author of "Tom Sawyer," as the bus rolled down Sixth street, "and this is a pretty nice, smooth street. Now Portland ought to lay itself out a little and macadamize all its streets just like this. Then it ought to own all the bicycles and rent 'em out and so pay for the streets. Pretty good scheme, eh? I suppose people would complain about the monopoly, but then we have the monopolies always with us. Now, in European cities, you know, the government runs a whole lot of things, and, it strikes me, runs 'em pretty well. Here many folks seem to be alarmed about governmental monopolies. But I don't see why. Here cities give away for nothing franchises for car lines, electric plants and things like that. Their generosity is often astonishing. The American people take the yoke of private monopoly with philosophical indifference, and I don't see why they should mind a little government monopoly."
In the discussion and comments it seemed like lots of people wanted badly to cite this as remarkable prescience, to be able to say that over 100 years ago Twain was advocating for a publicly owned bike-share system.

It's possible, of course.  But we also have to remember that Twain was first an ironist and humorist, even cynic, and it also is possible that in a target-rich environment of robber barons and crony capitalism, monopoly, laissez-faire economics, crappy roads, the bicycling fad, and a provincial town on the rise, he was making fun of things rather than speaking sincerely.  Rather than prefiguring bike share, this seemed to me more likely it prefigured Portlandia.  He was a humorist, right?

To the readers of 1895 it may not have been very ambiguous, but it is certainly difficult to know how to read this today.  Twain had earlier written an unpublished story, "Taming the Bicycle" and I have often seen its last sentence cited as praise for bicycling.  "Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live."  The story, however, is full of falls and near-injury, and it is not clear that Twain means, "Bikes are not very dangerous and are actually lots of fun once you get the hang of them."  It seems more likely that he means something like, "You are crazy to bike, but go ahead, knock yourself out."  Bikes were also very expensive at the time and their use was more along the lines of "conspicuous consumption" and leisure sport than populist transportation.  But, again, it's not clear exactly how to interpret the story.

Any Twain experts or fans out there who might know more about how we should understand these things?

In any event, the stories suggest questions and reality checks:  What statements do we make about bikes (and traffic and roads and engineering generally!) today that will seem silly in 100 years, and what statements will seem shrewd? What is fad or local, and what will be enduring? How will history judge?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Business Bikes: Beautiful Buffalo Farm

Out near Monmouth-Independence, Julie Noble and Jacob Sanders of Beautiful Buffalo Farm are trying to do as much by bike as possible.

You can read all about it at the locally produced Living Culture show.

Here's a four minute clip from the show.

How great is this!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Night Striping, the Bronze, KMUZ: Friday Newsbits

Perhaps with a break in the rain, it was possible to return to road striping, and here's some action on the RR crossing at Chemeketa & 12th. You can see the curve of the turn-around now. I was hoping to see them put down the bike symbol or sharrow or whatever they're going to use for the new bike crossing.

Here's the paint truck, with the big reservoirs of yellow and white paint!

Bronze Renewal

In this corner of the world, the City has nothing better to do than write press releases about bicycling awards, right?!

Yesterday they finally came out with last week's news and it's in the paper today. Check out Director of Public Works Peter Fernandez' quote at the end (which unfortunately the paper didn't include). I don't remember him commenting in 2008 on it! Even in a press release it was great to see.
City of Salem Named Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community - 10/25/12

The League of American Bicyclists has announced the latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) and Salem has been named a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community. This award is presented only to communities with remarkable commitments to bicycling. Since its inception, more than 500 distinct communities have applied for the designation. The five levels of the award are diamond, platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. With this impressive round, there are now 242 BFCs in 47 states across America. The Bronze BFC award recognizes Salem's commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure, and pro-bicycling policies.

The decision to designate Salem a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community involved careful review of the City's application, supplemental materials, and consultation with local cyclists. Salem will be featured with a profile on the League of American Bicyclists website at

"We are excited that Salem recognizes that simple steps to make biking safe and comfortable pay huge dividends in civic, community, and economic development," said League President Andy Clarke. "Bicycling is more than a practical, cost-effective solution to many municipal challenges - it's a way to make Salem a place where people do not just live and work, but thrive."

The BFC program is aimed at helping communities evaluate their quality of life, sustainability, and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress toward improving their bicycle friendliness.

