Monday, February 18, 2013

Council Field Trip to Precede Tuesday Work Session on Third Bridge

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 19th City Council is going to take a field trip and visit bridge potential sites for a third bridge.

According to the paper,
The council is scheduled to take an afternoon field trip before its next River Crossing work session. The session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Broadway Commons, 1300 Broadway NE....“The tour is going to take them to a couple of locations where the bridge facility will take off and land,” [Public Works Director Peter] Fernandez said. “Its purpose is for them to see what the locations look like today and what the possible impacts of a structure may be.”
It will be great for Councilors to see a grounded and richer dimension of existing conditions.

The intersection of Commercial and Pine at dusk in winter
At the same time, it will show an area that is currently neglected in Salem, and which deserves more investment.

Site map and key to Alternative 4D at bridgeheads in Highland
So the question is, will Councilors see that the kind of investment it needs is not the kind that a giant bridge and highway viaduct represents?

Back Side of OK Tire at Commercial and Pine
OK Tire might be the perfect example of a business here. It is an established mid-century business, from perhaps even before the Interstate.

But it backs onto an empty field, and depending on your perspective you may find the hubcap roof a charming example of the vernacular or something trashy.   Some owners might welcome the opportunity to relocate or cash out.  Or maybe expand with the bridgeheads.  We don't necessarily know.

Specialty Wood Products Business at Front and Pine
Down a block on Front and Pine is this specialty wood products company. We lost Keith brown just north of Union Street a few years ago, and it would be sad to lose an established business like this. They have clearly invested in the building, landscaping, and site. It's more difficult to imagine they'd want to move.  They have probably built lots of good-will equity in their location.

Burned out strip club at Front and Pine
But of course just across the street is the burned-out shell of nightclub that has sometimes operated as a strip club. I think this lot will satisfy anyone's definition of "blight." This is icky.

DeMuniz Center at Liberty and Pine
But back at the intersection of Commercial and Pine is the DeMuniz Center, named after the just-retired Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. Here advocates work with recently released inmates on post-prison and re-entry skills.  Sometimes neighbors don't like this kind of facility, but it performs important work, whose benefits come down the road more often than immediately.

Just a few streets in on Hickory, there are's a mix of housing stock in a neighborhood that would be badly impacted by the viaduct and additional auto and truck traffic.

Century-old Farmhouse, potentially eligible for the National Register
This neighborhood is a real mix right now, and some targeted investments can help gentrify it a little without also driving out those who have made it a home. But the massive scale and disruption of the Third Bridge here will actually increase blight and guarantee that this neighborhood deteriorates rather than prospers. The massive on-ramp spaghetti will just kill this area.

Mission Street Overpass barrier
Dead zone under bridge and viaduct
In response to the advocacy of No 3rd Bridge, who held a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber has posted a "vision." While they remain committed to the bridge, it is nice to see that No 3rd Bridge advocates may be successfully reframing the conversation - the "vision" is written on the terms of critics, and is a defense of the bridge against criticism. They say
Imagine the headaches if we are forced to start all over again because of our inability to envision our region beyond a 4A local bridge.
And critics easily rejoin: "Imagine our region and our folly if we spend an unnecessary billion dollars on a super-sized bridge it turns out we don't need."

It's an easy choice between two "mistakes"!  In the worst case, one costs a few million dollars in headache.  The folly is nearly incalculable, a minimum of two orders of magnitude in dollars, and priceless in a whole lot of disruption.  It's hard to see how business people at the Chamber can assess risk like this.

For more on the River Crossing / Third Bridge see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing. The No Third Bridge advocates also have lots of useful information.


Jim Scheppke said...

Excellent analysis SBOB! NO 3rd Bridge is advocating that the Council immediately proceed to conduct a scientific survey of 400 households in Marion and Polk Counties to determine whether a majority of voters both favor and are willing to pay for any bridge alternative. The survey is already budgeted for in the agreement between ODOT and CH2M HILL. Go to our Facebook page for more details.

Unknown said...

As I told the council, this is a classic example of "question drift," which is an error that humans are prone to make, individually but especially in groups, when faced with a difficult question.

What happens is that the intuitive part of the brain/reasoning system throws up a bunch of images that are associated in memory with similar problems; these vivid images are "available" and they obviously have some connection to the problem (or else they wouldn't have been accessed when the problem was posed). What's interesting is how often the rational/reasoning part of the brain falls for these vivid images and immediately locks onto one of them as "the answer" -- without even noticing that they answer a different question, not the one asked.

The Bridgasaurus is an absurd answer to the question that the SKATS is actually supposed to be addressing with tax money (how to deal with the two brief weekday congestion periods at the bridgeheads), a clear sign that we are witnessing this "question drift" -- and what has happened here is that parties with special interests (land in W. Salem and out to Dallas especially, but also big road construction contractors) have been forceful about trying to shift the thinking to everything but the original question, and turn it into an exercise in "How do we get a third bridge built?"

Giving ODOT and SKATS a problem like this is just asking for this kind of insane response; just as the US Army Corps of Engineers never saw a river anywhere that didn't need damming, channeling, or levies or (preferably) all three, the Oregon Highway Department heart still beats at the center of ODOT, and they never see ANY problem with paving roads that shouldn't be addressed with MORE paving.

It's the career builder, and the job insurance, and even the post-retirement career opportunity bringer, and it also addresses a disease that many engineers have, (especially the men) the "Edifice Complex." It's very unusual to see anyone in any position of authority in such agencies who wants to actually limit themselves to solving problems for people if it means not building things.

Thus, we have abandoned the state's commute trip reduction efforts and we resolutely insist on assuming that the state of Oregon is so disconnected from the needs of Salem that we don't even want to talk about how could we solve the problem with low and no-build options.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

A reader and neighbor sends by email a small clarification and correction:

"[The wood products] business is relatively new, at least at that location. That building was the warehouse for the food bank as long as I can remember. The food bank vacated when the Puente brothers donated their old building to the food bank. I don't remember exactly when that happened but it was not that long ago. The landscaping was also done when the food bank was there. That woodworking business came in after the food bank left....This area has been redeveloping itself on its own. The woodworking business is part of that natural redevelopment."