There can't be many $700 million projects like Salem's Third Bridge, a.k.a. Salem River Crossing. At least, I sure hope there aren't.
Almost certainly it will get an OK to move forward at next Monday's City Council meeting, but nobody -- not even the most avid proponents -- can come up with a coherent reason for why another bridge across the Willamette is needed.
Case in point: would-be bridge builders have been saying that rush hour congestion between West Salem and downtown is a horrible problem. Ergo, we need a Third Bridge.
I guess No Third Bridge fact-based arguments have demolished that flimsy argument. Because today the City of Salem staff report issued in advance of the council meeting mentions nothing, zilch, nada, about traffic congestion being a reason for a new bridge.
A No Third Bridge post says:
STAFF RECOMMENDATION ON THE THIRD BRIDGE DOESN'T EVEN MENTION FIXING TRAFFIC CONGESTION
The staff recommendation for the City Council's deliberation on the 3rd Bridge Monday night is out. No surprises. The staff recommends the Salem Alternative.
Here are the benefits we would get from spending hundreds of millions on the Salem Alternative, according to the report:
"Provides regional mobility through its inclusion of ramps connecting Marine Drive NW and Highway 22, and direct surface street connections from the east bridge head to the Salem Parkway.
Improves Salem area street connectivity by providing residents with direct access between north and west Salem. By relocating the Highway 22 interchange at Rosemont Avenue NW to Eola Drive NW, west Salem residents will also be provided with direct access to the commercial districts of west Salem.
Improves cross-river bicycle and pedestrian access by providing for complete multi-modal facilities that will allow citizens in neighboring areas access to regional parks ,and commercial areas on both sides of the Willamette River. The Salem Alternative also seeks to maintain multi-modal connectivity for Front Street NE traffic."
Wait a minute. We thought to purpose of the Salem River Crossing Project, when it began seven years (and $6 million) ago was to solve the peak hour congestion problem in downtown Salem. The staff recommendation does not even mention congestion. What's going on?
Do you think these benefits justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a 3rd bridge? If the answer is NO, we hope to see you Monday night at the Salem City Council meeting.
This is ridiculous.
You'd think that $6 million in planning money would buy at least one excellent reason for spending $700 million or so on a Third Bridge. But no. Instead we get a bunch of minor flimsy reasons, which are supposed to add up to a near-billion-dollar One Good Reason.
Except, they don't. Each of the little reasons, if found to be worth addressing, could be attended to for hugely less money that a Third Bridge would cost. Like, earthquake-proofing the existing two bridges.
Here's another example of how the Third Bridge is staggering, not striding, toward Monday's City Council vote. The design of the so-called "Salem Alternative" option changed in just the past week. This design had been touted as featuring street-level on and off ramps, no freeway'ish elevated slabs of concrete, no way.
Except, it sure looks like... way. Snuck in at the last moment. Classic Bait and Switch sales technique.
BAD NEWS FOR HIGHLAND: THE SALEM ALTERNATIVE IS ALREADY MORPHING BACK INTO ALTERNATIVE 4D
Last week at the Highland Neighborhood Association meeting the City Council dog and pony show presented the version of the Salem Alternative on the left below, with "surface street approaches to the bridge" in the Highland neighborhood.
What a difference a week makes.
This week we have a new version where Pine Street becomes a one-way elevated off ramp from the bridge and quiet little residential Hickory Street becomes a one-way on ramp to the bridge from the Salem Parkway.
What more evidence do we need that the Salem Alternative is just a Trojan horse that will eventually give the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce what it really wants, an "OR 22 Connector" to move heavy freight traffic from Polk County to I-5 and casino-goers from I-5 to the coast?
The Salem Alternative has been touted as a potential economic boon to Highland. The reality is quite different. Highland is being sacrificed to the 3rd Bridge, just like the SESNA neighborhood was sacrificed to the Mission Street bridge a few decades ago.
Highland neighbors: Are you going to turn out in force on Monday night to tell the Salem City Council what you think of the Salem Alternative? Your neighborhood has the most to lose.