Friday, November 14, 2014

City Council, November 17th - Missing Sidewalks and Busy Roads

Back in October, 16 year old Isaiah Guzman was out jogging on Swegle Road, just west of Cordon Road. There are no sidewalks here, and a person driving a car struck him. Guzman later died of injuries sustained in the crash.

It is not a simple story. A child had almost certainly chosen a poor route and time, and so the police and news narrative was about a kid out jogging and wearing black clothing on a dark and stormy night.

But no narrative energy (and likely no enforcement energy) was spent on the basic rule, ORS 811.100, which calls for "reasonable and prudent" speeds by drivers that vary with current conditions. Maybe there are no conditions on this stretch of Swegle where stopping distance is shorter than sight distance at 35mph.  This looks like rural roadway engineered for catastrophic failure at the urban boundary, especially at night in the rain.

Swegle Road just west of Cordon Road
No sidewalks or shoulder, posted for 35mph
We engineer roads to forgive driver error routinely, but we do not engineer roads to forgive errors by those walking or biking. 

Why do we accept this?

We have a system failure in education, enforcement, engineering, and budgets.

It was unwise for a teenager to go jogging after dark on a road with no sidewalks or shoulder.

But no teenager deserves to die for that particular lack of wisdom and experience.

The greater truth is a system failure here, not just a tragic error in teenage judgement.

City Staff propose three different possible sidewalk alignments
At Council on Monday there is a "call-up" and review of a Planning Commission decision to allow a developer to delete a sidewalk on a large apartment complex just off Cordon Road.

This is a hopelessly car-dependent part of town right now.

Single-digit walkscore!
Wholly apart from the property owner's own interests, for the city and its residents, there is no reason at all to develop this land. This is a bad place for car-dependent density. This harms Salem as a whole

Since cancelling the development is not a real option for the City of Salem, there is no reason at all to cave on the sidewalk. It's astonishing this is not an iron-clad baseline expectation!

Happily the City Staff Report recommends reversal and calls out three possible sidewalk alignments, saying that the developer can choose which one is best.

The Staff Report also notes that
The school district has commented that the bus stop, if needed, would be located on Cordon Road, which does not have sidewalks. The high traffic speeds on Cordon Road (45 MPH posted speed) and the lack of sidewalks is a real safety concern for staff and is why the original partition recommended a pedestrian path and is why we are recommending that the Council amend the Planning Commission decision and require the pedestrian path.
In what messed-up world is this at all debatable?

Our world, that's what.

(For a couple of earlier notes on this see here and here.)

Other Stuff

From Cordon Road we go to Portland Road....

Mano a Mano: Portland Road is dangerous
At the Urban Renewal Agency (which is effectively identical to Council, remember), there's a proposal to adopt Councilor Dickey's direction on the Portland Road Corridor Strategic Action Plan.

You may remember that there was some talk about redirecting Urban Renewal funds away from Portland Road, but that movement has at least somewhat been curbed, and the new scope looks to reaffirm a focus on Portland Road itself. The North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board has endorsed the proposed scope.

Additionally, in support of the scope, one person writes
My daughter and husband love to ride bikes downtown, but the only way down Portland Road goes through the underpass, which is filthy, wet and smells of pee. This splashes up on your bike tires. Walking through there is scary. SKCE [Salem Keizer Coalition for Equity] has families that walk clear from Pine Street with their children, under the railroad underpass, to access our community center resources. Many neighbors have voiced their fears for their families because they have no alternative transportation to walking or riding the unsafe and unsanitary walkways in the Portland Road Railroad Underpass. The only other way is to take a detour to Silverton Road, but that adds many blocks to the trip if walking. It is too narrow to have a safe bike lane, and the sidewalks are small and old and not safe for bike riders and pedestrians to share. Silverton Road is full of fast traffic all the time, with no middle lane. Many accidents occur on that road so I don't want my daughter riding her bike that way.
And Mano a Mano Family Center echos this, saying
While northeast Salem has the highest percentage of people without easy access to a vehicle in the city, the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure along Portland Road is insufficient and at times dangerous.
This is important.

(For previous notes on the Portland Road Plan see here.)

A couple of other items:
  • There's an update on the Middle Commercial TGM study, now called the  "Commercial Vista Corridor Plan." At least publicly, it's still in bit of a holding pattern, hopefully to kick off publicly next month, so there's nothing new here to say.
  • The Boards and Commissions Appointment Committee also recommends postponing a new Sustainability Commission. Since there's tons of "sustainability" policy language that we are not currently following or enforcing, or are doing so only in the most cursory and weak ways, it seems like a better path would be just to do what our policies say we are going to or should do.
Blue Ribbon Task Force

Not at all on the Council agenda, tonight, Friday the 14th, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Civic Center and Police Station meets, and the minutes from the last meeting are interesting. (Why the City didn't go down this route with fully open meetings from 2009-2011 is a mystery.) There's not a whole lot new to say here, but a couple of observations from today's meeting packet:
  • One person says, "Don’t repeat the Kroc Center experience of locating a facility away from the primary user group."
  • About the Eugene Facility: "Frequently cited: “would rather have had it this way” on tour; lots of clumsy space, wasted space (interior design could be managed much better); layout did not consider adjacencies or workflow." and "Inefficiency associated with being separated from other functions, scattered around town; no savings with consolidating operations." There seem to be a lot of ways the new Eugene Police Station is far from "perfect."

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

As much as I agree with you about the lack of sidewalks on Swegle Road where the young man was senselessly run down, I must point out that this section of roadway is in Marion County. The adjacent property is not developed yet. It will be required to put widen the street, put in curbs and sidewalks, and the necessary drainage system when it is developed. I hate that this is the way that it works, but unfortunately that is the reality.

I do think that it is worthwhile however to put this out to Marion County, and encourage them to think about putting in a temporary asphalt walkway on the other side of the drainage ditch until this development happens.

Sadly, blood on the road is a good reason to put in an upgrade.

Marion County uses our artificially inflated garbage fees for the Brooks incinerator to backfill their general fund. Janet Carlson once claimed that one of the uses of these funds was to improve streets.

Newly elected Daniel Benjamin got the County to put in sidewalks on Walker Road, perhaps he can be lobbied to do the same this part of the area too.

Salem has upgraded all of Swegle now that is in the City limits. It is up to Marion County to help fix the rest.