|Closing the State Street Entry Means a Real Dead End|
Closing State Street in this way would locate the Carousel at the end of a suburban-style cul-de-sac, and make it even more auto-dependent. Instead, we should want to knit the Carousel and Riverfront Park more closely to downtown!
The paper's editorial on Sunday, an early version online SJ piece, and even some commenters, have expressed some nostalgia for the old access proposal, and it's worth reminding folks that it was bad, bad, bad!
One idea discussed in 2011 [earlier in fact, at least to 2009] was to build a new access road from Front Street, going across the railroad tracks and into the park. A state prohibition on adding more at-grade crossings meant that the city would have had to close the State Street crossing. The city secured a permit from the state to close the crossing, but it lapsed in 2011. City officials and the developer blamed each other for the failure of this option.This isn't an idea that should be brought back! It creates new barriers and multiplies difficulties, especially for people on foot and on bike.
It created barriers at the natural sightline and procession down State Street, and would have made a dead zone on State Street between Front and Commercial.
|Imagine Sunday Streets with the old access plan;|
State Street between Commercial and Front is a dead-end
|The Downtown Strategic Action Plan|
recognizes the importance of the natural
connection down State Street
Here's a more detailed plan view.
|Former access plan with new rail crossing,|
long drive, and State St. closure; no crosswalk or car crossing at Ferry
|Ferry Street site of old access proposal; right-in, right-out only (SJ photo)|
If the park parcel must have some number of apartments (and there are good reasons to think the highest and best use of this parcel might actually be as an expansion of Riverfront Park, but it's also possible to conceive of a more diverse mixed-use configuration as well), here's an idea:
|One idea for the access problem|
As we think about access solutions, we should be thinking about connectivity that puts people on foot first and makes it easy to choose not to drive!
For more on the development and its design iterations:
- On the first proposal to close State Street at the Carousel, see here, here, here, here, and here.
- On the south block, the warehouse shell and condos, see here, here, here, and here.
- On the park block with the apartments, see here, here, here, and here.
- And in less detail, on the nursing home facility, see here, here, here, and here.
|"ODOT Rail...would not grant a new at-grade crossing without|
completely closing another existing, nearby at-grade crossing"
From September 28, 2009 staff report
What looks like a cut-n-paste of a 2009 news article on the proposed closure is on the Carousel's own blog:
"Salem City Council on Monday will consider a request to close a rail crossing to Salem's Riverfront Carousel off State Street.
The request, made by Boise Cascade developer Pringle Square LLC, asks the city to seek permission from state transportation officials to close the rail crossing and create a new one on a public street to be built farther south on the former Boise Cascade site. A public hearing is scheduled during the Council meeting at 6:30 p.m.
If the council decides to move forward with the request and the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division approves it, a gate cutting off direct access to Riverfront Park via State Street would be installed at the existing rail crossing, allowing access to emergency vehicles only.
Pedestrians would still be able to cross Front Street NE at State Street but would have to walk north to Court Street NE or to the new south entrance to access the park." [bold added]
There is no requirement in state law or rule for a current RR crossing to be closed, if a new one is opened. This is an important fact that needs to be recognized.
A new RR crossing could be opened on the Pringle Square property without any changes being made to the State Street crossing.
However, for some reason neither the City nor the developers is looking into this obvious alternative to taking over part of Riverfront Park for a private access road.
I don't understand the exact regulatory environment, and find it puzzling. But here's a quote from a 2009 article on the Carousel's now dormant blog:
"In late February, the city submitted a railroad crossing application to the Oregon Department of Transportation Rail Division for a new grade-crossing. In its review of the city's application, rail officials 'would not grant a new at-grade crossing without completely closing another existing, nearby, at-grade crossing,' according to city documents."
It is possible that, as you say, statute or administrative rule, but the effective and functional regulatory environment at present requires closing one when a new one is opened.
I believe this is bad policy to hold so inflexibly, but that seems to be the way things are working right now in "the real world" with rail.
See the letter from ODOT rail in this post: "We are opposed to any new at-grade crossings."
Unfortunately, the "obvious alternative" has been looked into often by the developers and city! And ODOT rail keeps saying No.
updated with highlighted graphic/excerpt from 2009 staff report
Here's a link to the statutory situation in ORS 824.200 -
824.202 says "It is the policy of this state to achieve uniform and coordinated regulation of railroad-highway crossings and to eliminate crossings at grade wherever possible."
So that's in statute. Maybe it's true that there is no "requirement" to close a crossing when a new one is opened, but it sure seems very, very clear and plain that it will be very difficult to open a new crossing and keep the State Street crossing open. This is far, far from a sure thing and equally far, far from an "obvious alternative."
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