Sunday, December 4, 2016

City Council, December 5th - SRC and UGB, pt. 2

On rereading the summary document of responses to public comment, there are still quite a number of items it seems possible to contest and on which more public debate, even a kind of adversarial and more robust litigation style of back-and-forth argument at Council, would be worthwhile. Matters are far from conclusively settled, and there has not been enough time to present and sift the evidence to make determinations possible about "a preponderance" on one side or the other of many sides of the issue.

Deciding on the UGB matters is totally premature at this moment.

And that is more evidence that Goal 1 for "citizen involvement" is not at all being met on this part of the SRC process.

One claim may be genuinely new, however, and is very much worth a little more investigation here.

I'm not sure I can prove this, but it has seemed that in the draft Environmental Impact Statement, and in the subsequent talk about funding that occurred in 2013-2014, there was an assumption that the bridge structure would be engineered to a mid-level quake standard, something like a 7.0 event. The DEIS on Geology is quite vague, and there is little or no explicit mention of these standards. A text search on the full chapter 2 on Alternatives doesn't turn up any instances of the word "seismic" or "earthquake."

Seismic evaded in March 6th, 2015 funding memo
Further and briefly, this level of seismic reinforcement, or any detail at all, is not mentioned in:
It has seemed like the level of seismic reinforcement was a deliberate fudge factor, sometimes used to allow for a lower cost estimate, other times used to say that the bridge will be reinforced adequately.

It's hard to prove a negative, but you would think that the level of reinforcement, especially to a 9.0 standard, would have appeared somewhere, in one of these documents. That would be a thing to shout about, in fact. But it was never spelled out that that meant exactly. The omission is telling.

Now, finally, they have spelled it out.

From the summary:
Paraphrased Testimony Issue #27. The Preferred Alternative does not adequately address seismic and geological hazards because the existing bridges would not be retrofitted and soil stability is a concern for the new bridge.
As noted in the Land Use Findings for the UGB Amendment [p. 247, see clip below], the Preferred Alternative would include construction of a new bridge built to current standards that take a magnitude 9.0 CSZ and liquefaction into account and would be consistent with the purpose of Goal 7 to protect people and property from natural hazards. On a long-term basis, having a new bridge across the Willamette River would improve connectivity and reduce local vulnerability to a major seismic event relative to the No Build and Alternative 2A.

However, construction of a new bridge would not replace the need for continued local and regional support and advocacy for seismic improvements to the existing bridges, particularly in light of the designation of the segment of OR 22 that includes the existing bridges as a Tier 3 (lower priority) seismic lifeline route by ODOT. Towards that end, the City of Salem has partnered with ODOT in submitting a request to SKATS for federal funding to complete a seismic retrofit study for the Center Street bridge in 2017. This funding was approved by SKATS in September 2016. In addition, as part of the package of Draft Amendments to the Salem TSP supporting the Preferred Alternative, the following new text is proposed:
While there is a need for a new bridge across the Willamette River, the Marion and Center Street bridges will continue to be a critical part of the local, regional, and state transportation system. The City will continue to advocate for ODOT to maintain these bridges in a state of good repair. The City fully supports cost-effective efforts to undertake seismic upgrades of these existing facilities to protect life safety and to minimize disruption in the event of an earthquake.
Here's the reference in the formal Findings Report of October 4th:

p. 247 of the Findings Report
Here's a need, then:

Verify on record that the current $430 million cost estimate includes this level seismic reinforcement 

I believe this is false, that the current $430 million estimate does not include strengthening to a 9.0 standard. And further, that if the project included this level of strengthening, the total estimate would rise above $500 million, trigger a different level of FHWA review, and require a new pass at a funding plan. (Not to mention a plan to avoid a fiasco on the order of the Highway 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville project.)

This could be a great oversight.

Now, maybe there's a document we all have overlooked that directly addresses this and easily disproves this claim.

  1. If there's a document we all have overlooked, that seems like a failure in Goal 1 "citizen involvement" - we should all know about this detail, and it should have been communicated clearly and easily. It should not be missing from the FAQs, for example.
  2. If there is not a document we all have missed, this is a big instance of "bait and switch" that requires a substantial pause and reset in the public process.
The other matters mostly seems like continuing to debate matters that are far from settled. Except for some additional comment on Cherriots, we'll just note them in passing and to most of them silently shout "wrong!"

The approach to Cherriots is a little interesting. The SRC is all huffy and sore! Is there a legal strategy here? Or is this just petulance after a sudden breakup? In one regard, though, the SRC is right: Cherriots should have been more principled earlier in the process and been more vocal about problems and criticism. Cherriots was a little bulled, though, they caved and played nice (here's one specific example), and now that's being used against them - twice bullied! (Though of course as a public agency, they should be more prepared for hardball. Being too eager-to-please really is a failure by the Board of Directors. Cherriots needs spine.)
Paraphrased Testimony Issue #20. Coordination with the public and with coordinating public agencies, including the Salem Transit District was not adequate and violates Goal 2 of the Statewide Planning Goals.
The Salem Transit Board has had ample opportunities to be engaged in and comment on this project. The Transit District, along with other local agencies, was a part of the Oversight Team for the NEPA process, providing a direct avenue for input from the Transit District. Salem staff also attended and made presentations to the Transit Board at least five times between 2012 and 2014 regarding the selection of the Preferred Alternative (see Transit Board Coordination email included in the record from 10/18/2016). Comments from the Transit Board have been considered throughout the process. In addition, many of the issues raised by the Transit District would be more appropriately addressed during project design. Accommodations for transit operation also will require greater clarity from the Transit District as to future operational needs. Creating an alternate crossing of the Willamette River is intended to support all modes of transportation, including transit.
And here's the rest of the blah-blah-blah. (If it seems useful or necessary, we'll come back to them in another post.)

