Salem don't need no damn billion dollar Third Bridge boondoggle. That's one way of putting it.
Another way is, The Salem River Crossing project has been marked by poor planning that failed to properly consider much less expensive and more environmentally-friendly alternatives to achieving the purported benefits of an additional bridge across the Willamette.
Regardless, recent land use actions by the City of Salem in support of the Third Bridge by expanding Salem's urban growth boundary are being appealed by opponents of the Third Bridge to the Land Use Board of Appeals, LUBA. Thumbs up!
Here's their press release.
December 30, 2016
Robert Cortright, Co-Petitioner
City of Salem Land Use Actions on the Third Bridge Appealed to LUBA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Salem, Oregon – On December 30th, a group of Salem area residents filed an appeal of the City of Salem's urban growth boundary (UGB) expansion to construct a third Willamette River bridge to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). On December 5th the Salem City Council, on a 5 - 2 vote, approved an ordinance to expand the UGB for the path of the so-called Salem River Crossing and to add it to the City's Transportation System Plan and Comprehensive Plan.
The eight co-petitioners are asking LUBA to reverse or remand the Council's decision.
"We're appealing the City's decision to expand the UGB for a third bridge because its a bad idea for Salem and because it violates local plans and state planning rules," said Robert Cortright, the group's spokesperson. "It's a bad idea because it's an expensive, unaffordable project that won't reduce traffic congestion and will destroy homes and businesses."
The appellants are a diverse group of Salem area citizens who are deeply concerned about impacts of the proposed third bridge on our community and its future. All of them have testified against the project. The group includes Sara Deumling, a Polk County business owner, Jim Scheppke, a leader of the "No Third Bridge" group, Linda and Gary Wallmark who have been active in 350 Salem, and Linda and Ken Bierly who have been active in the West Salem Neighborhood Association. Two of the appellants, Robert Cortright and Doug Parrow, served on the Salem River Crossing Task Force that studied different bridge crossing options between 2006 and 2012.
The LUBA appeal will contend that the City's actions violate state planning laws because they failed to consider all alternatives to address peak hour traffic congestion problems. To justify a UGB expansion, local and state planning rules require that the City show a new bridge is the only reasonable way to meet future transportation needs. But the City's own plans and studies show that widening the existing bridges in combination with other actions, like expanding transit service and staggering work hours for state employees, would work as well in reducing congestion — and at a cost that would be hundreds of millions of dollars less than a third bridge.
And here's the initial LUBA filing, a Notice of Intent to Appeal.
Download 2016-12-28 Notice of Intent to Appeal for Filing
This is excellent news, because the billion dollar Third Bridge is a terrible idea.
It would do very little to relieve rush hour congestion between downtown and West Salem. Retrofitting the two existing bridges to make them earthquake-ready, along with improving the approaches to the current bridges, would cost hugely less and bring even more benefits.
Hopefully City officials and Chamber of Commerce types who have been mindlessly boosting this boondoggle soon will be confronted with the stark reality of the LUBA appeal. They've been able to ignore valid citizen arguments against a Third Bridge through various bureaucratic and political methods.
LUBA is a whole different animal. I've got some experience with a LUBA appeal, since my wife and I led our neighborhood's fight against a nearby proposed subdivision. LUBA didn't rule in our favor to the degree that we hoped, though we later won in Circuit Court.
However, I came away impressed with the quality of those who serve on the Land Use Board of Appeals. They know their stuff and can't be easily swayed by spurious arguments.
More good news: Robert Cortright is one of the leaders of the appeal, which is being handled by the John Gear law office. I met Cortright at a February 2016 City Council meeting and mentioned him in a blog post, "Why the unbuilt Third Bridge boondoggle is hurting Salem."
In the "possibly illegal" part of my testimony, I referred to a knowledgeable source about federal and state regulations regarding early acquisitions of right of way. He was anonymous, because I'd never met him and didn't have permission to use his name -- just his thoughts, which came to me from a go-between.
I enjoyed the secretive Deep Throat vibe of this. Well, until I got back to my seat after testifying, felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned around to find a guy saying to me, "Hi, I'm Bob Cortright."
Who soon thereafter went to the podium himself and spoke about what I'd said he'd said, in a considerably clearer and more convincing way. Understandably, since Cortright spent 30 years working for Oregon's Department of Land Conservation and Development, where he was the Transportation Planning Coordinator.
He gave me a copy of his testimony. I believe it was instrumental in causing the City Council to give a thumbs-down to buying the 3rd Bridge right of way property.
It's impossible to predict how LUBA will rule on this appeal. But no matter the outcome, the citizens of Salem are winners. This is the first round in what could be a lengthy legal battle aimed at stopping the Third Bridge craziness.
The sane thing for the Salem City Council to do would be to end support for the Third Bridge and shift city resources to implementing cheaper and more effective alternatives.
Mayor-elect Chuck Bennett has been a supporter of the Third Bridge. We can only hope that he will take a fresh look at the facts and vote to pull the plug on this massive waste of taxpayer money.