Friday, September 26, 2014

City Council, September 29th - Portland Road

On Monday, Council will hold a brief meeting, mostly closed-door "executive sessions" on "labor negotiations," and then with the Urban Renewal Agency will hold a work session on the North Gateway and Portland Road project.

There's some house-keeping matters, but probably the big public item on the Council agenda is the continuation of the rights-of-way vacation. The City Attorney thinks it's not important to wait for the LUBA appeals to be resolved. (See end of packet. For previous discussion of ROW see here and here.)

Portland Road

SINALACS transportation map
In 15 years only one piece is done
So let's think about Portland Road, shall we? The City's timeline on Portland Road goes back to 1990, but it really begins in 1999. That year the TGM grant funded "Salem Industrial/Northgate Area Local Access and Circulation Study" was adopted.

SINALACS, as it is known, doesn't seem to have yielded very much, however!

Those with local knowledge may be able to say with more certainty, but it looks to me like only one of the "major transportation improvement recommendations" has been completed! The road bond funded work on Hawthorne Street. Everything else is still waiting. (If you know otherwise, drop a comment, and I'll post a corrected map and amended text.)

So at the moment this is looking like a teen-age, couch-potato shelf study.

Following on SINALACS, in 2000 the City completed the Portland Road Improvement Project Master Plan. Among other things, it called for a "full boulevard" treatment on Portland Road.

Intro to draft scope for new study - to reallocate funds?
You may recall, howevera, that funding for this is now in jeopardy.

Presumably this new "strategic plan" is what Council and the Urban Renewal Agency will be talking about.

There is reason to be skeptical of the way funds might be redirected. Consider the Kroc Center.

From the paper today:
The Kroc Foundation awarded Salem a $71.1 million grant to build the facility and create an endowment to help run it, and the community raised $10 million toward the project.
From the North Gateway URA project summary page:
Northgate Extension (Bill Frey Drive): A $12.39M public investment, completed August 2005, provides a second means of ingress/egress for the Industrial Park. This project and area attracted the Kroc Center...
So let's add this up:
$71.1 million from the Kroc
$10 million from the community
$12.39 from the City

That's $93.4 million!

And we're still talking about a few million more for building new paths or bridges to make easier for kids from Keizer to cross the Parkway. (See all notes here.)

So let's call it $100 million.

A year ago things were faltering
It seems like with better siting decisions and a smaller construction budget (with a larger proportion of funds then shifted to the operating endowment), the Kroc Center would be much more successful.

While the whole thing isn't a boondoggle, there are definitely some boondoggular elements here! The ROI on $100 million is paltry here.

There are good reasons, then, to cast a very critical eye on how Council decides to allocate the Urban Renewal funds.

And in fact in June the North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board resisted reallocation, affirming a resolution to
Reject scope of action plan as written because it fails to recognize the importance of the Portland Road Phase II corridor geographic area, specifically the railroad underpass, the Rose Garden (Epping property site), access to the Kroc Center, and Claggett Creek pedestrian access....[and]

reiterated NGRAB's interest in focusing any analysis and future NGURA investments on the Portland Road corridor, north of Pine Street.
Rumblings on the Third Bridge?

No, not an earthquake, but the rumblings of public doubt.

N3B has got three Councilors now to express doubts publicly about the way in the Oversight Team process the Salem Alternative has morphed into something other than what last year Council endorsed.

Some are optimistic that folks can round up another two votes on Council for a reconsideration. Others think it might just be rhetoric and posturing. We're in the realm of politics, not policy, and so it's hard to say what is true and meaningful.

In any case, it's something to watch.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

Perhaps a cheaper and more effective method to get kids to the KROC is to give away free bus passes. Problem is not just how to get Keizer kids to the center, it is also how to get other kids from all parts of Salem there. Or maybe they could run a school bus there from some of the schools. Access is an issue for most of the kids in the Hayesville, Yoshiki and 4 corners areas. They don't even have a Boys and Girls Club in those areas.

Street improvements like the City has been doing in the last bond are extremely expensive and it is hard to tell what good they have done for anyone.

The Wallace Road $10 million project is almost done and we can't tell what benefit it is. The $10 million Swegle/Market Street realignment has changed nothing either. The City tosses money around like it is free and with only theories of what benefit is will bring...and then we see none.

Even a relatively cheap 'fix' like the addition of a light at the bottom of the Center Street Bridge at Front Street did not create the solution that it was supposed to have. They said, it would stop the stacking on the bridge in that lane, but it has changed absolutionly nothing. That bit of miscalculation has cost taxpayers $250,000! And on and on it goes.

If there is so much money in the URA for Portland Road burning a hole is their pockets, why not use it to build a new police facility on Portland Road for about $20 million? No wait, that would make sense!

Gary said...

I think one of the most cost-effective ways to make Portland Road a "place" where people want to be is a good road diet in the vicinity of the railroad bridge. A roundabout at Pine and at Lana would likely handle all of the traffic and allow one or maybe even two of the traffic lanes under the bridge to be repurposed. Silverton Road could be road dieted also. Maybe the four lanes gets converted to three lanes plus bike lanes. If anyone has had discussions with the city about these kind of projects, I'd like to hear about those. -gary

Jason Cox said...

Perhaps the most crucial part of this project is completing sidewalks from the railroad underpass to Hawthorne. There's lots of gaps in sidewalks, yet the city has said this neighborhood has the highest density of people without access to a car in the city. Combine that with the fact that you've got a food bank, two community centers (Kroc and the one run by Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality) and several social service agencies all in this stretch of Portland Road, and the need becomes even more apparent.

I also wouldn't characterize this fund as $22 million just burning a hole in our pockets. This fund exists because my neighborhood association (Northgate) and Highland NA came together and ensured its creation. It was intended to clean up a run-down Portland Road corridor, raise property values throughout the area and create an attractive gateway into the city. Speaking in broad terms, this is the whole point of urban renewal.

Fairgrounds Road has certainly seen the benefit of this project as well - look at the before-and-after. Significant private investment came as a result, and it's much safer to walk and bike. Right now Portland Road businesses are just waiting on the city to come through and do what was promised. It's time to get the job done.