Thursday, April 5, 2018

City Council, April 9th - Winter-Maple Bikeway

Council meets on Monday and there's a surprising number of things that might be worth a comment. Chief among them is formal adoption of the Winter-Maple Family Friendly Bikeway Plan. (I'm splitting this into two posts, and I'll update a link here later for part 2.)

Coffee Shack, Drive-thru, 10 foot path
Intersection of Cherry and Auto Group Avenues
And if you wanted a nearly perfect metaphor for its execution, the plan for a coffee shack and drive-thru at one of its important intersection treatments shows a certain incoherence in land use and lack of urgency about its completion.

On the one hand, a 10-foot path is one of the conditions of approval for a new auto dealership and coffee shack. Yay! A developer will construct a segment, apparently without public funding. It'll be a glorified sidewalk, basically, but it will get done.
Condition 8: With Phase 1, construct a 10-foot-wide shared-use path along the frontage of Maple Avenue NE and Auto Group Avenue NE pursuant to Condition 1 of CPC/ZC 16-12. The path shall abut the south right-of-way line along Auto Group Avenue NE from Cherry Avenue NE to Maple Avenue NE and shall abut the east right-of-way line along Maple Avenue NE from Auto Group Avenue NE to the southerly terminus of the existing curb. The shared-use path shall be constructed a minimum of 4.5 feet from the face of curb. The southerly terminus of the shared-use path shall connect to the existing asphalt concrete path in Maple Avenue NE as shown in the Winter Street NE / Maple Avenue NE Bikeway Plan.

Condition 9: With Phase 1, modify the signal and intersection at Auto Group Avenue NE and Cherry Avenue NE to accommodate the shared-use path.

Condition 13: With each phase, define the 10-foot-wide shared-use path by visual contrast or tactile finish texture across each driveway on Maple Avenue NE and Auto Group Avenue NE.

Condition 14: With each phase, post signs on each exiting driveway lane alerting drivers to the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians.
On the other hand, we're going to put in a "family-friendly" bikeway immediately alongside a new auto dealership, car lot storage area, a new coffee shack and drive-thru, and the associated driveways, turning, and crossing movements by people in cars. The driveways will probably also dip in an annoying way. Boo! The immediate environment is totally autoist, and I wonder how many parents will find it meets an actual "family-friendly" standard.

In a nutshell, that's where we are. It's an improvement, a substantial one, but it's also got some real warts.

Staff Report notes that
During this meeting, members of the Planning Commission and members of the public recommended changes to the Plan. Most of the changes were incorporated into the Plan, even though many were related to design details outside the scope of this study.
But it does not specify what exactly were those changes.

About funding it has no new information:
The City has secured funding for two enhanced crossings on the route - the crossing at Fairgrounds Road NE and Norway St NE and at Pine Street NE and Maple Ave NE. Funding for these crossing improvements is programmed for 2020. The City also applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to install speed humps and to construct a sidewalk at the northern end of the route that would help serve the JGEMS Charter School and Oregon School for the Deaf. The City’s Community Services and Housing. Commission is not recommending CDBG funding for the project. Staff will continue to seek grant funding for implementation of the Plan.
CANDO has a discussion of the CDBG priorities and deliberations here. CDBG funds come from HUD and it's not clear why housing funds would be used for speed humps and a sidewalk. That application would have been worth more public discussion. It's not very encouraging to think the City would try to use housing funds for roadway projects like this.

But that points to the problem of urgency. As long as we stay committed to free-flowing auto traffic, and see other mobility as an "extra," we will have these moments where we try to grab from other funding sources, and then say we can't do anything until we have extra funds specifically allocated for non-auto mobility.

The biggest questions are downtown.

(The March update removes 20' minimum approach)
The Union Street Bikeway does not yet appear to have funding for the traffic circle on Winter Street.

Winter Street downtown envisions angle-to-parallel conversion
 (unchanged from December)
And there remains the huge question about when we'll be ready to alter parking supply downtown. The Plan's current outreach and public participation does not appear to have secured sufficient assent on this, and so this proposed detail remains very theoretical at the moment.

Parking Meters on High Street at Court Street - in the Good ol' Days
(via Facebook, credit unknown)
For more details and discussion of the bikeway see:
Other Items

Council also proposes to acquire land for the secret goat trail near Belcrest Cemetery. It would be funded with Stormwater Funds from Public Works. (See previous discussion for map and a few other thoughts.)