Peter Fernandez, P.E., Public Works Director, states "We are proud of the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments we have made over the years. We hope to make many more in the future."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pringle Creek Urban Renewal District Nets Little over Inflation

The City is trumpeting the closure of the Pringle Creek Urban Renewal district. But has it been really so great?

In today's paper:
The city’s Urban Development Department noted in its memo to the council: “The Plan accomplished its purpose of improving the area. In 1971 the assessed value was $18,977,000, and in 2012 it rose to $73,766,630, with a Real Market value of just under $108,945,000.”
According to the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index calculator, $18,977,000 in 1971 dollars equals $108,429,892 in 2012 dollars. If we just look at assessed value, the assessed value of the district badly underperformed inflation!

Pringle Creek Urban Renewal Area, 1975
I don't know how to perform this calculation in a sophisticated way. So this is very crude swag. (Maybe a reader with a background in economics can help?)

But in this crude calculation leveling a somewhat shabby mix of homes and commercial buildings, and replacing them with a campus-like cluster of mostly single-use government buildings set in a generous parkland, together yielded less than doing nothing and just leaving those buildings, their owners, and prospective new developers alone. Isn't that a little disturbing?

(Moreover, how much in property taxes are these government buildings paying, hmm?)

I don't know that I want to delve into a debate about urban renewal generally. I think it still has uses, though range of appropriate uses is almost certainly smaller than what its proponents suggest.

But I want to suggest that we should run away from the way it was implemented here.   In fact, big box government buildings like the library, city hall, and SAIF, share more with big box retail than we might like. The economic advantages of mixed-uses and density are clear:

Free Parking Alternatives Meeting on Wednesday

Parking doesn't pay for itself, and the Downtown Parking Task Force is charged with finding solutions for the large deficits that our commitment to free downtown parking has created.

As City Councilor and Chair of the Task Force, Chuck Bennett, said, “Nobody really gets free parking.Somehow it all has to be paid for.”And the Salem Downtown Partnership says,
The City of Salem is our partner to help us achieve the best shopping, dining, art and entertainment experience for our customers. Unfortunately, the City is $4 million behind in maintenance on the three downtown parking garages, Chemeketa, Liberty and Marion.
And in fact, the recent letter to the editor could easily reflect the reality of the $4 million deficit and other subsidies for parking!
It is upsetting that tax dollars are spend to accomodate car parkers. They don't pay a penny for using all the amenities that have been implemented just for them. If they paid a parking fee, at least they would be paying something. It is not fair to the rest of us to pay their way.
More seriously, the Partnership is holding a meeting for downtown businesses on Wednesday to discuss parking and its funding, and hopefully the conversation will generate creative ideas on ways to balance downtown's current dependence on free parking with the need to transition to different parking strategies. Most importantly, with luck the conversation can shift from the temporary free storage of cars to the mobility of people, people who might choose to use cars and people who might choose other means.

If 85% is the magic threshold,
maybe there's too much parking?
What matters of course is how many people come downtown and how easy they find it to get there. At present most people make drive-alone trips and therefore many feel free parking remains a necessity. But this is historically a recent and local phenomenon and is not how things work in much of the world - and is not how things are likely to work in the not-so-distant future.

Bikes should be part of the solution.  By investing in high quality bike facilities, more people will bike downtown - will be comfortable and feel it is a realistic option - reducing congestion and the perceived need for car parking. The same can be said for walking and transit.  There's a distinct possibility for addition-by-subtraction here!

If one strategy is to manage supply, another is to manage demand - we should be investing in things that get people downtown and reduce the demand for free car storage downtown, rather than investing in increasing the supply of free car storage.

One downtown voice advocating for change is Mary Lou Zeek. Over the weekend you might have seen her "My Passion" column in the paper.
Most people have no idea of the richness of the visual landscape in the downtown area of Salem right now — you simply can’t see it very well if you are just whizzing by in a car....If you are in a car, you probably only notice the street construction delays and the hassles of finding a parking place.

When I think about cities that were born in an era before cars, what strikes me is that people took care to have interesting things to look at along the way. There are statues. Buildings have striking architectural features. There are places of greenery and flowers in tiny window boxes and larger pocket parks. There are places to sit for awhile. Cities like that grow and change and many have survived for hundreds of years. Those features that we might think of as costly “extras,” such as art or landscaping, may actually be at the core of economic vitality and longevity in a city.

