Over the years I've heard lots of ridiculous arguments about why Salem should build a billion dollar (with financing costs included) Third Bridge across the Willamette River.
For example, back in 2013 I asked Public Works Director Peter Fernandez to give me the "single most important reason Salem needs a Third Bridge." How did he respond?
By saying that the single most important reason is that there is only one way into and out of West Salem. Redundancy and safety were the top reasons a Third Bridge is needed. He said that the bridges are seismically unfit. Currently serious accidents on the bridge tie up traffic for long distances into neighborhoods on both sides of the river.
Well, actually right now there are three ways to get into and out of West Salem -- the two current vehicular bridges and the Union Street pedestrian bridge, which can be used by emergency vehicles if necessary.
As noted in the above-linked post, plans already exist for some lanes to be reversed on a bridge if an accident shuts down the other bridge. And the state has allocated money to seismically retrofit the Center Street bridge.
So there goes the #1 reason for a Third Bridge put forth by one of the people most knowledgeable about the proposed Salem River Crossing. Poof. Vanished.
Notice that Fernandez didn't bring up reducing rush-hour congestion between West and East Salem as the primary rationale for a Third Bridge. Likely that's because he knows that backups aren't caused by a lack of lanes on the bridges, but by the poorly-designed approaches to the current two bridges.
The approaches can be improved for much less money than the billion dollars a Third Bridge would cost.
But Third Bridge supporters keep on trying to convince Salemians that they should pay a $1.50 each way toll on both the new bridge and the two existing bridges, which is the primary financing strategy put forth by Salem River Crossing planners. A toll being deeply unpopular, the frantic arguments for a Third Bridge keep getting more and more absurd.
Case in point: today's opinion piece by Robert Royer in the Statesman Journal, "When response to growth is ignored, hostile takeovers are nothing new."
The hostile takeover Royer refers to is the West Salem Neighborhood Association, which has been suffering from outrageous behavior by members of Salem Bridge Solutions, a group that has been using bullying tactics at neighborhood association meetings that have gotten well-deserved criticism from Salem city councilors.
Here's the first problem with Royer's arguments.
A Third Bridge wouldn't be for the private convenience of West Salem residents. In fact, many, if not most, of the reasons given for the Salem River Crossing tout its claimed regional benefits. Meaning, a new bridge supposedly is needed to speed traffic from I-5 onto the Salem Parkway and other routes, then across the Willamette onto destinations to the west (Dallas, Monmouth, the coast).
Yet Royer says, "as long as a growing population wants to live on one side of the river and work, play and use medical facilities on the other side, this issue won’t go away." Well, actually it will if City officials realize the futility of stumbling onward with a hugely expensive Third Bridge that is unneeded, unwanted by the majority of people in Salem, and unpaid-for.
The wise thing to do is work on improving the two bridges we have now. "Build it now" isn't a bad idea if "it" means revamping bridge approaches and seismically reinforcing at least one of the bridges. This should produce all of the local benefits of the Salem River Crossing for a fraction of the cost.
And here's another problem with Royer's opinion piece:
Citizen involvement and environmental reviews are a good thing, not a bad thing. Royer longs for the days when a bridge could be approved by the state transportation agency and city/county officials with very little, if any, opportunity for ordinary citizens to be involved in the planning process.
He also decries Environmental Impact Statements and Oregon's pioneering land use system that has succeeded in saving farm and forest land from over-development, and prevented wasteful urban sprawl. This shows how out of touch with mainstream Oregonians those advocating for a Third Bridge are.
Most people in Oregon, as well as Salem, don't want to have the environment trashed in the name of pave-it-over "progress."
They also value governmental transparency and openness so people have a say in major infrastructure projects like the Salem River Crossing. Backroom deals may be good for rich developers and construction companies, but not for the average citizen.
I'll end by sharing some online comments on Royer's opinion piece in the Statesman Journal.
From Jim Scheppke
Who are the "extremists"? Someone who thinks it's a good idea to build a 3/4 mile bridge through an earthquake liquefaction zone? Someone who thinks we have $450 million to spend on it? Someone who would be okay with tolling the two bridges we already have to pay for it? Someone who is okay with destroying 100 homes and businesses that are in the path of it? Someone who thinks paving over Wallace Marine Park is no problem?
Those are the "extremists" Mr. Royer. And they in no way represent the opinion of the vast majority of Salem citizens. That's why the last five City Councilors we have elected are against the 3rd Bridge. They are not extremists.
From Lee Moore
Another article about the bridge issue that conveniently ignores that a 2nd two lane bridge was constructed at Marion Street & the two lane Center Street bridge was replaced with a 4 lane bridge in early '80's, while infering nothing has been done for "50 years and counting." How about those pushing for the 3rd bridge "put their money where their mouth is" and request a $5-10 thousand surcharge on all new residential lots in west Salem to put in escrow & start to build a fund for the bridge, since the leaders of this group are developers & realtors. (Fat chance that will happen--they want the rest of us to pay for it so they can increase their profits.
From Philip DeRobertis
I didn't realize it was extreme to not want to incur a $3.00 a day crossing tax um..i mean toll, just for the priviledge of going to work. Not to mention the various & sundry taxes that will be associated with this project.
I notice the 'built it now' crowd screams pretty loudly about wanting a bridge but grows strangely silent when it comes time to talk about how we're going to pay for it.