Friday, July 15, 2016

Second St NW Crossing under Wallace Rd Looks Increasingly Boondoggular

In no small part because of all the autoist bells and whistles being crammed into the idea of a crossing along Second Street NW under Wallace Road, the estimated cost has ballooned to $30 million. The Union Street Railroad Bridge itself, a structure on the National Register of Historic Places, apparently would need to be modified.

This is a basin, too: A local street connection along Second Street
going under Wallace Road, from west side looking east
via City of Salem FB
Frankly, it's beginning to look like another boondoggle and it may need to become a bust, at least in its present form. Marine Drive and the Salem River Crossing is effing it all up!

Last week at the West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board, the group overseeing the West Salem urban renewal area got an update, and there was less to like about it.

The latest plan map (Dec 2015 in February packet)
Here's an excerpt from the meeting handout (numbered notes are not in the original; the illustrations here are from previous memos and are not in the handout):

Design Details
Wallace Road
  • Bridge will be a standard cast-in-place or precast structure
  • Street will be widened approximately 9 feet to accommodate standard travel lanes [1] and sidewalks
  • Street profile will be improved to provide adequate sight distance
  • Access onto Westbound 2nd Street will be eliminated [2]
2nd Street
  • Estimated traffic volume is between 2500 and 3500 vehicles per day [3]
  • Grade separated undercrossing of Wallace Road is approximately 1000 feet long
  • The undercrossing structure will have walls as high as 21 feet and a 3 foot thick base slab with pile foundations to support the structure and resist floating
  • The undercrossing will have a 16-foot vertical clearance for vehicles and 10-foot vertical clearance for pedestrians and bicycles
  • The street will include 2 travel lanes, bike lanes, 5-foot wide sidewalk along the north side of 2nd Street, and a 10-foot wide multi-use path along the south side of 2nd Street (sidewalks will be slightly wider through the undercrossing) [4]
  • A storm water pump station will be required at the undercrossing (not sized for a 100-year storm event) [5]
  • Alignments will match existing ground elevations east of the undercrossing to minimize impacts to private property and Wallace Marine Park
  • The intersection with Musgrave Avenue will be pedestrian and bicycle friendly
  • A full intersection will be provided at Glen Creek Road
  • A safe connection will be provided from 2nd Street to the Union Street Bridge and Wallace Marine Park Trail system; however, the historic Union Street Bridge will need to be modified [6 and !!!]
  • A safe pedestrian and bicycle connection will be provided from the Union Street Bridge to West Salem along the 2nd Street undercrossing
  • Pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the Union Street Bridge is currently 1400 pedestrians and 500 bicycles [7]
Estimated Cost
  • Base Option is between $28 and $30 million
  • Option with the Salem River Crossing is between $30 and $32 million
  • Additional cost for the Wallace Road right turn is between $4 and $6 million
1) Doesn't Wallace Road already have standard car travel lanes? This looks like unnecessary widening.

2) I still struggle with the way that the approvals and conditions for the new Goodwill allowed for this westbound access and further street improvements that will just get ripped out in the demolition for this if it is built - talk about wasted work and cost.

3) $30 million seems like a lot for 3000 car trips a day; that's equivalent to three whole Wallace & Glen Creek intersection widenings, which was about $10 million and handles a lot more car trips!

4) Bike lanes and an MUP? If we weren't set on so much auto traffic, we could handle it with sharrows and an MUP.

5) It's important to remember always that the depression will flood (the Historic Landmarks Commission just tweeted out an image from the 1943 flood that shows this clearly).

6) "The historic Union Street Bridge will need to be modified"??? That's a WTF, for sure.

7) Based on manual counts, 500 people on bike is probably an early-season undercount. And of course once the connections across Wallace Road are comfortable for a wide range of people biking, the counts will increase significantly - as of course the Union Street bikeway and key crossing at Commercial is in progress.

The outline from the WSRAB meeting may not be enough for firm conclusions, but the drift seems clear enough: MOAR CARS and more cost. That's not a winning combination.

In December 2015, the cost estimate was just under $9 million
(West Salem Business District Action Plan)
It would be sad for the proposal to collapse under its own weight, but that now looks like the direction it's heading. Hardly more than a half-year ago, the cost estimate was $8,700,000.  Now it's triple, $30 million. At that price, and with this much emphasis on auto traffic, it's not worth it.

It'll be interesting to learn more about what's next. For the moment this is disappointing news.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's an interesting addendum on counts. In the CANDO minutes from last month's meeting the City said

"a bike-pedestrian counter placed mid-May in the middle of the Union Street pedestrian bridge appears to have recorded upwards of 2500 crossings per day, with a significant spike likely caused by the first On Your Feet Friday of the season."

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Boondoggle is right! I knew this was not going to be cheap and frankly can't see much benefit. If the public were to pass the police station bond, there would be little money for such a project for at least 10 and perhaps 20 years. As you point out, this would cost 3 or 4 other major projects. How about putting in more sidewalks where lives could be saved instead of this foolishness? Someone needs to put a dagger in this monster's heart and move on!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

There's a great deal of benefit in a safe and comfortable crossing of Wallace Road for people on foot and on bike. The monstrosity at Wallace and Glen Creek is not that crossing.

The hope here is that a project can still be right-sized. It will still not be cheap, but this is a crucial bit of connectivity, and the Union St RR Bridge will always underperform until it is easy and comfortable to cross Wallace Road.

If we are serious about the Union St RR Bridge as offering an alternative to drive-alone trips across the river, we need to make sure it is a complete corridor. Right now it is far from that.

So rather than putting a "dagger in it" and killing it completely, perhaps there is still a chance to scale it back and focus on the central problem: connectivity for the walking and biking public. (That's the hope and argument here, anyway.)