The route out to Minto Park along River Road is an important one, but it's long been neglected. It's also in a problematic configuration, seemingly built to court natural hazards and to make it difficult to share with fellow humans.
Recently a reader shared their dissatisfaction with the path's condition, and the question is a good one: What should we do about it?
Reaching up in the other direction, roots heave the pavement into knots and twisted bumps, also creating inducements to involuntary dismounts. (And what about that cut-out? It looks like there used to be a bus stop or something there, but now what purpose does it serve?)
On a bigger scale and practically year-round, the earth itself here feels gravity's pull. The massive landslide in Washington got lots of people's attention, but we have our own unstable slope with a known pattern of slipping. Three years ago it was a boulder.
|Photo: T. Patterson, Statesman Journal|
Landslide on River Road S. in #SalemOR #sjnow pic.twitter.com/RapoEln5
— Danielle Peterson (@DPetersonSJ) December 5, 2012
There have been more slides since then, and the fencing and barricades testify to their frequency.
But at least for people on foot and on bike, more often it's the cars rather than the boulders that make it dicey. The fence and barricades offer no protection on that side. Passing is sometimes tricky: People on foot sometimes try to stay side-by-side instead of single-file; equally, people on bike sometimes go too fast to take adequate notice of surface hazards or people on foot. Few want to stray too close to the speeding cars, and the effective width of the path is less than the tape measure width.
In so many ways the whole path configuration is set up against success: It's a high-maintenance system in every way.
Yes, South River Road there is a real mess. Last fall there was some talk about fixing it. It was estimated to be a $1.3 million pavement rehab on the full roadway, including the path. (See discussion here; it's buried in the middle of it.) It did not make the cut for funding.
I think that the political truth of it is that with the Minto bridge opening in a couple of years, and offering a superior, low-traffic connection between downtown and the park, the City is not going to make fixing this a priority. Indeed, in Bike and Walk Salem, the recent update to the Transportation System Plan, improvements here are all assigned a second- or third-rank priority. By contrast the Minto bridge and path system is a high, first-rank priority.
For people visiting the park, this is great. But for people who want longer rides and are willing to bike on River Road, or for those commuting from out south into downtown or points north, it's not so great.
Ultimately the road needs to be rebuilt and a sidepath or bike lane constructed on the RR side of the road. But that's a ways off and is not a simple project.
In the meantime, I think not making this a high priority is a defensible ranking, but there's still some minimal level of maintenance the City needs to continue. It could probably use some signage about slow speeds, expecting others on the path, and being aware of those walnuts and pavement heaving. Some of those root swellings and heaves probably need to be ground down again.
What you do think is the right level of attention and maintenance here?
Update, December 16th
Here's another one...
Update, March 16th, 2017
|Here's another one, via the SJ|
Update, January 2nd, 2018
And another one...
|via City of Salem|