Downtown is the heart of our city where our identity should be strong. We need to imagine downtown Salem where the alleys aren’t ill-kept passages people avoid but are instead pedestrian pathways with sculptures on display. Imagine the alleys vibrant with art painted on the sides of the buildings and flowers and greenery hanging above. The alleys could make downtown so much more friendly to bicycles and pedestrians and we could make the alleys feel like a walking tour of an art installation.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

City Council, October 22nd - Pioneer Alley Ordinance

The ordinance language that will enact the alley vacation just north of the cemetery is out and, perhaps as is consistent with the nature of an ad hoc compromise, it seems on the surface a little incoherent. Pragmatically this may not matter, but as an instance of policy it makes me a little queasy.

According to the ordinance, the reason for the Oct 8th hearing was not to consider the matters identified by LUBA in the remand order, but was
reopened for the limited purpose of recieivng evidence and tesimony addressed to the content of ex parte contacts....The City Councilors disclosed on the record ex parte contacts, including a site visit after the June 25th hearing, and e-mails to the City Council regarding the proposed vacation, not previously disclosed, were introduced into the record of the hearing....the City Council was advised not to consider testimony that was not responsive to the ex parte contacts.
Perhaps those closer to the matter will know more about this, but making ex parte contacts the primary reason to reopen the hearing might seem disingenuous.  Certainly that could be a part of the reason, but the primary reason is because of the LUBA remand, isn't it?

Further, it is painfully clear that the City is preserving access under duress - and fencing things with legal language so it is a limited decision - rather than voluntarily finding this a wonderful opportunity to create connections for non-auto travel and establishing precedent for future connectivity needs:
The City Council, upon consideration of the evidence and testimony...finds...There are no approved or adopted plans in the Salem TSP, or any other planning document adopted by City Council, for use of this section of alley right-of-way for public vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian access...The section of right of way proposed for vacation is not part of, or near, a planned transportation improvement. However, the right-of-way does have the potential to be used as a pedestrian connection between the neighborhoods abutting Pioneer and City Vew Cemetery. Council finds that limited pedestrian access...may be appropriate, but that access for bicycles and other modes of transportation is not appropriate due to the solemn character of the Cemetery....The easement should be limited to pedestrians only and not other modes of transportation."
Again, as a pragmatic compromise, it is reasonable to say to people that if you are going so fast on your bike you can't dismount here, then you belong on Commercial or High streets for higher speed bike travel.  But as a matter of policy, it belittles people on bikes and bike transportation by ascribing to them an exuberance incompatible with the solemn character of a cemetery. This is what incompatible exuberance looks like, and I don't think they're on bike:
For comparison, it is interesting to see the City purchase a parcel near Pringle Creek for stream restoration. As part of the Watershed Protection and Preservation Grant program, the City intends to buy 2 acres of land
zoned Single Family Residential (RS)...[and] used for wetland mitigation for the subdivision. The property owner has no use for the property and is agreeable to selling it to the City. The City has an interest in acquiring the property and to secure access and control for the future.
Here, apparently the City has a more agreeable partner in the prospective seller, but the policy goals and actions appear on the surface pretty clear, and the language seems direct and unambiguous.

There is an interesting snafu on the collection of downtown parking permits.
Inadvertently, elimination of the discount for the purchase of parking permits in bulk was not implemented on April1, 2012, and twelve (12) downtown businesses continued to receive the bulk discount in their monthly permit costs....This loss of revenue from April1, 2012, through September 30, 2012, would be $17,979.90.
And the minutes from the Oct 15th meeting show the discussion of downtown urban renewal funds for the Minto Bridge and Path was removed from the agenda. It feels like there's some maneuvering and politicking going on.

(John Shunk Zieber was U. S. Surveyor General for the State of Oregon, worked for Asahel Bush, and as Eugenia Zieber Bush's father was Asahel's father-in-law.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Salem River Crossing on Parks and History - Section 4f

(This may not be very interesting. But now that we know some sentiment is for 4D, we can look at this alternative in particular.  This note is just long passages lifted from the document titled "Draft Section 4(f) Evaluation for the Salem River Crossing Project (prepared in tandem with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement)"  and other chapters of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

In a subsequent post there may be more to say about particular passages or with outside illustrations that better show the impacts. Still, this is the official statement of the planning process, not some whackadoodle sputtering by those of us who might think it's a bad idea.  For the moment, it is sufficient to draw attention to the meaning of "prudent and feasible alternative," the weight of required preservation efforts and harm reduction, as well as the scope of impacts that are ostensibly considered reasonable.)

