Friday, October 27, 2017

New Swales in South Salem, Progress at Union St and Commercial

New culvert/bridge on Summer St SE at Clark Creek
and with swales and curb instead of straight storm drains

Before: Clark Creek at Summer St SE
You might recall back in April that buried in a list of Administrative Purchases there was $250,000 for replacing the Clark Creek culvert under Summer St SE.

That project is done now, and it is interesting to see the design:
  1. The road wasn't widened that much, though it was widened, probably for emergency vehicles
  2. No sidewalks
  3. Curbs channel run-off to two filtration swales before passing into the creek
Summer Street here t-bones into Fairview and Vista, and because of the way Fairview and Vista function as something of a couplet, the amount of through-traffic rounds to zero. This is hardly more than a driveway extension for residents and carries local traffic only. So it is easy to understand that a new sidewalk segment here is not a high priority. The rest of the street will not be rebuilt to include full sidewalks any time soon, and a short segment would be expensive, orphaned, and superfluous.

It was also interesting to see the swale in the residential area. These it seems are no longer exotic, leading-edge stormwater treatments, but rather are now an ordinary part of the design toolbox.

East- and South-bound bike lane on Union at Commercial
The new crossing on Union at Commercial Street is getting closer! The East-West crossing looks straight-forward, though it still may be a while before the intersection fully meets a "family-friendly" standard. But it will be a huge improvement nonetheless.

But that right-hand, south-bound turn remains dicey and janky.

A sharrow on Commercial, just south of Union
There is a dashed line curving through the intersection to guide people on bike outside of any cars turning south from Union onto Commercial, and then to the outside, left-hand lane where there is a sharrow.

I do not bike this section of Commercial (occasionally I do bike on Commercial south of Chemeketa St), and streetview suggests this is a new sharrow. The auto travel lane here is exceedingly wide, so I'm not sure the sharrow is actually in the door zone. But it's also pushed to the  left side of the travel lane, and does not seem to function to encourage people biking to center and take the full lane. It makes them marginal and secondary this way. The installation, then, may be a very sub-optimal use for a sharrow, a Potemkin sharrow, more to create the illusion of connectivity than to create an actually useful connection.

In the most optimistic of interpretations, this might work for the most experienced of riders, those "confident and fearless," but essentially nobody else. For normal travel into downtown, until Commercial is more improved for people biking, I would actually continue on Union to High, take High to Chemeketa, and enter the core of downtown on Chemeketa instead. That's two or three blocks out-of-direction travel, but it's a lot more comfortable than contending with the zoomy traffic on Commercial.

The last plan published before construction
A full assessment will have to wait for the final opening of the whole thing.

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