Wednesday, May 20, 2015

State Street Connections Could be Next with Minto Bridge Groundbreaking

Almost certainly you will have heard about the groundbreaking ceremony for the Minto Bridge.

(If not, it's at 3pm in the amphitheater at Riverfront Park on Thursday the 21st.)

The fencing has been up and actual digging already well underway, so strictly speaking this is an after-the-fact ceremony and not actual first spade of dirt.

But it's still nice.

So the next piece of the puzzle will be to create better walking and biking connections along State Street and crossing the busy urban highways of Front, Commercial, and Liberty.

The Downtown Strategic Action Plan
recognizes the importance of the natural
connection down State Street (in purple)
Fortunately the State Street entry to Riverfront Park is going to stay open, but after construction for the bridge is complete, the new "park parcel" looks sure to become at least in part an extension of the parking lot. That will mean more cars.

But families will want also to be able to walk and bike from close-in neighborhoods like Bush, Englewood, Grant, and Highland, through downtown, and into Minto Park.

Frustration on State Street
The State/Court Street couplet doesn't work very well for this. State Street doesn't even work very well for people experienced, confident, and skilled on bike.

Look at all those cars zooming up State Street!
(But also, at the end of this boulevard
will be the Minto Bridge)
(And yet there is so much unused auto capacity here at off-peak moments!)

Having recognized this, the Downtown Mobility Study has a longer-range plan for State Street, but it's dormant at the moment.

State St Bikeway out on 25 year horizon
Nearer-term projects don't address connectivity to the Minto Bridge except at Union Street.

10 year vision:  Sharrows on Union and Winter, bike lanes on
High and Church, two-way conversion on cottage
At the same time, it more pleasant to note that the Union Street bikeway, which was on a 25 year horizon, has the west half, between the Union St RR Bridge and Winter Street, now on a 10 year horizon - with more than just the sharrows that were originally envisioned. It seems likely it will not take a full quarter-century for the Union Street bikeway to get finished!

On June 8th it looks like City Staff will go to Council for approval on a grant application for a bike boulevard planning project with the Maple/Winter Street alignment.

That's something to cheer.

But if, as seems to be the case with the recent field trip to Portland, there is new interest in bike boulevards more generally, there are multiple opportunities in the City to push for accelerated implementation of existing plans.

The recommendations in the Downtown Mobility Study offer multiple opportunities, and its recommendation for State Street follow naturally on the progress with the Minto Bridge and with partial implementation of the Union Street bikeway.

Additionally, this summer the refinement plan for the section of State Street between 12th and 25th will likely kick off, and this process too follows naturally on the Minto Bridge.

If we want to, Salemites have an opportunity to reconfigure State Street to make it a street for all users, for walking, biking, skating, and driving. It could be a place to linger on and enjoy rather than a placeless passing for cars.

No comments: