Ah, so cute! I find it adorable how some people -- in this case, a Salem City Councilor, Jim Lewis -- imagine that they can do something that seems impossible.
Like, fly by flapping their arms. Or make their cat do tricks. Or... get the City Council to vote in favor of moving ahead with a Third Bridge, a.k.a. the Salem River Crossing, at a council meeting tomorrow (Monday, November 26).
Lewis was narrowly re-elected last May as the city councilor for Ward 8 in West Salem.
He ran a sleazy campaign, wrongly claiming that his opponent, Micki Varney, wanted "miserable traffic" because while Varney supported a Third Bridge, she wasn't sufficiently crazed about the issue as Lewis, correctly arguing that other ways of reducing rush hour congestion in the downtown area could be implemented more quickly and at a much lower cost than by building a billion dollar new bridge (likely cost with financing costs included).
So now Lewis has asked the City Council to address a motion, shown above, that is on the agenda of the November 26 City Council meeting. The print is rather small, so here's what the motion says.
I move that City Council direct staff to prepare an ordinance and all other necessary land use actions to respond to the issues raised in LUBA’s remand of the City’s UGB expansion decision concerning the Salem River Crossing. The ordinance and other actions shall be presented for City Council’s consideration prior to June 2019.
My prediction is that while Lewis must feel that he has to attempt to get the City Council to move forward with the Salem River Crossing, since this was his #1 campaign promise, this motion is going to backfire on him.
Currently five of the nine members of the City Council are on record as opposing a Third Bridge. It is decidedly unlikely that any of them are going to become a Third Bridge backer at tomorrow's meeting.
Up to now, there's been an uneasy truce between those five progressives (Tom Andersen, Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Chris Hoy, Matt Ausec) and the four council members who favor a Third Bridge (Chuck Bennett, Brad Nanke, Steve McCoid, Jim Lewis). The five progressives could have filed a motion to kill City of Salem support for a Third Bridge, but they've chosen not to do so.
Lewis' motion, though, forces the issue before another Third Bridge opponent, Jackie Leung, replaces Steve McCoid on the City Council in January.
Thus there's a good chance that when the motion comes up for a vote, the City Council will go on record as opposing further work on the Salem River Crossing. This will leave a draft Environmental Impact Statement dead in the water, as described in a Salem Reporter story, "Third bridge to return to city council Monday."
Salem Councilor Jim Lewis hopes to keep the prospect of the Salem River Crossing alive next week by asking councilors to give the state information needed to move the project forward.
Lewis will ask Salem City Council to direct staff to answer concerns raised a year ago by the state Land Use Board of Appeals. Without answers, state transportation officials say they are unable to complete a sweeping environmental analysis.
...Lewis said he is acting because of deadlines set by the Federal Highway Administration, millions of dollars from which have already been spent on the Salem River Crossing.
Those federal dollars flow through Oregon Department of Transportation and the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study and have so far paid $8 million for feasibility studies, according to Dan Fricke, a senior transportation planner with ODOT.
Both local entities say they are worried that if the project doesn’t advance by September 2019, the federal agency will ask for its money back.
Well, the feds should get their money back, because it's pretty damn clear that the Salem River Crossing project has been poorly planned from the outset.
I like to call it the Billion Dollar Boondoggle, because there is no evidence that it would do much, if anything, to reduce rush-hour congestion, and local residents would be asked to foot most of the bill for the bridge through tolls on both the new bridge and the two existing bridges, a gas tax, and higher vehicle registration fees.
Nonetheless, the Salem Bridge Solutions "green shirts" will be out in force at tomorrow's City Council meeting, dreaming the impossible dream in Jim Lewis' motion. Above is a screenshot of a Salem Bridge Solutions Facebook post.
By contrast, the No 3rd Bridge Facebook page hasn't been updated since December 11, 2017. In a final post, the No 3rd Bridge folks declared victory. I suspect it will turn out that they were right. But nothing is 100% certain, so there's a slim chance the Salem River Crossing will survive a City Council vote. Repeat, slim chance.
Here's a screenshot of the No 3rd Bridge victory post.