Saturday, October 12, 2019

City Council, October 14th - McGilchrist Street and Councilor Cook's Replacement

Though the interviews aren't until next week on the 21st, the preview of candidates to fill Councilor Cook's term after her resignation is the most interesting thing on Council's agenda for Monday. Council also looks to initiate the first real steps on the McGilchrist project.

McGilchrist at the SSA Office:
40mph, no sidewalks - but watch out for pedestrians!
The full slate of candidate applications is published, but the Council subcommittee has recommended three finalists. And while Vanessa Nordyke has seemed to have got a lot of early interest, Bonnie Heitsch is the more interesting candidate. The third candidate has a much thinner application, their interests are less consistent with Councilor Cook's, and it seems like some degree of continuity is a desideratum. If that it true, it seems likely Council will select one of Nordyke or Heitsch.

Of the two Nordyke, who is a lawyer, is younger and gives less specific policy direction:
How can we incentivize renewable energy, green spaces, tree canopy, walkable neighborhoods and affordable housing while still being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars? Are we incentivizing employers to allow one-day-a-week reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions?
Heitsch, on the other hand, is very near retirement, and ready for more civic engagement. You may recall her advocacy for a path connection through Pioneer Cemetery. She even appealed a City decision to LUBA. (More here in 2011 and 2012.)

Heitsch also lawyered for ODOT, and therefore had to defend objectionable policies and plans, including I think the SRC. In her application, she highlights transportation and planning as "important issues," but does not focus on highway and arterial expansion, and offers more specific ideas than Nordyke:
Providing transportation alternatives including improved transit and improving walking connections and reconsideration of some land use patterns. I am pleased to see that Salem Transit has restored Saturday and evening bus service with the enactment of the payroll tax. But additional planning actions may be able to support options to walk and bike to essential services and destinations. School children should be able to walk safely to their neighborhood school and parks. And selfishly, as a soon to be Senior citizen, my car may not always be an option for me and I would like to develop the transportation support for me and others for our future. [she also mentions climate disruption]
Her record is more complicated, but in an interesting way, and as older she is also more seasoned. She also bikes. In the end probably either one would be good, and it will be interesting to see how Council approaches the interviews and then decides.

Other Items

There's a laundry list of properties for the McGilchrist project, and the City proposes to
Adopt Resolution Nos. 2019-28 through 2019-77, declaring a public need to acquire; the City of Salem’s intent to negotiate; and if necessary, authorize the City Attorney to commence eminent domain proceedings for the acquisition of right-of-way and easements for the McGilchrist Street SE Corridor Improvement Project
The property needs at 22nd are especially big
The bites at 22nd Street are especially big, and they will impact businesses, so it will be interesting to learn who is affected and might need to relocated. You can also see the way the proposed alignment will straighten out the intersection and make it more zoomy.

McGilchrist needs sidewalks and bike lanes (see image at top, and all posts here), and it may need a center turn pocket for freight and turning, but if we design it to maintain 40mph speeds, we will cancel at least some of the safety benefits for people. I am not confident yet the City is truly approaching this for real multi-modality. Mostly it looks autoist with a veneer for non-auto movement. There is more the City can do to adopt 21st century design standards, and not merely add bike lanes and sidewalks in a legacy 1980s mode.

On the agenda there are several other information items on development approvals, but they did not seem interesting. Maybe others will discern more.


Unknown said...

Thank you for providing information on the McGilchrist project. It is massive, and it does appear to give short shrift to bike and ped use. A recent, very tragic fatality occurred on the street recently, when someone pulled out in front of a motorcycle. The young man on the cycle was a long time employee of one of the businesses located on McGilchrist. There seems to be nothing to improve safety. The project seems to do violence to many small businesses. There is no question that something needs to be done about the street that has increasing traffic levels. I hope people pay attention to this project.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I forgot about that crash. Thanks for highlighting it here.

Here's a brief description adapted from the police release and newspaper rewrite:

On August 22nd at about 7am, Margaret Foresee was traveling westbound in a Jeep Wrangler on McGilchrist and turned left onto 19th Street SE. She turned in front of and hit Todd Dowty, who was traveling east on McGilchrist by motorcycle. Dowty died at the scene.

Foresee was taken to the hospital for "evaluation" and was "ccoperating" with the investigation. No additional details have been made public.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I grew up in the area of 22nd and McGilchrist from 1953 to 1972. That area was always dangerous, but since they put the street through it is super difficult to navigate even by car let alone bike or walking. It needs major upgrades. I do not think the existing residential area will last too much longer as it is surrounded by businesses. It is in a flood plain and flooded many times during the time I lived there, so it probably should never have been a residential area.

I see this proposed bypass as similar to the one at Market and 45th and Swegle Road. I had to navigate that realignment as it is in the center of where I lived for 30 years and am the Neighborhood Association chairperson...then and now. While the project there had the advantage of gradually acquiring the property over about 15 years, it was disruptive of quite a few homes. However, in the end it has been a net benefit to the area. By adding sidewalks, bike lanes and addressing drainage issues it moved people out of the way of cars. The traffic light was essential to provide safety to everyone. It was expensive, but worth the cost.

As the McGilchrist area expands it is clear that more intersections will be needed and at some point there needs to be at least 3 lanes, one in each direction and a center turn lane.

It might become more 'zoomy' as you suggest, but the better design should help with keeping people away from the cars who are already too 'zoomy.'

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

re: "I do not think the existing residential area will last too much longer as it is surrounded by businesses."

There is mixed evidence on this. See in particular Chapter 12 of the NEN-SESNA Neighborhood Plan (2015).

Action A20.2: Prior to expanding the Urban Growth Boundary, the City should consider rezoning the northern portion of the McGilchrist Street area to allow residential or mixed-use development.

As for design standards, see the end of this note for more discussion and detail of ways the current concept falls short of best 21st century design standards.

A previous commenter a few months back was persuasive that there will be benefits to making 22nd better aligned for through travel, though 23rd is the street designated in the TSP for bike travel, not 22nd; but it is speed on McGilchrist that really seems like the problem, and the current design concept doesn't do enough on McGilchrist itself.

Anonymous said...

Salem Reporter says Heitsch withdrew -

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the news about Heitsch. Salem Reporter also has a brief questionnaire, with questions about a Climate Action Plan and the SRC (which seems a little clickbaity, to be honest, since that is now settled), "Salem City Council finalists share thoughts on homelessness, third bridge, city budget."

Sund is No on Climate Action Plan and Yes on SRC.

Nordyke is Yes on Climate Action Plan, No on SRC. She says, "The SRC has been decided. Right now, we can use our limited transportation dollars to ensure children get to school safely, people can walk and bike in their neighborhood safely, and we maintain the infrastructure we have now." That's a good answer!