Lots of funding from property taxes here, little from gas tax
or other auto user fees
A draft proposed 2019 Capital Improvement Plan has information on some new projects. It's "information only" right now, and the Budget Committee will hold a Public Hearing on April 25th. Its formal adoption, along with any changes, is penciled in for June 25th. As always, the gas tax and other direct auto user fees contribute little to our road projects and road projects are subsidized by other activities and other funding sources. We'll come back to it for the Budget Committee meeting probably. Briefly then:
  • It still shows $15 million in a TIGER grant for the McGilchrist project, but given the way TIGER is evolving right now, this seems very speculative.
  • There is a new plan and $300,000 for a walking and biking path along Portland Road to bypass the wretched conditions of the railroad underpass and its sidewalks.
  • The closed bridge at the stream of mystery will be replaced with $140,000.
  • $1.5M  to "initiate design" of an over/underpass along Second Street NW at Wallace Road
  • The downtown streetscape project has been bumped from $3M to $8M total, with an annual allocation of $2M over the four years of the plan. 
  • The buffered bike lanes on "middle Commercial" are programmed for 2020 right now
  • Broadway NE north of Pine Street will get a partial 4/3 safety conversion (if I read it right)
  • A discretionary allocation of $650,000 over four years for "pedestrian safety crossings" at unspecified locations as opportunity and safety demands arise
  • $25,000 for the Congestion Relief Task Force and Study
  • $4.3M for street work associated with the Police Station on Division, Commercial, and Liberty
Separately, the Urban Renewal Agency proposes some additional funding for sidewalk and biking improvements on Division Street at the Police Station. This is a little confusing. In the CIP there's already one year of $2M and another of $2.3M for streets. This separate item is $150,000 for
Improvements include traffic lane modifications, traffic signal improvements, additional on-street parking, stormwater, and pedestrian and bicycle improvements on Division St NE from Commercial St NE to High St NE and on Liberty St NE from Marion St NE to the Mill Creek bridge.
There's not enough detail to see how it all fits together and what exactly is proposed.

Just in general, the thing is - this is an opportunity! There's a real chance for the City to reconfigure this immediate area in a much better way for all road users, from Police to clients of the UGM and Arches.

(And again, I'll update a link to part 2 and the other topics later.)

Update, April 6th

Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates have published their comments and main requests. Generally they ask for faster implementation rather than a dodge for "further study" - basically "just do it." If you go to Council or submit comment, consider echoing these points in addition to any you find useful in previous discussion here.
  • [on evaluating converting two-way to four-way stops] there is no reason to wait for the addition of all-way stop control at the intersections of Winter Street/D Street and Maple Street/Highland Street. All the information needed to make an appropriate decision is currently on hand. Postponement of decisions may lead to unnecessary, delayed completion of the constructed route. There are no required “warrants” in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for all-way stops...
  • [on evaluating uncontrolled intersections] there is no reason to wait for the addition of stop signs at all currently uncontrolled intersections along the WMB route. All the information needed to make an appropriate decision is currently on hand. Postponement of decisions may lead to unnecessary, delayed completion of the constructed route. 
  • [on evaluating speed humps and speed limits] Approve the Winter Maple Bicycle and Pedestrian plan with the inclusion of speed humps (as shown in the Concept Plan), as well as the addition of speed humps near Johnson and Tryon (next to the OSD campus), and include a 20 mph posted speed limit along the Neighborhood Greenway route.
  • [on urgency generally] The project phasing outlined in the plan does not adequately address the need to move the Winter-Maple plan to a Winter-Maple reality.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

$1.5M to "initiate design" of an over/underpass along Second Street NW at Wallace Road

Then...$650,000 over four years for "pedestrian safety crossings"

This is a travesty! That Second Street Wallace Road crossing is a waste of money! Putting $1.5 million to design something that we can't afford at what $15 to $25 million to construct is outrageous!

We need more pedestrian safety crossings on major streets like South Commercial and Lancaster. Plus, we have miles of streets without sidewalks.

On the question of CDBG funds for streets, the City used to take a large chunk of housing funds for street projects in low-income areas. I am hoping that this is no longer the practice. Years ago, when I asked staff why they took CDBG funds meant for housing for streets, they said, "because we can". Apparently they would rationalize that street projects in low income areas is a benefit to the people living there. Seemed thin to me. With the lack of low-income housing, it should no longer be permitted.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Updated with comments from SBBA on the Winter-Maple Plan.)

