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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Question: Our environment vs. Development, are they exclusive ideas?

Salem:  Our Environment vs. Development are they exclusive ideas?

"Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen--his everlasting power and divinity--being understood through the things that he made."  Romans 1: 20-23 

How do we rate as stewards of the land and natural resources?

What's happening in our community--are conditions setting us up for flooding that might be worse than 1996?

Is the City of Salem in compliance with State Land Use regulations?

  What impact does this have on Salem's future? 

You're invited to attend a forum:

Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. at

First Congregational Church,

United Church of Christ

700 Marion Street NE, Salem, Oregon

 Huntington Room on the lower level 

Sponsored by The Comprehensive Plan Supporters

Questions: 503-588-6924


Speaks Volumes: Demand management and transit as afterthoughts

A very revealing message is contained in this latest schedule update from the big firm running the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the "Salem River Crossing" project:  the section headed Transit/TSM/TDM [italics added] reveals that, just as it appeared to those who attend project meetings, there has been no meaningful consideration of ideas for managing bridge use during the peak use periods rather than trying to find financing to build a $600+ million bridge.

In other words, the whole exercise has been about trying to ram through an already-preferred idea (an expensive new bridge) rather than a fresh look at the issues and search for alternatives.

Now that the economy is melting down, the chances of Salem being able to get federal funds or make up a local share for a third bridge are dwindling even further.  Meanwhile, we will continue to pay millions to CH2M-Hill to produce a report to present the foregone conclusion desired by the road gang.


Dear Task Force and Oversight Team:

Since our meetings this summer, the Project Team has continued to make progress on the Salem River Crossing project. Here are several updates with respect to progress and the schedule for publishing the Draft EIS.

Alternative 2B
As you know, the Project Team identified this new alternative this summer and then reviewed it with the Task Force and Oversight Team at meetings in July and September. Alternative 2B consists of a new bridge between the Marion Street bridge and the Union Street future pedestrian/bicycle bridge. A description and drawings are posted on the website at www.salemrivercrossing.org <http://www.salemrivercrossing.org/> .

Adding this alternative to the EIS strengthens the study by providing an alternative unlike the others and providing context that will help us better understand the costs and benefits of the other alternatives. 

Transit/TSM/TDM
At the May Task Force meeting, we identified a subcommittee of Task Force members to work with the project team to further develop the transit/TSM/TDM options to be incorporated into each of the alternatives in the EIS. At the first meeting of that group in July, there was disagreement about several key issues, including which options should be studied in the EIS and why. As a result, the Project Team called a "time out" while the approach was clarified. This has now been completed and has been communicated to the transit/TSM/TDM subcommittee. We will send you more information on this approach once the subcommittee has finished their review.

Schedule for Draft EIS
The time needed to resolve these two issues was not anticipated in the project schedule. The net result is a delay of about 4 months. While most recently we forecast that the Draft EIS would be published in the spring of 2009, we now expect it to be the end of the summer. While there is clearly time pressure on this project - for example, efforts to secure funding as part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Federal transportation bill - going fast at the expense of quality is risky. EIS's rarely get challenged on technical grounds but are often challenged on procedural grounds.

We will work to make up any time we can in the schedule and to avoid further delays. Part of the time to prepare a Draft EIS is for technical analysis and writing. But a large part consists of reviews by the many agency stakeholders in the project (including the Task Force and Oversight Team). Assuming no unforeseen technical issues, the largest "unknown" in the EIS schedule is the review and approval by FHWA. The project team coordinates regularly with the local FHWA staff to understand and address issues the agency may have. Unfortunately, however, the FHWA review is done partly outside the local office and our ability to coordinate further is limited. 

Please be assured that the consultant staff and agency staff are working to prepare a Draft EIS as quickly and cost-effectively as possible while assuring it is procedurally air-tight. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Please let us know if you have questions or would like to discuss further.
 
Tim

_____________________
Tim Burkhardt, AICP
(503) 872-4495

CH2M HILL
2020 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 300
Portland, OR 97201
Front Desk (503) 235-5000
Fax (503) 736-2000
tim.burkhardt@ch2m.com
www.ch2m.com <http://www.ch2m.com/>