Good news for Salem: the massive waste of a billion dollars known as the Salem River Crossing (a.k.a. Third Bridge) encountered another roadblock at last night's City Council meeting.
There was a public hearing on the FY 2017-18 budget, which included $3.6 million to do something with Marine Drive in West Salem, which currently is just a short street that blends with Harritt Drive south of Riverbend Road.
Two options were on the table. The clearly legal something was to use the leftover money from the 2008 Streets and Bridges Bond to do what voters approved when they passed the bond measure: purchase the right of way for Marine Drive.
Here's a screenshot from a video Mark Wigg made -- "Marine Drive Bike Trail Proposal 2015" -- where he urges City officials to buy the right of way for Marine Drive (shown in blue), then allow volunteers to build a mostly unpaved bike/pedestrian path on the right of way that could be used until funds become available to actually construct Marine Drive.
You can see that the basic purpose of Marine Drive would be to provide a safer and less congested parallel alternative to Wallace Road.
The decidedly less legal option was to use the $3.6 million earmarked for purchase of the Marine Drive right of way to construct a mere 1200 feet/three blocks of Marine Drive between Glen Creek Road and Cameo Street.
Public Works Director Peter Fernandez claimed that it was legal to use the $3.6 million for road construction rather than purchase of the right of way, which was promised in the 2008 bond measure language. This claim was contested by Wigg, who I trust a heck of a lot more than Fernandez.
At any rate, last night's public hearing on the 2017-18 budget was used by the recently-formed Salem Bridge Solutions group to lobby for the Salem River Crossing.
Of course, nothing in the 2017-18 budget directly involved the Third Bridge, but this didn't stop a bunch of green t-shirt clad "Build It Now" devotees from using the Marine Drive budget item to urge adoption of the less legal option: building a three block portion of Marine Drive to show the City's commitment to the Billion Dollar Boondoggle.
Which didn't happen, pleasingly.
The City Council decided to postpone action on spending the $3.6 million, forming a work group to study the question, though more councilors seemed to favor purchase of the right of way rather than constructing 1200 feet of Marine Drive that would basically be an expensive road to nowhere.
I've blogged before that the "Salem Bridge Solutions group laughably lacks facts." Proving my point, last night the SBS green shirts got Wiggs's proposal for a bike/pedestrian trail on the Marine Drive right of way laughably wrong.
Geez, if they can't understand something this simple, how is anybody supposed to believe that they know what they're talking about when it comes to the highly complex $430 million Salem River Crossing project? (which will total about a billion bucks when financing costs are included)
Several city councilors and Mayor Bennett tried to correct the misinformation being spread by Salem Bridge Solutions.
In both written and oral testimony, somehow these bridge advocates had come to believe that the $3.6 million was going to be used to construct a bike path on the Marine Drive right of way rather than being used to purchase the right of way (or construct 1200 feet of Marine Drive).
This is the erroneous sample letter Salem Bridge Solutions urged its supporters to send to the City Council. Lots of them did, in advance written testimony. Only problem is, it isn't true that there was any plan to use the $3.6 million for a bike path. I've boldfaced the lie.
Dear Salem City Council,
As a Salem resident, I'm am asking you not to divert the funds passed in our 2008 bond measure from their intended purpose of building Marine Drive. The voters' pamphlet and supporting materials were very clear that this was one of the projects that the bond would spent on. Diverting these funds from the intended purpose, to create a bike path to nowhere, violates the promise the city made to the voters. This is a critical piece of the infrastructure we need to make our bridge possible in the near future.
Please do what you promised the voters in 2008, and purchase the land for Marine Drive. Then use any leftover funds to begin construction of the road. This is the only way of relieving congestion as was the clear intent of the bond when we passed it.
Your Name and address
This pretty much demolishes any credibility citizens should give to Salem Bridge Solutions. Getting a small thing wrong is one thing. Getting a big thing wrong is a whole other thing.
One of the Salem Bridge Solutions testifiers told Councilor Chris Hoy, "I was told $3.6 million would build a bike path." Well, that person was told wrong. Repeatedly, City officials said there was no plan to use the $3.6 million for anything other than either buying Marine Drive right of way or, if this turned out to be legal, constructing 1200 feet of Marine Drive.
A bit of Googling would have led the Salem Bridge Solutions folks to my February 2016 blog post about Wiggs' plan for the Marine Drive bike path. But like I said, getting their facts straight isn't a big concern for the simplistic "Build It Now!" crusade this special interest group is waging.
I talked about how the Salemtowne to Downtown multiuse path along the Marine Drive right of way would be built by volunteers. And as Councilor Tom Andersen said last night, obviously the path would go away when the $30 million or so needed to construct Marine Drive becomes available -- since the plan for Marine Drive includes a multiuse path and bike paths.
Here's the above-mentioned video Mark Wigg made to promote the temporary Marine Drive bike path. Hopefully his great idea will come to pass, and the bad idea of a Third Bridge will pass away.