Friday, January 3, 2014

West Salem Neighborhood Association Monday: Super-Sized Wallace and Glen Creek - updated

While the actual magnitude of potential savings and costs on a new Police Station and Civic Center seismic retrofit remain uncertain, the City is moving forward on a ginormous and extravagant $15+ million enlargement of the intersection at Wallace and Glen Creek.

This is from 2011 and may not represent the final design
click to enlarge and see notes
On Monday the West Salem Neighborhood Association will hear the latest from the City on the project.

That meeting starts at 7pm, but is preceded by a 6pm Open House on the "Potential Public Safety Facility and Civic Center Seismic Need."

From higher up - Proposed City Hall and Police Station
Image: CB|Two
The juxtaposition of the two projects is an excellent chance to consider a comparative perspective on priorities - on how we invest/disinvest in neighborhoods, livability, sustainability, and creating economic value.

The conclusion here is that the intersection project will make it more difficult to walk, bike, and even drive from West Salem neighborhoods to Roth's, the Library, the Post Office, and to Wallace Park. If we want to reduce traffic congestion by making it easier not to drive, it's the wrong project, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

And if we wanted to grab some savings, killing this urban highway project would be a great start!  (Not to mention that a seismically stable City Hall, Library, and Police Station will be a heck of a lot more useful than an enormous intersection when the earthquake hits.)

The Open House and Neighborhood Association meeting is at Roth’s West, Mezzanine level, at 1130 Wallace Rd NW on Monday, January 6th.

For more on the project see here and here.  (About the Police Station, well, plenty has been said lately!)

Update, Monday the 6th

Some interesting bits from the paper:
In the Monday paper:  That's a whole lotta congestion!
We have tons of excess capacity, actually
Open House:
An informational meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 14 at the West Salem Library, 395 Glen Creek Road NW, behind Roth’s Fresh Market. Salem Public Works Department staff members will be on hand to answer questions.
Greenwash and Spin!

These are not improvements for people on foot and on bike...interesting that the path connection is sortof being folded into the larger project:
Among other things, the $10.4 million project will add dedicated left-turn lanes from Wallace Road, dedicated right- and left-turn lanes from Glen Creek Road, and other improvements for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. A separate project will improve pedestrian and bicycle access from Wallace Marine Park to Glen Creek Road.
With actual bids, cost revised downward from $15M+?
$10.4 million; $7 million from bonds that Salem voters approved in 2008 for street and bridge work, and $3.4 million from federal grants through the Oregon Department of Transportation. The project is managed jointly by the Salem Public Works Department and ODOT; Wallace Road NW is a state highway.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I live in West Salem off of Glen Creek and use this road quite regularly. I do think there are issues there, but I am not sure it is worth $15million to fix those minor issues. If you live in the area, you learn the ins and outs of how to maximize the use of other access points than having to always go through this intersection.

That said, I think that in general the street projects that the City comes up with are often over priced for the benefit obtained.

I give as another example the adding of a light at the off ramp of the Center Street bridge at Front Street. I was told this cost about $250,000 and was to help stop the back up of cars using this lane onto the bridge itself.

This 'solution' has failed to solve this problem. I guess a few trucks that complained that it was hard to get onto Front Street from the bridge may be happy, but for most of us it is a new reason not to use that lane if we can avoid it.

But an even more costly and questionable project was the Market-Swegle realignment in east Salem. This project was first proposed over 20 years ago to try to get the traffic away from in front of Swegle School.

The original cost estimate was about $1 million. It would remove 8 homes and put sidewalks and drainage in the area. The neighbors and the East Lancaster Neighborhood Association opposed the project.

The question that people kept asking was 'what problem is is solving for the neighborhood? Would it make the commute through the intersection faster or safer? The answer always came back, well it is hard to tell. So, for years the project was put off.

Finally in the last bond the City pushed the project through. But now it was not a simple move the street and add drainage and sidewalks for a few million dollars. It ballooned into a $10.8 million project.

many houses were torn or burned down, grand old trees were clear cut, and people who once had a comfortable buffer between their houses and the street found the new sidewalks just about at the front porch.

Yes, it is nice to see a newly constructed street, but at what cost? And what was the impact on the livability and character of the area?