What is Section 4f?
Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, codified in federal law at 49 U.S.C. 303, declares that “it is the policy of the United States Government that special effort should be made to preserve the natural beauty of the countryside and public park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.”

Section 4(f) specifies that the Secretary [of Transportation] may approve a transportation program or project requiring the use of publicly owned land of a public park, recreation area, or wildlife and waterfowl refuge of national, State, or local significance, or land of an historic site of national, State, or local significance (as determined by the federal, state, or local officials having jurisdiction over the park, area, refuge, or site) only if:

1. There is no prudent and feasible alternative to using that land; and

2. The program or project includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the park, recreation area, wildlife and waterfowl refuge, or historic site resulting from the use.
Wallace Marine Park
Alternative 4C (and 4D)

Figures 3.1‐10 and 3.1‐11 show the potential impact area at Wallace Marine Park under Alternative 4C.

Piers and Foundations
Alternative 4C would result in a permanent incorporation of property from Wallace Marine Park. The following are likely impacts on Wallace Marine Park under Alternative 4C (from north to south):

Under Alternative 4C, there would be impacts associated with the placement of bridge footings in the northern panhandle of the park in the same manner as under Alternative 4A. The impacted area is undeveloped and contains predominantly nonnative forest and other vegetation. The impacted area does not contain any existing or proposed park features or attributes.

The construction of Marine Drive would incorporate a thin strip of land from the western edge of the park between Glen Creek Road NW and a point adjacent to the existing softball field complex. The impacted area is landscaped with trees and grass. Footings for the proposed overhead OR 22 Connector viaduct would be placed in this impacted area.

More Piers and Foundations in Wallace Park
The installation of a stormwater treatment swale/pond facility to the southeast of the intersection of Glen Creek Road NW & the proposed Marine Drive and the widening of this intersection and the park entrance road would impact parkland that is landscaped with trees and grass. South of Glen Creek Road NW, the installation of approximately 10 piers associated with the proposed overhead OR 22 Connector viaduct would be placed along the western edge of the park. The impacted area is landscaped with trees and grass.

Bikes Don't Pay Canard LTE in paper Thursday

The canard still has traction, and with folks mobilizing to put a licensing measure on the ballot, it's likely we'll be hearing more about it.

In Thursday's paper, ironically next to an editorial cartoon noting Lance Armstrong's fall, Donald Fox of Keizer says,"It is upsetting that tax dollars are spent to accommodate bicyclists.  They don't pay a penny...It is not fair for the rest of us to pay their way."

In response, Gary notes that
Salem, Keizer, and Marion County all get far more of their funds for roads and bridges from local property taxes than the gas tax. Salem residents are now paying off a $100 million bond measure for streets and bridges.
But many people aren't interested in the facts and just talk past the observation.

There are lots of other solid ripostes in the rhubarb that is the online comment section.   Curt observes that talented people who work in Salem often choose to live in Portland for the quality-of-life, among which mobility choice is high on the list, and that Salem misses on their spending and property taxes.  Doug, of course, has written at length on the canard (here and here).  And at least one Oregon economist has argued seriously that "the appropriate public policy is to subsidize bikes, not tax them...Public economics teaches us that to get an efficient amount of economic activity that has externalities you have to get the price to reflect the true cost of the activity. In this case the true cost is less than the price of a bike.."  

As has been written about at BikePortland, there may be an attempt to get a licensing/tax measure on the ballot.  I suspect that we'll be seeing more of this issue in the next year.  So is it a mistake to take note of these things?  Or do we need to respond even more vigorously to them?

(Interestingly, the online comments, which are in facebook, and presumably owned jointly by facebook and the writers, all will disappear into the SJ archive along with the article, as if the SJ also owned them.  How to archive online discussion like this?)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Map Charts Bicycling's Decline in Salem - Salem Remains Bronze (Updated)

Bike to Work: Governing Magazine
The change is very close to the margin of error, but still...even if we appeal to style and the culture of bicycling in Salem, in raw numbers it is difficult to conclude that things are getting better. If the City wants to improve bicycling in Salem, it needs to do more. (See note on the walking map here.)

