Friday, February 28, 2020

Detours and Closures on Liberty, Division, and Commercial for Police Station this Spring

The front page today has a great shot of the charlie foxtrot on Commercial at Front and Division. It was a terrific idea to send the photographer to the top of the new Police Station.

Great image of the charlie foxtrot on Commercial
at Front and Division - front page today
The photo supported a longish piece on the street closures and changes coming to the area because of the new station. It was nice also to read more reporting than merely churning the City's press release.

Street closures - via City of Salem
Here's the City's release:
Beginning Monday, March 2, 2020, Liberty Street NE between Division Street NE and the Mill Creek bridge will be temporarily closed to all through traffic. The northbound lane on Liberty Street NE will re-open in early April. Pedestrians and motorists are asked to use caution and plan for some delays as traffic is re-routed toward High Street NE and Commercial Street NE.

This street closure is necessary for the construction of streetscape and pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements adjacent to the new Salem Police Station. Additional street closures along Liberty Street and Division Street will occur in phases through June 2020 as follows:
  • Division Street NE and Liberty Street NE intersection (closed late March through early April),
  • Division Street NE and southbound Liberty Street NE between Division Street NE and the Mill Creek bridge (closed late March through early June).
This construction will change the streets and traffic signals to improve access and traffic circulation in the area. The work will provide additional on-street parking, landscaping, street lighting, sidewalks, and stormwater improvements.

Street closure dates will be posted on digital signs in the project area prior to the closures.
The paper adds additional detail - but mainly oriented to drivers:
When completed, Division Street will become a two-way street between Commercial and High streets NE.

Crews will widen Division in front of the police station to provide 31 angled parking spaces on the sides of the street, which will be available to visitors. Parking behind the station will be reserved for employees.

A traffic signal will be added to the Division and Liberty streets intersection to control the two-way traffic.

The signal at Commercial and Division will be modified to allow for easy access to the police station and relieve congestion for people traveling south on Commercial....

Commuters heading north on Front Street NE will be able to turn right onto Division to access the police station without having to navigate all the way around the block, said city senior project manager Luke Gmazel.

Drivers will no longer be able to turn left onto Commercial from Division to head south.

Instead, Liberty will become a two-way street down to the Marion Street intersection, which will allow commuters to access the bridge by turning right onto Marion.

A new signal will be added to the existing ones at the Marion and Liberty streets intersection to accommodate the change....

Additionally, city engineers are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation to make improvements to an existing crosswalk at Commercial near Division to straighten it out and “enhance pedestrian access” in the area, Gmazel said.
Still, even with the longer article, there remain questions.

Regarding that last paragraph, you can see from the top photo that if you were at the Police Station and wanted to cross to the new UGM facility, you'd have to take on five crosswalk segments rather than one or two. They could hardly make it worse, and nearly anything would be some kind of improvement.

I hate the rhetoric of "enhancement," though. This is basic remediation and correction. The City and State totally effed up the intersection for people on bike and on foot, and it is a kind of fake news to spin it as enhancement. This is a symptom of our general disregard for non-auto travel. What should be baseline expectations get spun up as enhancements and we are supposed to be grateful. That's BS.

More generally, the release and subsequent news coverage is essentially autoist. They talk about new sidewalks and bike lanes, but do not drill into details on ways the connections or experience will be improved.

Since the debate over street trees from a year ago, the City has not published any updated plans. Here are notes on a one-block segment of Liberty between Marion and Division.

The two-way concept here is for cars, not bikes
While the City hyped new bike lanes, the lanes blinked in-and-out of existence, and were not meaningfully connected to any wider network. They were "widows and orphans" in a way.

It will be interesting to see if they have improved them, or if they will remain largely Potemkin facilities.

People drove trucks and cars from Front St into the car dealership,
crashing in/over/on the bike lane as they turned too fast.
Now a new right-hook hazard will be introduced.
(From the chicken crash in 2013.)
Going north on Front Street, drivers "will be able to turn right onto Division to access the police station." But what about people biking north on Front Street in the right-hand bike lane? Allowing a driver to turn right adds a right-hook hazard to an intersection that is already very messed up. (Remember the crash with chickens?) Right-turns on swoops at McGilchrist SE from northbound 12th, at Superior SE from northbound Liberty, at the 12th Street cutoff from northbound Commercial are among the most uncomfortable moments in Salem on bike. This new right turn on the Front Street swoop will be a detail to watch.

The street closure and detour notice also lacks specific information for people traveling on foot or on bike.
Pedestrians and motorists are asked to use caution and plan for some delays...
Detours of a few blocks operate differently for those on foot and represent much greater delay. Union Street is an important east-west corridor, and it's not clear how the Liberty Street closure will affect any east-west travel on Union Street. The City's notice should have included separate detail on detours for those traveling on foot or on bike. Just to say be ready for delay is not very helpful.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the public needs more information about the changes to Liberty. You should do a public information request to get (and post) the approved cross-sections for Liberty.

Mike said...

Put a traffic circle there and narrow the streets

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I swear an early concept did have a traffic circle at Division and Liberty. But the treatment for Division and Commercial was always very hazy.