Whether or not you believe Salem needs to spend more than $400 million on another bridge across the Willamette River, this CCTV interview between Ken Adams and Bob Cortright will help you understand what's going on with the Salem River Crossing project.
Sure, I know a 26 minute video can seem like eternity in these days of 30-second social media attention spans. But Adams and Cortright do a great job of digging into some details that everybody in Salem should know about.
I jotted down some notes as I watched the video while eating breakfast this morning. Here's ten things that struck me.
(1) Last December's Salem City Council vote to expand the urban growth boundary to include a bridgehead in West Salem now is null and void following a legal decision by Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).
(2) So at the moment there's no way the Salem River Crossing (a.k.a. Third Bridge) can move forward. LUBA remanded, or sent back, the urban growth boundary expansion to the City Council because there were three errors in the December 2016 vote to approve the expansion.
(3) The errors may seem small, but they loom large, because the City Council has a different membership now. Five of the nine current members are on record as opposing a Third Bridge. If they don't approve fixes to the legal errors found by LUBA, the Third Bridge is dead in the water. Or rather, dead over the water.
(4) Now is the time to ask fundamental questions about whether a half-billion dollar bridge is the best way to deal with traffic problems between West and East Salem. There are much less expensive ways to reduce rush hour congestion, and they can be done much more quickly.
(5) For example, the bridgeheads -- approaches and exits -- can be modified. Timing of traffic lights can be adjusted. The eastbound offramp on the Center Street bridge could be revamped so there is a direct stop-free way to head north toward Front Street and the Salem Parkway.
(6) The state legislature has allocated money to seismically retrofit the Center Street bridge so it will withstand a major earthquake. By contrast, the proposed Third Bridge north of downtown is in an earthquake liquefaction zone. Meaning, there isn't evidence that the half-billion dollar bridge could remain standing when the Big One earthquake hits.
(7) Marine Drive needs to be built in West Salem. Roughly parallel to Wallace Road, Marine Drive would do a lot to reduce congestion on Wallace Road that contributes to rush hour bridge backups.
(8) The $425 million estimated cost of the Third Bridge -- which mostly would be paid by $1.50 each way tolls on both the new and existing bridges -- doesn't include paying for a replacement of the Rosemont exit that would be done away with by Third Bridge construction.
(9) ODOT, the Oregon Department of Transportation, is notoriously bad at estimating construction costs. So it is very likely that the actual cost of a Third Bridge would approach a billion dollars, once financing costs are included.
(10) It is well known that rarely, if ever, is it possible to build one's way out of a traffic congestion problem by adding capacity. The phenomenon known as "induced demand" almost always prevents this: when there is more capacity for vehicles, people drive more, thereby soon producing the same amount of congestion as before.