Write and let Councilors know that Salem is falling behind!


The League of American Bicyclists announced today the fall round of Bicycle Friendly Communities. Salem maintained the bronze - but unlike other communities in Oregon, it failed to upgrade.

ODOT's Budget Busting Bridge: Fiasco on Highway 20

The Register Guard just finished a four-part series on the Highway 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville fiasco. If you are confident in the $687 million estimate for the River Crossing and think it has a small margin of error, the series is a must-read! 

And if you're not confident, it will just intensify your doubts.

ODOT:  Bridge Demolition on US 20:  Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville
Things were so bad that they had to demolish newly constructed bridge elements!

The four parts (and two sidebars):

Part 1: Oregon’s $300 million  roadway to frustration: How straightening out a dangerous highway became a fiasco
Road’s deadly past drove reconstruction campaign

Part 2: Decisions plague state when highway work stalls: Three crucial choices lead to bid process being second-guessed

Part 3: Difficult highway project goes downhill—and fast: The state and the builder hit a nature-made wall

Part 4: Salvaging lessons of the Highway 20 project
State struggles to pay for overruns: Escalations in the cost of the Highway 20 project may affect funding for other road improvement needs

It's not likely that a third bridge here would encounter the same mix of geologically unstable soils - but it should make us very wary of placing too much confidence in any cost estimates for projects of this magnitude.

And a rational world, it would make us look much more closely at a mix of smaller and considerably less expensive projects.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boost Mountain Biking: Support Salem Area Trail Alliance

The Salem Area Trail Alliance is almost two years old now, and they're making steady progress.

They've got an information and membership social on Saturday - and you can win a bike!
Friends -

We hope to see you all on October 20th, 2012 at 6 pm! Please see attached flyer for details and like SATA on Facebook. Many thanks to OPRD, Courthouse Fitness, Santiam Bicycle, Venti's Cafe, Fox Blue and all of our volunteers!!

Where: West Salem Courthouse 300 Glen Creek Rd. NW When: 6-8 pm Saturday, Oct 20 (Food & Drink from Venti’s) Why: Learn about SATA & socialize with others who want more trails in Salem.

Win a Kona bicycle provided by Santiam Bicycle!! $10 raffle tickets. Become a SATA member and get TWO raffle tickets for free!! Must be present to win.

Online membership @ ($25.00 yearly membership).

You can join during the social event as well. We'll have membership forms and computers set up!!
Here's the vision, and it's a grand one.
SATA’s primary focus will be to develop the Salem Greenway Trail (SGT). The SGT is a continuous multi use recreational trail designed for non-motorized recreational travel that will connect Salem to local green corridors and businesses. The SGT aims to provide health enhancing recreational opportunities for all trail users while preserving and improving our local green spaces.
The trail would wind all through the Eola Hills vineyards and farms!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Downtown Traffic and Walk to Work Maps - Data!

A reader sends this neat interactive graphic from Governing Magazine.

They sliced the data from the American Community Survey of the US Census and created a map showing walking to work magnitudes. By clicking through to an individual city, you can see the entire mode split.

By percent, more people walk to work in Salem than in Portland. Corvallis has the highest rate in Oregon.

The bike commute numbers are also included on the captions - but not the dots on the map.

Click to Enlarge
The initial presentation to the advisory committee of the Downtown Mobility Study (the page loads slowly because someone linked to a ginormous aerial photo - get the techies to post a downsampled image!) is posted, and while it remains wonky and dry, all things considered it seems like a decent overview of the traffic issues and planning questions downtown. If you're interested, it might be worth skimming and book-marking for later reference. Even more than Bike and Walk Salem, this is the nexus for real change downtown, and it will be critical to generate support and interest so the study doesn't merely sit on a shelf.

Here's the morning rush hour traffic volumes. It's pretty easy to see that outside of the Front/Liberty/Commercial and Marion/Center clusters, there's plenty of roadway to use more efficiently and more creatively.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A New Crosswalk at Mill and 12th Part of RR Work

Is is possible to get tired of the pretty fall colors? The broody break in the rains yesterday made going out a pleasure and highlighted the contrast of grey and flame.