So far we have not seen any decrease in the traffic near the school. It sits on the corner and so the majority of the school is still adjacent to a busy street. The few parking spaces in front of the school have been turned into a busy parking lot.

The crosswalks near the school are still open, but now without a stop sign to aid in the crossing.

The newly widened street that was sold as a 'safety improvement' has resulted in more speeding on both Market and 45th Avenue. The first week that the new traffic light was turned on, neighbors found that it was being used late at night as a way to start speed racing on 45th!

So, I have to wonder along with you whether this street project at Wallace Road and Glen Creek is worth the public investment.

It is of course too late to stop it, but it is a lesson in how it is essential that citizens understand what they are voting for when they vote for a bond. And also why it is essential that citizen involvement in planning ( by a wide section of the community and not just a few) is so essential.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Market and Swegle is an excellent example! A couple of posts on it here and here.

Just as you say, a lot of money, and fundamentally doesn't help with livability and character. And it's more about car through-put and speed than about safety for kids on foot.

Sadly, your analysis will in fact translate and scale to Wallace and Glen Creek.

They're bum deals.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I am thinking that the City's CIP process is broken. How something gets on the list is difficult to understand, but once you suggest a problem, staff takes over and the only time a citizen is involved is when the City wants a bond and you can say, in or out. Then if it is in you can vote for a bond, but still it is without knowing the details of a project. The real details come out when it is too late to change anything but a few minor details.

We experienced this with the Lancaster and Market/Swegle projects. Even though there was a committee of key players, you really did not have much input. Design was done in the back room and at each City presentation it was about telling neighbors what you were going to get, not what do you want.

I feel very sorry for the 8 families that lost their homes. We were able to delay the project for years in hopes that a couple of people would be able to live out the end of their lives before they saw the destruction of their homes of some 50 plus years!

The character of the neighborhood was never a consideration. How sad for us all. Progress should not have to hurt.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

A couple of years ago - well, almost three now - City Staff gave this response to a very similar question:

"For professional liability reasons and the fact that 90% of people don't know how to read plans, plus the fact that each set of design drawings can be dozens to hundreds of sheets in size, we do not post individual project design plans and specifications on the web. The design process for a project begins at 10% plans (conceptual) and progresses to 30%, 60%, 90%, and Final plans. During that process, many specific aspects of the design change or are corrected. For this reason we don't want to post plans for public review while they are still in draft format."

Now this was in response to a request to post actual plans. And maybe they really can't. But in addition to observing the letter of this, they extend it unnecessarily to the spirit: The City too often (but not always) seems to have little interest in sharing any level of plan design for public review and real feedback!

This has been cited several times before, but the Strong Towns "Conversation with an Engineer" is amusing and biting irony and commentary on an aspect of this.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

updated with clips from today's newspaper piece

Curt said...

That picture is just disgusting. Maybe Salemites who have been here their whole lives have become desensitized to these places having never known anything else?

Mike De Blasi said...

This project amounts to spending $26,000,000 per mile. What could SAlem get for that money instead? One option would be to implement the downtown lane reductions-on the cheap now, with gradual implementation of my permanent changes over time.

In the Strong Towns fashion, I calculated that the businesses adjacent to this project paid only $510,000 in taxes in 2013. Not considering interest on the bonds, it would take 20.5 years to pay for the project if every penny of these taxes went to paying for the road "improvements".

i noticed that the article never mentions when and for how long the congestion is. It also said that 80% of the cars crossing the bridge from downtown exit Wallace by Veall. It's 0.86 miles from Front Street in downtown to Glen Creek Rd. Why are we making West Salem uglier for a small percentage of people and for a small percentage of the day? Are people that lazy that they can't bike a mile?

There are two buses that cross the river, plus 4 West Salem circulator buses and two buses serving Polk County. That's a lot of bus options. Improving their service would do more to relieve the congestion than this project.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Mike! Holy smokes. $26m/mile. That's insane. Totally agree there's a lot we could do with transit and the N3B idea of using Wallace as a park-and-ride/walk/bike. There's so many more cost-effective ways to make it easier to cross the bridge by using existing capacity more wisely.

(Anytime you want to write a longer "strong towns" style analysis like that, the Breakfast Blog would be delighted to post it as a guest piece! Consider this an open invite. In the meantime, thanks for the quick-hit. That's super helpful and great to see.)