Thursday, September 10, 2015

State Street Study Kicks Off

Here's some pleasant news! The City finally has announced the public site and kick-off for the State Street Study.

The old ice cream factory on State Street for sale
The study will make transportation and land use recommendations for the State Street corridor from 12th Street to 25th Street.

State Street study area from 12th to 25th
(Here's a much larger and more detailed version)
As you can see from the ice cream factory and other similar buildings
There are many land use issues that make the State Street corridor unattractive, auto-oriented and unwelcoming. There are several vacant or underutilized properties on State Street, as well as numerous surface parking lots and parking areas in front of buildings. These conditions detract from the overall vitality and attractiveness of the area and tend to discourage walking. Additionally, much of the development is single-story, single-use buildings, which do not create a vibrant environment.
It is exciting that both buildings and streets are being analyzed together, as focusing on just one or the other too often leaves the whole system insufficiently considered, and resulting change too fragmentary to shift the functioning of the whole system.

One thing to be aware of is that from the outset, it seems still to be framed up a little bit in 20th century assumptions:
[T]he configuration of State Street contributes to an auto-oriented corridor. As a major arterial in the City's Transportation System Plan, State Street should have a 96-foot right-of-way and include four travel lanes, bike lanes, a planter strip and sidewalks. The actual right-of-way of State Street varies from approximately 100 feet near 12th Street NE to 60 feet near 19th Street SE. Due to this constrained right-of-way, improvements to the State Street corridor have not advanced, resulting in a lack of sufficient bicycle and pedestrian facilities and amenities.
While this isn't a full-on expression of hydraulic autoism, it still envisions facilities for people on foot and on bike as secondary consequences of - or competing with - auto travel lane expansion.

The narrative of "progress" here is a little wayward. The narrow right-of-way isn't what keeps things from "advancing"; on the contrary. it is our commitments to drive-alone trips and capacity for peak hour car use that keep things from advancing. 

A better 21st century perspective would focus on the mobility of people and accept as a possibility that four travel lanes might not be necessary or even "advanced." An "advanced" road design would likely not see a need for four travel lanes. A 21st century plan would look at sidewalks and comfortable bike lanes as centrally constitutive of a proper whole road, and not merely as optional enhancements, and crucially would consider climate change impacts as an important constraint.

Happily, one of the explicit project goals addresses some of this:
The proposed street designs will illustrate how the constrained right-of-way on State Street can accommodate facilities and amenities to make the street feel welcome and comfortable for pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles.
But it will require strong public support, advocacy, and perhaps even pressure to ensure that this promise, especially for "welcome and comfortable," is fulfilled.

See all notes on the State Street Study here.


Mike said...

That's great that Salem won money for the study. But I could give them a list of recommendations that would revitalize the street and they could use the money to actually implement them rather than waste time on a study.

Mike said...

I forgot to mention that the study area should continue east to Lancaster. The road past 25th is way too wide, has too high speed limits and is completely unfriendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

And the city's comment in the Background that State Street has to have a 96' ROW shows that they're not really serious about making it a better, non-auto street. The road portion in the ROW shouldn't be more than 55"-a lane in each direction, a centre turning lane, on-street parking and bike lanes. Does that mean there'll be 20' sidewalks, etc on each side?