Saturday, March 28, 2020

Final Draft of 2021-2026 Project List in the TIP out for Comment: At the MPO

Draft 2021 Transportation Improvement Program Survey
The draft 2021-2026 Transportation Improvement Program is out and because of the "Stay Home" order, SKATS is collecting public comment in writing, especially electronically. They've published a storymap with explanatory material; a more traditional brochure; and a social media style comment map, which will accept likes and comments, but no downvotes. They are taking comment until May 17th.

But it's basically a charade - but not really in a dishonest way. The projects have already been through rounds of scoring and vetting, including solicitations for public comment, and what we see here is hardly a draft. It's baked, it's done. The emphasis is on final in "final draft." It would take an extraordinary amount of public comment to change something. Not just lots, but some kind of epic avalanche, including electeds. You'd have to show some kind of giant mistake.

I'm not really sure what is the point of making a big show about collecting public comment at this moment in the process. We're all just rubber-stamping at this point. This solicitation of comment now is a procedural requirement and formality, but there were previous moments for comment also. So it's a charade, yes, but not a malignant one.

The full project list, adapted from the brochure
Since the projects have already been scored and vetted, I do not have much to say now. Two important changes were made earlier: Projects 19 and 24 were originally submitted during the application phase for a big cross section with five total auto lanes; they were adjusted - right-sized! - during vetting and are now funded for an "interim 3-lane section." That's a substantial win.

No sidewalks on this part of Commercial Street - Project 13
One project that hasn't been talked about a lot (a little, yes) is for 25th and State, project 21. You might recall some talk at NEN about that a few years back. There are also some improved crosswalks on State Street in project 11. A notorious stretch of middle Commercial across from the former Safeway and now Wilco will get sidewalks in project 13.

I have concerns that project 23, the realignment of 22nd at McGilchrist, and the current design concepts for McGilchrist more generally, still will offer old-school 20th century bike lanes and sidewalks and will not modernize the street for non-auto travel sufficiently. At the same time, any sidewalks and bike lanes will be an improvement. The same is true for project 10, which will create bike lanes on a terrible gap on Commercial Street by the new Police Station and UGM shelter.

And that really is the dominant mood here. More could be done for non-auto travel and less could be done for congestion relief and flow. But on balance there are many incremental improvements here, the projects have been vetted and I do not see any that are so awful or boondoggular that they demand to be canceled.

Maybe the the I-5 project, $35 million for a new lane in South Salem, is the most objectionable, and it will be nice when we stop widening highways. But this is not the same as the I-5 Rose Quarter mess, and urban funds aren't being spent on it, so it's not like SKATS or the City of Salem has some oversight, and I'm not sure from where exactly to mount a critique - other than rising greenhouse gas emissions. (See notes here and here.)

But that's really a system problem rather than something particular to this one project. what we need is not new criticism or analysis of particular projects. What we need is a substantially new framework for evaluating all of them. That remains a ways off.

In the meantime, this slate of projects will be approved and funded, and we'll move on to the next round.

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I was glad to see that they decided to downsize the widening of Center Street east of Lancaster to just 3 lanes from the initial 5 lane proposal. There is a lot of development happening just beyond that section. Currently the project ends at 45th Avenue and right there a new subdivision will pick up some of the work with sewers and widening. Then a little beyond that there will be an apartment complex that will provide more width and sewer lines. Some is already done on the north side of the street. Hopefully, by the time this project is completed, there will be much less to complete the remainder of the road widening all the way to Cordon for the taxpayers to have to pay for.