Friday, April 5, 2013

City of Salem Proposed Modifications to Alternative 4D: It's Still a Giant Bridge and Highway!

A couple of teaser items for Monday's Council Agenda...

An abbreviated staff report is out with proposed modifications to alternative 4D on the Third Bridge.

Proposed Alterations to 4D
Guess what? It's still a giant bridge and highway! The deletions don't fundamentally alter the structure of the thing, and the clouds indicating areas for further study are just playing with food on the plate, shoveling it in circles.

This represents a political response to some of the neighborhood associations' criticism of the project, but doesn't in any fundamental way represent rethinking of the basic structure of the beast. 

There will be more to say over the weekend.

This recommendation is being presented to Council and then on Monday, April 22nd, the plan is for Council to take comment on it in a Public Hearing and then to adopt a formal preferred alternative for the project team.

25th and Madrona

More interestingly, Council proposes to jump 25th and Madrona to the head of the list of candidate projects eligible for completion with the surplus bond bonds after the original project list is finished.  

Project Scope on 25th and Madrona
It's all about the magic in the words "economic development" and the ways the linkage to a business expansion can leverage additional funding sources.

25th and Madrona Expansion
The initial project description is all about freight and car congestion, however, and it will be important to make sure that walking and biking connections are not afterthoughts.

Unfortunately, it also seems likely that this will suck up all the left-over funds, leaving needed projects elsewhere in the city high and dry. 

There may also be more to say later on this.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

After thinking about this for a bit, it is, well, strange.

On the merits, this is a bad proposal. It hardly does anything. It's just value engineering on the edges and details of a giant bridge and highway. It's still a giant bridge and highway.
But what about the process?

1) 4D (Salem mod) isn't in the draft Environmental Impact Statement. Presumably it would require some kind of supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement.

2) What is the cost of a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement? Where's this money going to come from?

3) Is it possible that this is a way politically for Electeds to say "Yay bridge, we need this bridge!" and simultaneously to say, "Dang, this needs more study. Shoot, it's gonna be a couple more years before we have an answer"? Does this give the appearance of forward movement while also retarding progress in elongated process? Does it give Electeds political cover for foot-dragging? At the cost of a couple million more, does this increase the likelihood of killing the bridge? Maybe it is an inefficient and costly, but politically effective way to hamper or even kill the project? (Questions, questions!)

Maybe someone wiser in the ways of NEPA and byzantine and bureaucratic maneuvering can weigh in?

Jim Scheppke said...

Good points. To call this "Alternative 4D with Proposed Modifications" is laughable. It's not 4D. Really more like 4A. But the Salem Chamber of Commerce has formally endorsed 4D. So that explains the misleading label. Can you believe our City staff putting forward a report that has no indication of the need this would address, no cost estimate, and no funding plan? Very unprofessional.

Ken Bonnem said...

I agree that, despite the proposed modifications, Alternative 4d is still a too big project with a way too big price tag.

Having said that, I do think the bulk of the proposed modifications are moving in the right direction. As a resident of the southwest area of West Salem, I especially applaud the suggestion that the dangerous Rosemont interchange with OR 22 be torn down and replaced with a full interchange a couple of blocks to the west hooked to an extension of Eola Drive. This would be a very expensive project, but it stands on its own merits regardless of whether a third bridge is ever built.

Ken Bonnem

Walker said...

@ SBOB, yes, that may be the strategy -- we can't in a million years afford what it costs to say yes to this monstrosity, and the Sprawl Lobby will have our heads if we say no, so how about we just keep an IV drip of warm cash flowing towards CH2M-Hill and hope for miracles to be named later?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

@Jim - I think that staff would say that the proposal is still oriented towards the official "purpose and need" statement, and so no additional verbage about need is necessary. As for costs and funding, I think staff would say that Council will direct/ask the River Crossing team to develop costing, and don't see that as the role at this point of City staff.

Given the existing rules of the game (even if I think those rules are unfair or faulty), I am not surprised that the staff recommendation is not a fully fleshed proposal.

@Ken - I think an even better solution to the Rosemont interchange is to make it easy for people to choose transit, walking, and biking trips instead of drive-alone trips! That is, the way we should solve capacity and congestion problems is by taking cars off the road, not by capacity expansion. We have plenty of road surface in Salem; we just need to use it wiser and more efficiently. A key to that is making walking preferred for trips under a mile, biking preferred for trips under three miles, and transit for trips inside the city. With a full transportation toobox, then we can save the car for emergencies, hauling large objects, and other things for which we really do need a car.