Friday, November 15, 2019

Revisiting Marine Drive and West Salem Loop Concept After the SRC

While the SRC remained active, Marine Drive seemed like a dangerous Trojan Horse, a way to smuggle in just enough of the bridge package to make that bridge and highway inevitable.

Now that the Record of Decision is for no-build, and the MPO is reverting Marine Drive from some kind of arterial back to a collector-rated street in their plans, it may be time for a reassessment.

I'm not sure I am at all very enthusiastic about Marine Drive, and I think its helpful qualities are still being oversold, but it may be more reasonable to be neutral on it rather than strongly opposed. And there are still questions about how it fits the edges of Wallace Marine Park. But it could also helpfully connect missing middle houing, or bigger apartment blocks, in a configuration that works well with the Union Street Bridge and walking, biking, or busing in low-car lifestyles.

At the same time, proponents of a trail system in West Salem are making the rounds, and that idea, which piggybacks on the Marine Drive right-of-way, may deserve reassessment too.

Marine Drive, power line ROW, Edgewater
(via Facebook)
Still, for all the reasons in "The Prospect of more Biking on Paths in Salem" I remain doubtful about too much emphasis on paths.
  • Pushing bikes onto paths is bad for people on foot, especially who like to stroll and saunter. I don't think people who advocate for paths and use both walking and biking as arguments for them think enough about walking itself.
  • Paths are often isolated, attract camping, and do not function well in winter when commute times are still in the dark. Paths like the Springwater in Portland are increasingly regarded as unsafe. "This incident will likely convince even more people that bicycling on the Springwater is simply too scary and dangerous to justify." At 5pm or 6pm in Wintertime, would an unlit trail on Marine Drive really function as an alternate to Wallace Road for people commuting on bike?
  • Path systems become an easy answers for drivers, who advocate for getting bikes out of their way rather than accommodating people where they want to go, which is often on a busy street. Off-street paths are legitimate recreational facilities, but they get oversold as alternatives to facilities in the road right-of-way. The primary alternative to bad curbside bike lanes are protected bike lanes and slower streets, not "safe, quiet, natural environments," as some have argued. Paths are like skybridges, ways to get people out of the way so drivers can zoom.
Until we have a stronger commitment to making better roads and to more abundant housing in the full range of prices, paths too often contribute a way to avoid facing problems square on.

Congestion and petty crime on the Springwater Corridor
via KOIN
There are some additional questions about DIY path building.
  • Volunteer path building is great, but at what point does maintenance by volunteer become unsustainable? Each new path segment adds to the total maintenance obligation, and at some point the cadre of committed volunteers is likely to be too small.
  • Bark trails aren't best for utility cycling and commuting, especially in the rainy season. Again, the actual usefulness of soft trails for people biking is oversold.
Even so, the West Salem Loop concept corresponds broadly to concepts already in our 2013 Parks Master Plan, and it is unreasonable to just oppose it.

Linear Parks and Connector Trails
(2013 Parks Master Plan)
Current plans for CT 4, CT 18, CT 20 fit with the Loop concept
(from Table 6.2 in 2013 Parks Master Plan)
In the end, it is a matter of priority. Supporting better paths should be a both/and, but they should be in a secondary position, supported after we have a commitment to doing better with on-street facilities. A path system should offer additional choices, not forced to be the main choice because we refuse to change our streets for the 21st century.

via Twitter

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

As a West Salem resident I can't help feeling that there are much better uses of any money laying around for streets, it would not be a new Marine Drive. We need to upgrade such streets as Cascade which provides and essential north-south connection between Orchard Heights-Glen Creek-Rosemont. This would ease the stress on Wallace Road. Right now it is narrow and lacks sidewalks. I hope some sense can be brought back to real needs and away from appeasing the bridge folk!