Today the Salem Statesman Journal editorial page did what it does best: parrot Chamber of Commerce and City of Salem talking points without bothering about the facts of an important policy decision.
Here's what editorial page editor Dick Hughes, most likely, said about the bridge in a Winners and Losers piece.
LOSER: Continued opposition to a "third bridge" in Salem. Another Willamette River bridge is decades overdue to help connect businesses and commuters in Polk, Yamhill and other rural counties with Interstate 5. If Salem wants to improve the livability of downtown, it has to get heavy trucks and other drive-through traffic out of the city center.
Opponents continued their circular arguments at Tuesday's Salem City Council meeting: Don't plan for a bridge until the money is available to build it.
Environmental studies and designs must be conducted in order to know the cost and to determine what federal and state financing is available.
It's disappointing that some opponents have never talked with city staff or other officials involved to get accurate information on how the bridge would affect their neighborhood.
Pleasingly, the No 3rd Bridge folks easily demolished the simplistic and inaccurate Statesman Journal editorializing via a pithy comment. So did a couple of other folks. I added a comment of my own.
"If Salem wants to improve the livability of downtown, it has to get heavy trucks and other drive-through traffic out of the city center."
The adopted "Purpose and Need" statement for the 3rd Bridge indicates that trucks make up only 4% of the traffic on the existing bridges. That's hardly a threat to the livability of downtown. Our downtown is threatened by any plan to build a bypass that would divert traffic away from downtown which, in the Salem Comprehensive Plan, is designated as the commercial center of Salem.
"Opponents continued their circular arguments at Tuesday's Salem City Council meeting: Don't plan for a bridge until the money is available to build it."
Look up the definition of "circular argument." This is not one. The State of Oregon wasted $200 million on planning for the Columbia River Crossing in Portland before there was a viable funding plan in place. The Salem City Council and other local governments are making the same mistake by spending millions to plan the Salem River Crossing before there is a viable funding plan in place. It is clear that little or no state and federal money will be available for this project. Until there is an indication that Salem residents would be willing to raise their property taxes or pay tolls to use the Marion and Center Street bridges to pay for a 3rd Bridge, we need to quit wasting millions to plan it.
"Environmental studies and designs must be conducted in order to know the cost and to determine what federal and state financing is available."
The official ODOT FAQ says this about funding: "Will the state and federal government pay for this project? No. The federal government will likely pay for only a portion of the project and the state government may not pay for any of it. A significant amount of local funds will be needed to make up the difference." It is a myth that the cost of a 3rd Bridge will not have to be borne by Salem taxpayers at a cost of hundreds of dollars a year for the average resident. Your comment helps perpetuate that myth.
"It's disappointing that some opponents have never talked with city staff or other officials involved to get accurate information on how the bridge would affect their neighborhood."
Where do you get your information? From Councilor Tesler? NO 3rd Bridge is in frequent communication with both ODOT and City staff about the 3rd Bridge. You should check the facts before you repeat hearsay.
Along these lines, why has the SJ Editorial Board never sat down with the leaders of NO 3rd Bridge to hear our arguments about why we should not be planning a 3rd Bridge. Don't you have a responsibility to do that before branding us as "losers."
Let's look at this, current traffic from Polk County heading to northbound I-5 typically will exit Center Street bridge onto Front Street. Traffic in the reverse direction typically will get to the intersection of Commercial Street and Marion Street & make a right hand turn. How can either of these be construed as the "city center?"
lt should be pretty obvious that "heavy trucks and drive-through traffic" that are going to & from I-5 to points south will not be using this proposed 3rd bridge.
Seems our City Council is bent on throwing good money after bad. One of the "Salem Alternative" goals is to close the Rosement exit/entrance from Hwy 22 & move it to Eola Drive. Even though they propose to close this exit, they just completed the reconfiguration of the Rosement/Edgewater intersection. lf they truly want to close this exit, then the several thousands dollars spent on that intersection, at this time, was just a waste. Recent word from ODOT is to simply eliminate Rosement from the picture without hooking up Eola.
The real "loser" here is the Statesman-Journal for mindlessly parroting the bogus talking points (of Chamber of Commerce?), without any investigation, or any contact with those that oppose this boondoggle. l challenge the SJ to actually investigate the issue---starting with looking into the actual traffic counts, both past & current, as well as future projections. However, l will not be holding my breath awaiting the SJ to do so. (Actually the second "loser" is the taxpayers whose money is being thrown down this bottomless pit.)
The real "winner" in this debacle is CH2M Hill, a former Oregon engineering firm that has moved to Colorado.
The SJ editorial board has an unfortunate habit of expressing unfactual opinions that aren't backed up by sound reasoning or solid data. Kudos to NO 3rd Bridge for calling them out on the SJ errors in this piece regarding the horrific "Salem Alternative" bridge proposal.
It is indeed astounding that the editorial board has never met with opponents of the bridge and bothered to learn the many excellent reasons why this boondoggle should be put to rest ASAP rather than letting it continue to suck up taxpayer dollars when it clearly is the Bridge That's Going Nowhere.