More on 2A or facilities inside the UGB

From the summary:
Paraphrased Testimony Issue #1. Alternative 2A can reasonably meet the project needs and is less impactful than the Preferred Alternative.
While Alternative 2A would cost less to build and result in fewer dislocations than the Preferred Alternative, Alternative 2A would not address key aspects of the needs identified for this project and is inferior to the Preferred Alternative in a number of respects, including:
• Would continue to funnel all traffic into and through downtown and contribute to related livability issues.
• Would result in a bridge that is too large in the context of connecting infrastructure at either end of the bridge.
• Has significant operational issues in relation to connections to facilities at either end of the bridge.
• Would not be able to provide multi-modal (bicycle/pedestrian) facilities.
• Does not provide redundancy which is important for emergency preparedness and resiliency.
Paraphrased Testimony Issue #3. Alternative 2A should have included additional components, including transportation demand management strategies and other physical improvements.
One of the commenters enumerated additional potential elements that, in the commenter’s opinion, should have been included in Alternative 2A. In fact, that alternative included a variety of physical improvements and strategies to reduce traffic congestion, including some of those noted by the commenter. For example, all “build” alternatives (including the Preferred Alternative) assumed a set of transportation demand management and transportation system management (TDM and TSM) measures, such as ones which were evaluated as part of the Alternative Modes Study prepared concurrently with the EIS process. While aggressive implementation of these strategies is estimated to result in a further reduction in traffic of eight percent, that is still not enough to solve the transportation issues identified in the project’s purpose and need statement.
Paraphrased Testimony Issue #25. Additional bridge capacity (widening existing bridges or a new bridge) is not needed; congestion can be addressed through minor improvements to existing facilities and greater investment in alternative modes.
One of the alternatives considered focused exclusively on transportation demand and system management strategies within the existing corridor and associated facilities. This alternative included a combination of new high capacity transit service; a lane of capacity across the river dedicated to transit, with supportive improvements to the roadway, pedestrian, and cycling system; a set of demand management policies; and a set of changes to comprehensive plan designations in west Salem. This option was evaluated and found not to meet the mobility objectives of the project. It also would not have addressed the redundancy and emergency operations goals of the project.
On Climate Change
Paraphrased Testimony Issue #19. Construction of the bridge is not consistent with goals to reduce the impacts of climate change. In particular, the new bridge will result in “induced traffic” and energy usage will increase.
Potential impacts of climate changes are addressed in the analysis of the Preferred Alternative in several ways:
• Reduction in vehicle trips through transportation demand management. Analysis of all “build” alternatives, including the Preferred Alternative and Alternative 2A assume a set of transportation demand management and transportation system management (TDM and TSM) measures, such as ones which were evaluated as part of the Alternative Modes Study prepared concurrently with the EIS process. These strategies are consistent with climate change strategies and are estimated to result in a further reduction in traffic of eight percent, which is a significant reduction.
• Improved multi-modal facilities. The conceptual design of the new bridge assumes development of significantly improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities in comparison to the no build alternative and improvements that would be feasible through improvements to the existing bridge under Alternative 2A. Providing these and other multi-modal improvements is consistent with strategies to address climate change.
• Analysis of induced traffic. There is projected to be increased traffic due to future increases in population no matter which improvement alternative is implemented, in comparison to the No-Build alternative. The potential for induced growth and induced traffic caused by construction of a new facility was addressed in the Land Use Technical Report for the DEIS. That report indicates that a review of literature associated with the issue of induced traffic does not provide the basis for a measurable increase in traffic which would be induced by a new transportation facility. Increases in traffic are much more likely to relate to population increases and other socio-economic factors than to construction of a new bridge or other transportation improvements.
• Overall energy impacts. There is expected to be an increase in energy usage associated with all of the build alternatives. However, even with the increased energy usage, the regional emissions analysis findings show that vehicle operations of the preferred alternative would contribute fewer overall emissions to the project area than they would under the No Build Alternative (see Table 4.2-1 of the draft Air Quality Final Technical Report Addendum). The reason the No Build Alternative would result in higher criteria pollutant emissions in 2040 than the preferred alternative is because under the No Build there would be a greater amount of delay and a lower average speed compared to the preferred alternative. In addition, current and future improvements in non-fossil fuel vehicle technologies as well as coordinated land use and transportation planning efforts may further substantially offset energy usage impacts. Reduction of emissions is a key strategy in addressing climate change.
• Transportation Rule requirements. Goal 12, Transportation, and its implementing rule, the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR), direct local governments to adopt transportation system plans that consider all modes of transportation, including highways. While attention must be given to climate change impacts, concerns regarding climate change impacts are not sufficient in themselves to remove roadway and highway improvements as reasonable and often necessary transportation options under Goal 12 and the TPR. Indeed, where need for such improvements has been demonstrated, the failure to plan for them might itself violate Goal 12.

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