Thanks Susann for the history on CDBG funds.

Wallace is a huge barrier and we badly need a crossing at the end of the Union St RR Bridge. I am hopeful that a solution can be found for considerably less than ~$20M. At that price it would be pretty boondoggular as you say. Still, that connection is a gap in the corridor and impediment to walking and biking across by the RR Bridge. Somehow we need to mend that gap. So the project is not worth completely shutting down just yet. In any case, the $1.5M is from the West Salem URA and is not something that could be distributed on South Commercial or Lancaster.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

The study of the 2nd Street underpass reminds me of the study of the access to Riverfront Park at Front Street. Lots of money spent and in the end it was too expensive. What they did was to create a highly visible crosswalk at the surface. That is what can happen at the intersection at Edgewater and Wallace, so it functions better.

Studying something for millions is not a good use of time, energy or money. If we couldn't do it at the Park, we are not going to do it at 2nd Street. I see this as staff trying to please residents and City Council playing politics.

BTW, at a NA meeting last week I brought up the old "rails to trails" plan. When we are talking about how to get more bike trails, why not explore potential use of existing and abandoned rails within Salem. There used to be rails from Hawthorne to 12th Street...and then down Union Street. I think some of them are still there. Does that have any potential?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re: "rails from Hawthorne to 12th Street"

Do you mean the Geer Line, which roughly parallels State Street? If so, in a note on the bike park and history at Geer Park, there is a few paragraphs on the Geer Line and its prospects. It has become very fragmented in ownership, and the City's failure to grasp it whole, now getting on a generation ago, counts as a great missed opportunity.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The first round of public comment on the Winter-Maple Bikeway has been posted as part of the Countil materials, and there are a number of interesting things in the comments.

Writing in the capacity as a neighborhood resident, but significantly also a traffic engineer and planner at ODOT, one person zeros in on a technical dodge and writes:

"city staff have suggested that this document is a planning document and that the engineering study required to establish justification for the use of a four-way stop is beyond the scope of this document. My response to those points is that the draft MWB plan is already effectively serving as the engineering study for a number of similar recommendations including the mini-roundabout at Winter/Union, for the marking of crosswalks at Fairgrounds and at Pine Street, for turning the STOP signs at Cottage/Jefferson, and for the proposed exclusive bicycle signal phase at Cherry/Auto Group Road. While the plan is not intended to address engineering design questions, it is very much intended to serve as an engineering study. Indeed, the technical memos that were prepared for this project were stamped by a Registered Professional Engineer with special expertise in Traffic Engineering. This document is the appropriate vehicle to make engineering recommendations regarding the use of STOP signs along this route. Now is the time for the city to establish its preferred option for treatment of these intersections."

In formal comment, Safe Routes to School notes

"there is a strong community desire and need for the inclusion of both a reduced speed limit and the installation of speed humps throughout the proposed route....we are respectfully asking that Council approve the plan, with immediate installation of speed humps on Maple Avenue near Johnson and Tryon (next to OSD campus), as well as those already specified throughout the route, which are included in the plan. We would of course like to also see a reduced speed limit throughout the neighborhood greenway, but would not opt for this if it meant jeopardizing or delaying the necessary, self-enforcing speed humps."

Another person, specifically focusing on installing or re-orienting stop signs, offers a novel take on the City's formal street classification heirarchy (arterial, collector, local) and says

"In adopting this plan, the city is effectively adopting a new street classification: one which recognizes and emphasizes the function of this route for walking and cycling. In establishing this new classification, the city should also adopt standards and practices that reflect the different goals and objectives for such routes. A key practice that needs to be incorporated in the plan is to standardize the use of stop-controlled intersections to favor bike and pedestrian travel."

Conceptualizing "family-friendly bikeway" as new formal category of street, separate from the others (again, arterial, collector, local), is not something I had seen before, and that seems like it might be a useful move.

All in all, comments from folks in the SBBA orbit are focusing on making changes to stop signs immediately and not waiting around for an additional layer of engineering study. They are focused on the neighborhood section from D Street to the Deaf School/JGEMS, and less focused on the downtown and Auto Group/Cherry Ave sections.