Because of the traffic changes here, this stretch of State Street is of particular interest!

And as it happens the trees on the right of the picture (in shadow) will be a topic of discussion at the next CAN-DO meeting on Tuesday: October 16, 2012, 6:00 p.m., First Christian Church, 685 Marion St NE.

US Bank wants to take them out, perhaps as they were taken out on the Commercial Street side of the building, and the City forester will be at the meeting to talk about this. The Salem Downtown Partnership is apparently opposed and would like them to remain.

(Parenthetically, because the cast iron facade of Ladd & Bush is so very special and interesting, this would be one of very few buildings that deserves special visibility from the street - so hopefully a compromise can be reached that keeps both lovely trees and attains a somewhat smaller canopy on the street.)

So if downtown street trees are a particular interest, you might consider attending the meeting. 

You might remember the City's plan for the crossing at 12th and Mill.

The project has been on-and-off for a few years, and suddenly it looks like it's on!

It is likely that savings on the road bond have furnished the funds to complete the project.

(On Monday perhaps the City will be able to give more details.)

At any rate, if you haven't been through the intersection lately, the construction is clear!

Here's the new sidewalk excavation, crosswalk, and median on the south side of the intersection (in purple on the plans).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

City Council, October 15th - Urban Renewal and Minto?

Sometimes an item on the Council agenda just makes you go, "hmm..." This is one of them.

Item 4: "City Council Discussion Regarding use of Downtown Urban Renewal Agency Funds for Downtown Projects and the Minto Brown Bridge." There's no staff report, and no recommendation. It's a little buried.

Last Monday, Council voted to reallocate $3 million in Urban Renewal funds (details here).  These funds would be redirected from:
$1,300,000 - Reduce Existing Toolbox Loan Program Funds
$1,000,000 - Reduce Demonstration Grant Allocation
$150,000 - Eliminate Streetscape Funds
$550,000 - Reduce Ending Fund Balance
$3,000,000 - TOTAL
It wouldn't be surprising if some downtown business representatives have made objections and some supporters of the reallocation might be having second thoughts.  If so, this could prompt more discussion and even reconsideration.

More to come, I'm sure.  (Maybe there's another explanation entirely?)

Otherwise there's nothing specifically relating to transportation on the agenda - though there are other matters of interest, of course.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Salem River Crossing Oversight Meeting Memo Shows Mania

Notes from the Oversight Team meeting on August 23rd are finally posted.

There are no great revelations, but many details that suggest the disconnect between reality and wish on the river crossing project - and point to another document that might repay more attention and more money.

Alt modes and regular modes
In plain sight was a rational conclusion, but it may well be ignored, and bridge proponents will just simply talk over it, as if it had never been uttered:

A significant number of [task force] members supported the No Build because they were not comfortable with the Build alternatives and felt that there were smaller projects that could solve the problem in a less expensive or intrusive fashion, including alternative modes...
In fact, throughout the meeting notes there is lots of talk about "alternative modes" and the Alternate Modes Study

But will they take it seriously enough to fund it?

Investing aggressively in the "alternative modes"* at 10 cents on the dollar would yield an amazing menu of mobility choices, and return a host of benefits in health, in economic growth and budgetary thrift, and in civic vibrancy.

Just 10% of the cost of the bridge would create a world class set of walking, biking, and transit connections!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Flood Sites in Low Water Revealing - and Say Goodbye to Summer

With this morning's first fog, and rains coming tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to revisit some of the scenes of last winter's flooding - one last hurrah for summer, sun, and sky.

Here's the slough at Riverfront Park in low water earlier this week.

Note the snaggy stump!

And here's only the very, tippy-top, of the stump visible in January of this year.

Contractors are engaged in demolition and construction at the Commercial Street Bridge over Pringle Creek, as you've no doubt noticed, but the Boise project seems to be stalled.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

McGilchrist and Corrals in the News

It's great to see connectivity on McGilchrist talked about relative to the "sustainable" Salmon Run development and the new Social Security office.

The back parking lot drains into a large swale, but all the "sustainable" features are oriented around the drive-alone car trip.

