It's easy to show why the Salem Chamber of Commerce's poll about a proposed third bridge across the Willamette River is as crappy as the whole idea of this unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for boondoggle.
Here's a quick question for you: "Would you like to have a new car?" Mentally press "1" for yes, "2" for no, "3" for no opinion.
I answered yes. Most people would. Why the heck not?
Of course I'd like to have a new car. I'd also like to have a new house, a new television, a new computer, and lots of other new things. I just don't want to pay for all of that stuff. But the question simply asked if I'd like a new car, not if I was willing and able to fork out $100,000 for a fancy Mercedes.
Likewise, the biased Chamber of Commerce telephone poll asked only one question:
Download Polling Results Third Bridge
"Do you support or oppose the construction of the third bridge across the Willamette River?"
No other information was given to the 474 registered voters in the Salem area who answered their phone and responded to this robopoll.
Likely most knew next to nothing about plans for a third bridge, since our local newspaper, the Statesman Journal, has had minimal coverage of this important issue. Even worse, my understanding is that neither the SJ news staff, nor the editorial board, has ever talked with the well-informed opponents of a third bridge -- No 3rd Bridge.
Because I have followed the issue closely, I know that the proposed bridge would cost at least $450 million; few if any state or federal funds are available to pay for it; so either a $1 toll of the new and existing bridges would be required for several decades, property taxes would go up by about $300 a year on an average house, or a local gas tax of 17 cents a gallon would have to be imposed.
Gee, I wonder why the Salem Chamber of Commerce didn't tell Action Solutions, a right-wing robopolling firm, to ask Salemians this question:
Do you support or oppose the construction of a third bridge across the Willamette River that would cost $450 million, displace 20 businesses and 40 homes, and require tolling of the new and current bridges or a large tax increase to pay for it?
Since this question wasn't asked, the poll is worthless. It's just one more example of how desperate the Chamber of the 1% is to push forward a third bridge plan which lacks a reason for being.
I've asked proponents of the bridge to give me One Good Reason it should be built. So far, I'm still waiting for a decent answer. Salem's Public Works Director, Peter Fernandez, whiffed big time when I asked him this question last year.
He said that redundancy and safety are why Salem needs more than one bridge.
Fernandez apparently didn't realize that we already have two bridges. If necessary, two-way traffic can flow on each. Plus, the current bridges can be seismically retrofitted and made safe in a major earthquake for way less money than the $450 million a new bridge would cost.
At last Wednesday's open house put on by Third Bridge planners, I asked an employee of a consulting firm to give me One Good Reason why the bridge is needed. He pointed to the east end of the current bridges and said "Because of congestion getting into and out of downtown Salem."
"Well," I responded, "the current bridges have as many lanes going each way as the I-5 freeway does. So obviously it isn't the bridges themselves that are the rush hour problem; it is the bridgeheads where people get off and on the bridges."
He agreed. I went on.
"Isn't it true that for much less money than the $450 million a new bridge would cost, traffic lights, off/on ramps and such could be reconfigured so vehicles could flow more smoothly across the current bridges, markedly reducing or even eliminating congestion? After all, traffic counts on the current bridges have been steady in recent years."
The consultant admitted this was true.
As we talked some more, he agreed that there wasn't a real need for a third bridge now. But there might be in 20 years. So even someone working for the consulting firm hired to plan the bridge admits a bridge isn't needed for decades.
And maybe never.
Because I told him that already people in Salem are driving less and walking/biking more. If this trend continues, and if our mass transit system improves (it could hardly be any worse, with no weekend bus service), the current bridges might be able to handle area traffic for a long, long time.
So it's crazy for the Chamber of Commerce to push so hard for a $450 million tax increase on area residents when there is no need for the third bridge product they're selling.
If the respondents to the robopoll they paid for last March had known the facts about the unwanted, unneeded, and unpaid-for bridge, I doubt very much 65% would have said "yes" to being asked to pay half a billion dollars for it.