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December 11, 2014


One must adjust to changing circumstances. The offer of "maybe $50 million in state and federal funding" suggests that there may now be an unavoidable recognition that the proposed span actually is intended to serve the State and might become a relevant piece of the federal highway system. It also suggests that these dollars are, in fact, extractable. Even more informative, one can now see that the locals have simply been able to convince the others that they need some backup. Believe me, Brian - they are not high (a little drunk with power maybe). We need to take a lesson from the Courthouse Square building semi-fiasco. When certain individuals proposed that the building be razed and replaced, cooler heads stepped in and developed and instituted a plan for fixing what was wrong in an affordable way. This was a success. The current bridges need to be seismically updated and the launch pads and connecting streets need to be updated. If those who are dangling the $50 million dollar carrot really cared about the welfare of the locals (while keeping in mind the needs of the state and the federal government), then they would see to it that those funds would be appropriated and properly utilized.

Kurt, I believe my understanding of the $50 million is correct, but I might be wrong in some details. The federal $45 million wouldn't be new money. It would come from fed transportation funding already being allocated each year to the multi-county region Salem is a part of.

The Oversight Team member describing this possibility said agreements would have to be worked out with the other counties/cities in a "we scratched your back, not you scratch ours" sort of way in a multi-year funding deal.

Meaning, Salem-area officials supported your desire for a transportation project; now you support ours. So the $50 million in federal funds would come out of a pot of money that wouldn't be available for other needs/projects. It isn't new money.

However, Dan Clem's big dream is that the Oregon legislature will appropriate $150 million for the Third Bridge project. This seems wildly unlikely, given how many other pressing needs the state has.

Funding an unneeded Third Bridge should be way down the list of state transportation priorities. Stopping vital current bridges from being destroyed in the Big One earthquake should be a much higher priority.

I think a third bridge is needed. All you have to do is observe the horrendous traffic build-up on both the Center St and Marion St bridges during commute times.
I drive both bridges on a daily basis. On the way to work in Dallas, I see traffic backed up on Wallace Road NW, trying to get onto the Center St. bridge. At night the traffic on Marion St bridge is stacked up.
The non-bridge people aren't taking into consideration future growth in Salem. There is no way to widen either of the two exisiting bridges going into and out of downtown. The new bridge does not need to be fancy, just functional and planned to accomodate future traffic. Look at Kuebler Road SE! When it was built with only one lane each way. Look how quickly it became necessary to add additional lanes. It could have been built for the future the first time, not expensively afterwards. Some one is always going to be affected when it comes to new road, bridge or freeway building. THat's life. Get over it.
We need another bridge. Actually one North and one South to accomodate Salem's growth. This wrangling over a new bridge has been going on far longer than it should. Build the damn thing and be done with it.

Bruce, here's a few things for you to consider.

(1) I asked a CH2M-Hill staff person (his firm is in charge of bridge design) if the eight lanes on the current bridges were enough to handle the traffic across them. Yes, he told me. So, I said, the problem is with the approaches/bridgeheads, right? Yes, he said. And the approaches could be improved for tens of millions of dollars, rather than the hundreds of millions a new bridge would cost, right?

That's when he stopped speaking. The truth is evident. Yes, there are a few hours of congestion a day on the current bridges. This could be resolved in various much less expensive ways. There is no need for a billion dollar (counting financing costs) Third Bridge.

(2) Regarding future growth: traffic counts are steady on the current bridges. People are driving less. Younger people, especially, are attracted to urban mixed used areas where a car is minimally needed, if at all. Suburbs are going out of style. The Third Bridge is a 1950s solution that won't work in today's world.

(3) Having followed this issue pretty closely, it is evident that alleviating congestion between West Salem and downtown isn't much of a goal for the Third Bridge planners. This is mostly intended to be a regional bridge that speeds traffic through Salem between I-5 and Hwy 22.

But people in the Salem area are going to be expected to pay for most of the bridge, even if they don't benefit from it. If only those driving across the new bridge paid for it, this would cost them $20 each way. Repeat: twenty dollars! Would you be willing to pay $20 to use the new bridge to get to or from downtown? Each way?

That would be the fair toll price. Why should taxes be raised on everybody in Salem to pay for an unneeded Third Bridge that will only benefit a few? I haven't heard a good answer to that question. I doubt I ever will.

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