Billion dollars, so what? Just trust us and pay the bill.
In a nutshell, that's how officials at the City of Salem are approaching the Billion Dollar Boondoggle, known also as the Salem River Crossing, Third Bridge, or Preferred Alternative.
They're rushing to get an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) expansion approved that's necessary for the proposed bridgeheads on either side of the Willamette.
There's a joint hearing tonight at the 55+ Center, 6 - 9 pm, to hear public testimony on the UGB expansion.
The Salem City Council, the Keizer City Council, the Marion County Commission and the Polk County Commission will hold a joint public hearing to take testimony from citizens on proposed land use actions relating to construction of the Salem River Crossing "Preferred Alternative."
It should be a doozy. (Man, I haven't used that word in a long time. I've missed you, doozy!)
So much stinks about the way Third Bridge planning has been handled, I can almost smell the stench emanating from City Hall. The Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger has been doing a great job digging through recently-released documents about the Salem River Crossing, revealing how much crap is being spread.
Here's links to his posts, along with an excerpt from each.
ODOT's Careless Approach on US20 Project Echoes in Geology Report for SRC
The Preferred Alternative as it is discussed in the Geology Addendum looks to be engineered for a mid-sized earthquake only. It doesn't look like it's reinforced to megaquake standards. So there will likely be overruns and it will still collapse!
And to make it actually stable to the megaquake standard would add much, much more, and multiply its already overrun cost.
Even if you think we desperately need the SRC in its present form, the current budget is not realistic and it will cost even more for the class of seismic stability we actually need.
Given those additional costs, is it still worth it?
The answer here is no.
Wildlife Addendum Dismisses Heron Rookery: McLane Island Needs More Study
A while back N3B observed that there was a significant Heron rookery on McLane Island and that the bridge and its construction activity would disturb it.
As with the Geology Technical Addendum, the Wildlife report is cavalier and shallow. Other agencies and organizations also echo the notion that the level of study and communication to this point is shallow and incomplete. From multiple sources and angles, not just transportation advocates, there is an accumulating body of evidence that the SRC is being rushed at this moment.
(Which is ironic since it has been going on for a decade! It is likely that elements of rushing and superficial analysis are a product of a bad project: If the SRC was such an obvious good thing, we would see more concise reports with greater clarity in conclusions and more frictionless communication, with longer lead-times, between agencies. It wouldn't all come to this last-minute rush. The lurching and clogging and uncertainty is a kind of epiphenomenon arising out of a dumb idea and poorly designed project. A sound project would be so much easier to process and there would be something closer to a positive consensus.)
SRC Energy Report: Net Increase in Energy, Petroleum Consumption
I don't know that there needs to be a whole lot of introduction to theEnergy Technical Report Addendum on the Salem River Crossing. The report is clear that the Preferred Alternative does not lessen greenhouse gas emissions by reducing congestion and idling. On the contrary, it "would provide a net increase in energy consumption."
...If our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we should seek to make driving trips shorter, and to make it easy not to make driving trips at all. The SRC does not contribute to either. In this, the SRC is inconsistent with HB3543, which calls for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 75% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The Blizzard and the Shifting Sands: City Fails on Statewide Planning Goal 1
Between the massiveness of the document dump and the compressed time lines, the SRC team has failed to observe Statewide Planning Goal 1 on "Citizen Involvement."
...The schedule was compressed on purpose and information was withheld from other Public Agencies in addition to the general public.
Part of the plan was clearly to overwhelm critics and other citizens with an impossibly large burden of reading material...That's 93 documents, many of them tens of pages, some of them hundreds of pages long.
...But a key is that it is not possible for the citizenry to be able on very short notice to winnow the chaff and isolate the most relevant documents for closer analysis.
Even if you think seven days notice is adequate (and that is not the position here), by the project's own plans, there should have been a stable document list by the end of Wednesday.
The project team failed to do this.
Memo on Alternate Modes Study Shows How Little Has Been Done
Assessing the Alt Modes Study accurately is important because the SRC keeps saying over and over "the traffic modeling performed for the Salem River Crossing Project assumed that more aggressive transit and TSM/TDM programs would be implemented." (From the Land Use Addenda.) What has happened though is the speech and intent keeps getting substituted for action, and we act as if what we say we will do we have in fact already done.
The Alternate Modes Study recommendations for bike/ped has in no way been implemented "aggressively" and we should want to see this done before we move forward with anything for the Bridge.
Memo on Alternate Modes Study, Pt 2 - TDM Badly Underfunded
In the end, we have taken baby steps only on implementing the Alternate Modes Study. In order to achieve the 8% reduction the SRC traffic modeling assumes, we will have to make "aggressive" steps, not just baby steps. It is possible that we discover those steps are more effective than we supposed - again, we need to try hard - and confirm that spending $5 million or $50 million on walking, biking, and busing is way more effective than $500 million on a new bridge and highway.
The No 3rd Bridge folks also have been putting up some great Facebook posts about this newest episode in the Billion Dollar Boondoggle debacle.
Here is a preview of testimony from the Land Use Committee of the West Salem Neighborhood Association at tonight's public hearing on the 3rd Bridge. Even they are opposed to the 3rd Bridge. And this is supposed to be for them. This is supposed to relieve their congestion. We expect many other Neighborhood Associations to be testifying against the 3rd Bridge tonight. Will any be in favor? We doubt it. Will the Salem City Council listen and pull the plug on the 3rd Bridge? We doubt it.
That's right. There are a total of 63 staff reports and techical reports and other "supporting documents" that the City posted on its "Land Use Actions, Case Number CA16-40" website just since last Wednesday. The public hearing is next Wednesday. Here's how the page count compares to Tolstoy's War and Peace ...
War and Peace (1st edition): 1,225 pages
3rd Bridge Reports Posted Since Last Wednesday: 3,516 pages
Is anyone going to even attempt this?
The average person reads about one page per minute, so it would take 58.6 hours to read all the reports and documents. If you read 8 hours per day it would take you just over a week. So you could have done it if you started reading last Wednesday.
But it's too late now.
After reporting bad news from meetings of various elected officials for many years here, it is refreshing to be able to report some good news. We just learned that at its most recent meeting in September, the Salem-Keizer Transit District Board voted to oppose the land use actions of the City of Salem concerning the Salem River Crossing Preferred Alternative. The motion, that was passed unanimously, was as follows:
“I move the Board oppose the City of Salem’s current land use action to expand the city’s Urban Growth Boundary and amend the Transportation System Plan and to authorize Director [Kathy] Lincoln at the October 12th Joint Public Hearing on behalf of the Board of Directors.”
West Salem doesn't want the bridge.
Cherriots, Salem's bus system, 0pposes the UGB expansion.
Public involvement in the Third Bridge planning process has been a farce.
The bridge won't withstand the Big One earthquake.
Cost overruns are almost guaranteed.
A Heron rookery will be destroyed.
Dozens of existing homes and businesses will be demolished.
The bridge will increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Alternative transportation modes are being ignored.
Fixing the current bridges/approaches would cost hugely less.
But almost certainly, Salem's clueless Mayor and her right-wing City Council majority will do their best to rush forward with the Billion Dollar Boondoggle, knowing that Salem voters elected three sensible new city councilors who will take office in January, and they oppose the Third Bridge.
Crazy. But that's the way things are going at City Hall these days. Messily. Crazily. Incompetently.