Wednesday, November 15, 2017

12th and Mill Project a Surprise on OTC Agenda

Almost two years ago at a SESNA meeting, a major revision was proposed for the very awkward connection across Mill Street at the end of the 12th Street promenade along the railroad, an odd corner bounded by the Mill, Willamette, and the Train Depot. (Previous notes here and here.)

The concept in early 2016, a serpentine three-stage crossing
(White text, black text, black arrows added)
The Oregon Transportation Commission meets on Friday the 17th (agenda and meeting items here), and the consent calendar has an item for funding a crossing at this intersection:
Work will include:
• Install raised median and pavement marking
• Upgrade rail signal system
• Install additional flashing lights for crossing users
• Reconstruct and flatten roadway approaches to better accommodate ADA community and adherence to current design standards
• Remove existing sidewalk on the north side of Mill Street
• Extend promenade fencing to channelize crossing user
That looks more-or-less what is in the plan view just above. (Maybe it's changed, and if we can get a new plan view, we'll update this post.)

Note the removal of the sidewalk on the north side of Mill Street and the extension of fencing to keep people from crossing tracks on the north side. In the plan view the sidewalk removal appears to have the black cross-hatch.

This works fine for walking, but it's still pretty awkward if you're in the north-bound bike lane on 13th and making the s-shaped turn to get onto the promenade. It almost makes more sense to stay in the roadway, go past the east-side median, and do a u-turn to enter the promenade. (One commenter a few years back called the current maneuver here the "ballast rock boogie.")

The City has not shared much about this, it hasn't been on any SKATS agenda lately I don't think, and this item at the OTC is a bit of a surprise. Maybe you will have heard more about it.

(Parenthetically, some of ODOT's description seems a little exaggerated:
Adding the Mill Street Southeast crossing project to the current 2018-2021 STIP will hasten safety improvements at this busy highway grade rail crossing and will help alleviate the potential for vehicles to back-up on the crossing.

Denying this request will keep this crossing in a substandard condition and maintain the existing probability of vehicles queuing back through the crossing. A request to add it to future STIP drafts is likely should the project be denied in the current STIP.
Is vehicular queuing really the problem here? The Quiet Zone project already installed a median, and the new plan doesn't seem to affect cars very much. The new plan is about people on foot, on bike, and in wheelchairs or other mobility devices. It's more about ADA compliance than cars and back-ups. But probably ADA compliance is a harder sell than "vehicular queuing" at a "substandard" and "highway grade" crossing.

It's just odd and maybe doesn't entirely add up.)

Meanwhile, The Street Trust is gathering signatures for a petition to the OTC:
The Oregon Transportation Commission is currently making decisions about the 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which lays the groundwork for the future of Oregon’s roads, streets, bridges, and transit system.

Now is the time to support the bold ideas our communities need, like off-road trails to walk and roll on, Safe Routes to School for every kid, and giving every Oregonian safe and convenient options to get around without a car.

We call on ODOT to prioritize projects and programs that make walking, bicycling, and transit safe and easy for all Oregonians.
Formally the OTC is going to "Receive a presentation and provide direction on a final funding allocation for the 2021-2024 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program" and it is the proportions of the "final funding allocation" the Street Trust is asking the OTC to alter. (See here for a discussion of the scenarios they have been discussing.)

The OTC meets Friday the 17th, at 9:15am in the Gail Achterman Conference Room 103, at ODOT HQ, 355 Capitol Street NE.


Anonymous said...

Update: On Friday November 17th, the OTC approved (without discussion) the Mill Street/rail-crossing project as part of its consent agenda.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The City approved a Minor Historic Design Review for fencing at the depot, and it went up immediately. Now after crossing the rocks, you have to deflect west a good ways onto the sidewalk, and it is no longer possible to travel south from Mill along the platform. They're really funneling foot traffic from the Esplanade to the parking lot rather than continuing parallel along the tracks. It's almost like cattle chutes or pedestrian ramp spaghetti! It's really ambiguous: They look ostensibly like "improvements," but the function is to channelize a lot of meanders and prevent direct desire lines. They keep walking and biking in a secondary role. We'll see how the whole thing turns out.