Fortunately, for both sidewalks and bike facilities, McGilchrist is a "tier 1" priority project in Bike and Walk Salem.With needing to serve the Social Security offices, and with a cluster of brand new breweries and other businesses, this seems like an increasingly high-profile place with a significant deficit in connectivity.

Over on facebook, there's a conversation about a neat new bike corral in Hoboken, NJ, interesting especially because it looks like it uses angle parking stalls rather than parallel stalls.

While there's plenty enough about which to criticize the City of Salem, the City may not be the main reason Salem doesn't have a corral yet. As the commenter from Hoboken points out, it's all about getting businesses on board. There's definitely some politics involved.

In Salem, businesses haven't yet been passionate about advocating for a bike corral to take a parking stall in front of their business. Adjacent businesses have been resistant in some cases, and folks haven't wanted to get out too much in front of, or in opposition to, the neighbors.  Good-neighbor relations are important, and the reticence is understandable.  

As soon as a cluster of neighboring businesses advocate for a corral, I think that they City will be helpful, and not a barrier.  A corral was discussed often in the Vision 2020 meetings, and while the cleaning issue was a "difficulty" it didn't seem to be a show-stopper there.  For better or worse, leadership here comes from behind and it's all about the politics of the demand-side.

At this time, the pragmatic solution to getting a bike corral is getting a group of businesses to advocate for one, and not expecting the City to lead on an installation.  Hopefully that will change, but it seems like this is the current reality just now. If you know of a bikey business that could use one - lobby 'em!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Good Sense on Pioneer Cemetery Alley Prevails at Council

Huzzah!  Though the process was Byzantine and opaque, even sometimes to Councilors, good sense won out at Council last night, and Council voted for a reasonable compromise decision on the alley by the cemetery.

Councilor Sheronne Blasi addressing the motion
After testimony and wrangling, Councilor Sheronne Blasi offered a motion to vacate the alley and retain a pedestrian easement across it.

It is important to note that no gate and no pathway connection suddenly springs into existence. As Councilor Blasi made clear, retaining the easement just allows for a future conversation and planning about the details of a connection. This is but a first step, and future negotiation and planning will be necessary.

Councilor Blasi also connected the dots between the Minto path and bridge, Bike and Walk Salem, and other wishes for and efforts to create a more livable Salem with a richer diversity of mobility choice. She also observed that more eyes on the cemetery will likely yield better security.  The connection will also encourage more volunteer help with cemetery maintenance.

City Attorney Randall Tosh has to explain much
The lead up to the motion was convoluted. As a "quasi-judicial" matter, ex-parte contact was at least theoretically forbidden, and layers of control were supposed to be wrapped around communications. Additionally, the parliamentary maneuvering and wording of a motion was not straightforward, and what we might wish was a simple matter instead was tricky.

In the end, a vacation with an easement seems like a very reasonable compromise, one that guarantees nothing except for more conversation.  But it also leaves possibility open.  That's the key.  Just as it would be premature to shut off the possibility of a connection, so it would be premature to open a gate without more planning and conversation. 

The motion passed with one vote in opposition, and Councilor Nanke was the one "nay."

Council and the Urban Renewal Agency also approved reallocating $3 million for the Minto bridge and path.

(Screenshots from the video feed of October 8th Council meeting.)

Columnist Stice: Bikes Antidote for Funk!

Writing in the paper today, healthy lifestyles columnist Jeanine Stice talks about her emptier nest and the solution she found:
I've been in a funk since mid-August when my oldest son went to college...

My husband asked if I wanted to head to the bike store to check out bikes....[But] bike shops seemed intimidating: lots of options and lots of gear. The thing I liked about running was the lack of gear needed to get the job done. It seemed like bikers required a ton...
She got her bike and her spirits lifted!
I get to bike. I can bike. I don't have to run....the more I visualized where we could go together on bikes, through country roads in the Mid Valley, vineyards, and even small-town festivals, the more excited I got, and the funk I had been encased in for the past six months began lifting.
Lots of interesting things here. Bikes offer exercise and adventure, two important and anodyne components in keeping life fresh and interesting.

But the contrast with running is also interesting. Marketing to those who value the simple virtues of plain-clothes cycling is underdeveloped in Salem and a real opportunity to grow the market! The culture of bicycling makes it sometimes more difficult than it needs to be.

