Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Congestion Task Force to Meet Friday, Discuss Preferred Options

The Congestion Relief Task Force meets on Friday the 20th, and they'll be looking at an analysis that has winnowed down the solutions packages to a pair of preferred choices. The Task Force agenda is to make a decision, presumably to confirm the preferred choices, and advance the proposal for more detailed study. (Summary of the packages here, longer presentation here. This is the first time the materials have been posted meaningfully in advance, and it is nice to be able to review them.)

There appears to be consensus on restriping existing bridge decks to add an additional auto travel lane at the cost of sidewalk on Marion and sidepath on Center bridges. The sidewalk on the Marion Street Bridge is so narrow, even though some people do use it, it's hard to see many really feeling much of a loss. The sidepath on the Center Street Bridge is a different matter, and though the Union Street RR Bridge has better air and better views, the Center Street Bridge is a more direct connection to Wallace and Edgewater, and speedy cyclists often prefer that. But if the crossing of Wallace along the Second Street alignment is a part of the package and trade-off for closing the sidepath, the loss of the Center Street sidepath is defensible.

Eliminate sidepath for new auto travel lane

Eliminate sidewalk for new auto travel lane
There are new proposals (or maybe just variations on previous proposals, depending on how you look at it) to widen Front Street and Commercial in downtown along with two key intersections.

Widen Front and Commercial near Division

Widen Front at Trade
Here also the walking environment suffers. This is at the new UGM Shelter and new Police Station on the north and the Nursing Home facility and Conference Center's Sculpture Garden on the south. These are places and intersections we'd like to be more walkable, but these plans commit instead to more zoomy autoism.

There's supposed to be a little plaza on the corner
at the Nursing Home and kitty-corner from the Sculpture Garden
Two deletions were especially interesting.

ODOT judged that a reversible lane on the Marion St. Bridge was impossible, and that "solution package" was deleted. The presentation does not offer much detail on the analysis. It would be interesting to learn more about why this scored so poorly.

Marine Drive also scored very poorly, and the surviving recommendations all involve widening Wallace Road instead.

Winner: Marion St Bridge Package #4, with Wallace

Winner: Center St Bridge Package #1 (bottleneck details above)
At the end of the presentation the consultant team has made a recommendation for a pair of solution packages with an estimated cost of $155 - $180 million. That's about one third of the estimated cost of the SRC. That's real savings. But it's also still really expensive!

One third of a bridge! (Project team circled the preferred pair)
So I guess that's progress, but the "additional recommendations" slide, which is buried as a footnote and set of auxillary measures, really seems like it should be more of the main dish and for the near-term. It focuses a little more on managing demand and on creating more options, though still stops short of proposing we investigate decongestion pricing. (However unpopular, paid parking is a key!) Hopefully the Task Force will call for more serious impetus behind these measures also.

This is the most useful part!
The Task Force meets Friday the 20th at 7am in Public Works, 3rd Floor, City Hall.

(For previous notes on the Congestion Task Force see here.)


MikeSlater said...

I think the Convention Center's "sculpture garden" is slated for removal in order to expand the building. It was a terrible space anyway.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That's interesting about the expansion! Do you know more? That corner has long been of interest. (Here's an old note on the Urban Land Institutes recommendations for a walkable connection, a very brief note about the brewery that used to be there, one of many notes about the path connection along the creek, which gains importance as the intersection is widened, and a recent note about the new sculpture installation and the garden's deadness.)

Anonymous said...

You mean "congestion pricing", not "decongestion"

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Nope! "Decongestion pricing" stet.

What is it we are purchasing? We are purchasing decongestion. The pricing is like a decongestant we might purchase at a drug store. The Rx for congestion is decongestion pricing!

(Will add more later if it's still unclear.)

Anonymous said...

And if you look further at the report, these $155 to $180 million improvements will only gain ten years of some improvement. After 10 years, congestion will be worse than what we have today. It will take a few years to build these improvements, and ten years to get another bridge built. What makes more economic sense, throw $180 million for a short term gain, or use that money toward a new crossing that will provide a long term solution.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Re: "use that money toward a new crossing that will provide a long term solution."

Alas, this is very much mistaken and an article of faith only. A new crossing provides no such long term solution. A new crossing induces more drive-alone trips, more congestion, and more greenhouse gas emissions.

We need demand-side solutions and better non-auto mobility, not supply-side increases for more drive-alone trips. Decongestion pricing is the best solution!

Anonymous said...

You need to face reality. People are not going to give up their cars and ride their bikes..especially in the winter. And the transportation system in Salem is a joke. A new crossing will redirect traffic from downtown and free up the congestion that is occurring there.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Ok, here's some reality. These are comments from a press release by the biggest highway lobby in America from an annual conference:

'Roger Millar, secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation... explained during the keynote speech at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2018 Joint Policy Committee meeting in Spokane, Washington, on July 18....

Millar – who serves as the chair of AASHTO's special committee on freight – noted that building more highway capacity to solve congestion issues "isn't the answer"....

Millar said WSDOT is "looking for a path forward in congested world" to find ways to "advance next generation transportation investments so we are stewards of system and not just the builder of projects."

He said one technology, like express toll lanes, is helping WSDOT "better manage our concrete; we can move 30 percent more people via the same pavement with express toll lanes. So we must consider that before expanding the highway."

Millar pointed out that managing demand on the system is the key. "Our biggest source of capacity in the system is reducing demand; getting more people to telework, travel at off-peak hours, and by making off-system travel improvements such as adding bike lanes changes demand on system," he explained. "That way we add capacity but only where it makes sense"....

Anonymous said...

That is all pie in the sky wishful thinking. They have been talking about alternatives for years, and no one wants to or has the ability to adopt them. Between the state and schools, those are the biggest users of the roads. The State of Oregon is going to adjust their work hours, they are there to serve the public during business hours. I don't see schools adjusting their hours. Until everyone has a flying car, people will be driving. Salem is expected to have another 100,000 people arrive in the next ten years. Our roads can't handle what we have now, let alone in ten years. I see they mentioned toll lanes, which everyone is against, but it will happen and people will still continue to drive. The bridge will come, whether you like it or not.