[T]he best way to have a meaningful, citywide conversation not confined to websites and private meetings is through the NEPA process. An Environmental Impact Statement will give us a common basis of facts to work with and bounce off of. I'm just not clear why that isn't the best way to resolve this. It would be a shame to try to just stop talking about it. It clearly isn't an issue that goes away. It's been around at least since the late 60's.Since this is probably a fairly mainstream, even widely held notion, it's not important to ascribe it to anyone in particular. (And it is not interesting to speculate on motives, so here anyway let's not spend any time on identity or motives.)
|Adding lanes doesn't work (CalDOT)|
The process has stacked the deck already for a pre-determined outcome that floats freely, untethered by fact.
|2006 Purpose and Need Statement|
Need Statement #1. Based on available data, the existing river crossing facilities and local bridge system in Salem are inadequate for current and future traffic demand, resulting in a need to improve traffic operations in the study area over the No Build Alternative conditions.The data says no such thing! There were reasons to doubt it in 2006, and even more reason for doubt in 2016.
And a genuine process "based on [best] available data" would contain a feedback or iteration mechanism so better choices could follow from better data.
But from the start, the process enacts as a priori commitment the certainty that the "local bridge system in Salem [is] inadequate."
It is an article of faith here, not a conclusion that has been proved. The whole SRC may be, in fact, an argument in bad faith.
At a presentation on Federal traffic modeling last year, we saw our old friend, the graph of Federal traffic projections and the actual.
|Here's our old friend, the crazy mismatches|
between projection and actual
And even the highway-happy Feds are finally coming round to a revision. They have basically whacked the linear growth rate in half.
|The difference between ODOT's 2005 projections|
and the new FHWA 2014 projections
Our own modeling and argument in the Salem River Crossing process hasn't caught up with this.
But wait, there's more!
Using the SRC's own internal assumptions (including the older linear growth rate), their own modeling shows that as soon as we toll the Marion and Center Street bridges, all our problems go away. Poof!
|Just tolling solves all our congestion problems!|
(This chart uses data from the SRC,
but was not created by the SRC)
Finally, the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan calls for a range of mobility solutions before widening on a corridor.
In it Salemites have said that
transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion in a travel corridor, before widening projects are constructed.The City of Salem routinely ignores this and is doing so again on the Salem River Crossing project. There has been no serious attempt at a suite of actions to try "before widening projects are constructed."
It is not unicorns and rainbows to point out the blind eye to fact here. There is a deeply wrought pattern through the whole SRC and NEPA process. Time and time again there are facts or strong evidence that runs counter to the narrative that "We need a Third Bridge," and the process steamrolls over them.
The refusal of fact and refusal to consider strong evidence in the official NEPA process has made it exceedingly difficult to have "a meaningful, citywide conversation."
Politicians who want to contribute to "a meaningful, citywide conversation," should press the SRC and the NEPA process for a greater and more sincere commitment to fact, a stronger commitment to best available evidence, and a stronger commitment to open debate. There's too much at stake in a billion-dollar project.
(Comments are open, but please let's keep this to policy, no personal comments or politicking about candidates.)