Anyway, hooray, Jeanine, for discovering the joys of biking! We'll see you on the road!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Meetings, Talks, and Reports - Monday Grab Bag

Even Center Street has some lovely fall color
This looks like an interesting lecture down in Eugene. On Thursday, City of Portland Traffic Engineer Peter Koonce will talk about "The Misuse of Traffic Engineering and its Impact on Active Transportation." Click through the link for details.

(One question, hopefully not too snarky, but it is a little I suppose, is whether the title is something of a misnomer - it seems more than a little possible that traffic engineering is mostly working as designed, and that the problem is not an existing conceptual and analytical scheme that just needs to be used better.  Instead, the problem may be that the conceptual and analytical scheme needs a thorough rethinking and reframing: The scheme may need more than tweaks around the edges, and instead require a full-on Kuhnian paradigm shift.  Over at Strong Towns, Charles Marohn has 13 questions for the engineering profession and more on engineering. Internal critiques like this, and the conversations that follow, are important!) 

Koonce also blogs and tweets, and it's great to see a practicing traffic engineering engaged and writing about things like this! 

The Community Health Improvement Partnership meets in Salem also on Thursday. The group meets on the 11th from 10:00 - 11:30am at Salem Hospital's CHEC Center (Building D) in Room 1.

The whole CHIP thing isn't clear to me, and the agenda looks more like information-sharing and networking than reporting on tasks and formulating new actions.  It also looks like the project may be constituted as too much of a discretionary option for individuals to have a meaningful aggregate impact on the county population.  That is to say, it may not really be looking at the ways existing systems make it difficult to make good choices for health, but instead is looking mostly at ways to encourage autonomous individuals to make good choices despite those systems.  Hopefully the project will grow to include a more critical look at the systems - like our road system! - that work against individual choices for health. 

If the link between health and active transportation is a special interest for you, this is an opportunity to plug in and develop projects!

Marion County has issued more draft chapters of the update to the county Transportation System Plan. They are soliciting comment on chapters 3, 4, and 7 through Halloween.  (Note on previous round of draft chapters here.)

Folks who ride regularly on county roads may find this of interest.

Coal:  Oregon Sierra Club and Paul K. Anderson
On Wednesday, the Salem Coal Hard Truth Forum offers an evening of panelists and Q & A, with experts talking about the health, economic, and environmental impacts of coal export projects in Oregon and Washington. The prospect of coal dust on bike routes and near schools is of great interest to people who bike. 

It is Wednesday October 10th, 7:00-8:30pm at Willamette University, College of Law, Paulus Lecture Hall (Room 201), 245 Winter Street SE.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

City Council, Oct 8th - Minto Bridge and Cemetery

The two big-ticket items for Council on Monday are the re-opened hearing on the alley adjacent to the Pioneer and City View cemeteries, and consideration of the funding strategy for the Minto Bridge and Path.

The City proposes to reallocate $3 million in Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Area funds for construction and to "increase the competiveness of future grant applications for the project."

According to the staff report, the City is $7 million short:
To date, $1,930,000 in Riverfront Downtown URA and $212,700 in South Waterfront URA funding has been committed to support design and permitting of the Bridge and Trail. Additional funding of approximately $6,200,000 for the Bridge and $800,000 for the Trail is needed for final design and construction....

To date, the only grant awarded is a $60,000 grant from the Oregon Business Development Department's Brownfields Redevelopment Program to fund environmental assessment in the location of the future Bridge and Trail. Feedback from other granting agencies indicates the funding gap for the Bridge and Trail is too large, leading to uncertainty regarding the ability to finance the project.
In order to shift the funds, the following reductions would be made - reductions to which the Downtown Advisory Board has given consent, it should be noted.
$1,300,000 - Reduce Existing Toolbox Loan Program Funds
$1,000,000 - Reduce Demonstration Grant Allocation
$150,000 - Eliminate Streetscape Funds
$550,000 - Reduce Ending Fund Balance
$3,000,000 - TOTAL
Without more information it's hard to evaluate the impact of these cuts, but I think it might be true that these are programs that have had difficulty soliciting applications, and so it might be that the money is in a sense idle and not being used as effectively as it might. So it may not be wholly accurate to characterize these as "cuts." Hopefully more detail will come out about this. 

At the same time, the strategy sure leaves the impression that we may not be getting the full story.