Friday, March 9, 2018

City Council, March 12th - State Street Study

Council meets on Monday, and they look to initiate adopting the State Street Corridor Study and its recommendations. At present, the City's approach to transportation remains compromised, maybe even just plain broken. The City is not yet willing to question its primary commitment to facilitating drive-alone trips. We see this clearly on the Salem River Crossing, where the Congestion Relief Task Force is still charged with facilitating capacity for drive-alone trips, and not with rethinking cross-river mobility and actually reducing drive-alone trips. Notwithstanding policies in the Comprehensive Plan to "reduce reliance" on drive-alone trips, our de facto approach and prevailing culture across multiple transportation planning projects is to maintain and expand autoist levels of service and induce additional drive-alone trips - with the harm to safety, pollution, and livability this entails.

Here on the State Street Study, instead of advocating for a 4/3 safety conversion the full length from 12th to 25th, the recommendation is for a 4/3 safety conversion for only 4 blocks, from 13th to 17th.

4 blocks of new bike lane
doesn't much solve gap on State Street corridor
(Salem area bike map)
Narrowly, from the perspective of a person bicycling, this is not very helpful, and is just one more instance of piecemeal approaches that leave gaps and incomplete corridors.

via Twitter
More generally, the approach prioritizes auto speed and auto capacity at the expense of safety for all road users, especially on the eastern segment between 17th and 25th. Compared to "no-build" or the "improved four lane" configurations, under the preferred "hybrid" some intersections are predicted for a "slight improvement" and at others crashes are expected to "increase slightly." This nets a wash, well within any margin of error for the analysis. The end result is inertia for the status quo and forgoes a meaningful improvement to safety.

A wash - "Tier 2 Evaluation of the Street Design Alternatives"
The recommendation does now include provisions for further study:
[T]he City will evaluate the lane reconfiguration west of 17th Street a year and a half after it is constructed. The evaluation will consider measures such as safety and diversion to determine what changes should be made to the street design. The goal of the evaluation is to extend the [4/3 safety conversion] to 25th Street if the findings of the evaluation support such a change.
So I guess that's something. But layering on an additional study phase adds several years then to funding and constructing any extension out to 25th.

We're not trying very hard to "decrease reliance on the SOV"
The City will set a date for a Public Hearing and formal adoption.

For more detailed comment on the State Street Study, see these main posts:
(For all previous notes on the State Street Study see here.)

Croisan Scenic Trail and the "Cemetery Trail"
(north of Sprague High School)
Councilor Cook also proposes "a resolution initiating amendments to the Salem Transportation System Plan and Comprehensive Parks System Master Plan to add an additional trail connection between Dogwood Street, SE and Croisan Scenic Trail..." This arises directly out of the matter at the last meeting.

As I have thought a little more about this, without a connection to Browning, it does not seem to be a critical connection. Proceeding a little more down Dogwood to Spring Street reaches the end of the Croisan Scenic Trail and at the level of "lines on a map" duplicates connectivity in the "cemetery trail."

What is missing is a north-south connection that skirts the cemetery, a connection between Browning and Dogwood. That seems like the network issue, as opposed to neighborhood amenity issue.

So we also need to apply an equity lens here. This is a relatively prosperous part of town that might be able to advocate for nicer recreational facilities in a way less prosperous districts may not. These are real, open-ended questions (not rhetorical ones for which a clear answer is already implied): Would developing a trail here siphon off resources that are more needed in North or East Salem? Is this a way to ensure that useful land is taken out of consideration for housing? What is the strategic and city-wide value here as opposed to neighborhood perk?

There might be a compelling case for allocating resources here. Certainly, we have seen problems with connectivity in and near Pioneer Cemetery. And a generation ago (or more) the City totally blew it on the Geer Line right-of-way from 14th Street to the City limits. But it's not clear that this trail connection solves a key gap created by Belcrest or any other topography. This is not yet an argument to say "no," but it is an argument that further analysis would be prudent before allocating large resources to master planning or property acquisition.

Urban Renewal Agency

The Urban Renewal Agency - which is composed of City Council members, but is a different corporate entity - has a bunch of financial stuff on its agenda, none of which has much in the way of explanation or detail.

There's an interesting, but non-disclosed, story of "non-compliance" at the Conference Center:
In FY 2017, expenditures for the Convention Center revenues and expenses exceeded estimates as represented in the FY 2017 approved Convention Center budget. The over-expenditure amount [$320,000] was not material in nature. However, staff, in cooperation with the Convention Center operators, have taken action to improve monitoring processes to prevent a reoccurrence of this non-compliance....
There's also a bunch of authorizations for short-term borrowing in several urban renewal areas. Here's the Staff Report on one of them:
Short-term du jour borrowings have been a regular occurrence for many years, and have been facilitated through either intergovernmental borrowings between the City General Fund and the Agency, or through external financing. Short-term du jour borrowings are included in the Agency’s budget each year depending on need and availability of tax increment revenue within each Urban Renewal Area.

For FY 2017-18, the City and Agency have chosen to pursue external financing to accomplish the Agency’s short-term borrowing needs. Resolution No. 18-5 URA (Attachment 1) authorizes a short-term loan agreement for the Riverfront-Downtown URA. The City and Agency’s Bond Counsel, Hawkins, Delafield & Wood LLP, has worked with US Bank National Association to prepare the proposed bond purchase agreement and related loan documents.
I don't remember recently seeing proposals all lined up like this. Maybe you will be able to think of some, and will know this is dull and routine. On the other hand, maybe there's more of a story here. The Staff Reports strip out the projects these short-term loans would fund. It would be interesting to see more exactly what the City is proposing to finance here.

Some new projects on Portland Road
Separately there is information on some new projects being added the Portland Road corridor.
The original scope of work included pedestrian safety improvements such as two crossings with refuge islands, sidewalks, curbs, and streetlights along Portland Road between Bill Frey Drive NE and Hyacinth Street NE. The project also included construction of retaining walls along Portland RD NE at Claggett Creek. Since the original scope of work was conceptualized, several changes have been made to the design, including an additional pedestrian crossing, sewer extension work, and traffic signal interconnect.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

In the additions, even though Council hasn't even set a date for the Public Hearing, opposition to the State Street Study appeared:

One person writes, "I am against any plan the [sic] reduces the number of automobile lanes for bike paths...Salem has a real traffic problem...and reducing traffic lanes makes no sense...I have yet to see a bicycle using the new bike lanes on High and Church street..."

And in a very long comment and addendum, a person with an architectural background and newly moved into the Historic District, writes, "Since the proposed zoning changes will permit, by right, 55 foot tall buildings and potentially cast significant shadows into the National Register District...we request that a Section 106 review be conducted... [etc.]"

That would be a NEPA/Section 106 review like with the Salem River Crossing, and would seriously rachet up the level of review and process. It's not clear this is proposed in good faith, and may simply be a delaying tactic.

It'll be interesting to see how much assent the project attracts.