OK, this is akin to beating a dead horse twice, since I'd previously noted that the Oregon Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration had issued a "No Build" Record of Decision.
But today ODOT sent out a news release that deserves to be commemorated, given the excellent news that it contains. The Billion Dollar Boondoggle that would have saddled Salem with vastly increased transportation costs with no real benefit for downtown rush hour congestion is officially dead.
The Salem River Crossing, or Third Bridge, was a terrible idea that took a long time to die. But thanks to steadfast opposition by citizens, and a wise Salem City Council, we can now say goodbye to a project that consumed lots of money, time, and effort for no good reason.
Hopefully City of Salem officials will learn something from this debacle: this is the 21st century, not 1950. Global warming is real. Building unneeded roads and bridges always has been a bad idea. Now it is a horrible idea that can't be tolerated if our planet is to remain fit for human habitation.
Here's the text of the news release.
SALEM— The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have published a combined Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for the NO Build Alternative on the Salem River Crossing Project. This final step officially ends this effort to construct a 3rd bridge over the Willamette River in Salem.
The FEIS and ROD are available at https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=17317.
- Copies of the document will also be available for review at the following locations:
- Salem Public Works Department
- Salem Library
- Keizer Community Development Department
- Polk County Community Development Department
- Marion County Public Works Department
- Independence Library
- ODOT Region 2 Headquarters
ODOT and FHWA selected the No Build alternative because the Salem City Council chose to not respond to a Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) remand of their 2016 land use actions in support of the project. Without the City addressing the LUBA remand, the project team could not complete the Final EIS for the preferred alternative.
Earlier this year, in a Salem City Council work session, 6 of the 9 council members opposed responding to the LUBA appeal. This decision had the net effect of reversing the 2016 land use actions and withdrawing City support for advancing the FEIS with a build recommendation.
The project officially started in 2006 after the City of Salem and other regional partners approached ODOT and FHWA with a request to begin the environment process to build a 3rd bridge. The partners comprised of the cities of Salem, Keizer, Marion and Polk counties, the Salem Area Mass Transit District and ODOT.
In 2014, the partners endorsed the “Salem Alternative,” which Salem City Council had recommended as the preferred alternative. The necessary land use approvals were granted by the partners and the Salem City Council adopted its final ordinance. However, project opponents appealed the City’s land use approvals to LUBA. LUBA considered the issues appealed and remanded the City’s previously approved land use actions back to the City to address.
Without the city addressing the technical issues required by LUBA, ODOT and FHWA could not publish the FEIS for the identified preferred alternative. The only option was to file the No Build Alternative thereby ending this effort to build a 3rd bridge.