Monday, November 12, 2012

WORD: 3d Bridge a Gigantic Boondoggle

Oregon State Highway 22 (Willamina-Salem Highw...
Oregon State Highway 22 (Willamina-Salem Highway) intersects Oregon State Highway 223 in Polk Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What's most interesting is that the most-reliably anti-tax groups in Oregon, the Chamber of Commerce and the Homebuilders -- two groups that fight ferociously against taxes usually -- got up and waved their hands about "future growth," and made empty claims about the need to build this monstrosity for the vague "future" needs.   Thus, they showed their true colors:  they aren't against making you pay higher taxes, just taxes that provide you with services.  If you have to pay higher taxes so they can make a lot of money, hey, they're all for that.

That tells you just about everything you need to know about this project:  It's nothing but a money grab by land speculators and developers who are salivating at the thought of sprawling all the way to Dallas and all the money they can make if they can buffalo the people of Salem into building them a bridge (and paying for it!) that will only hurt Salem and benefit them.

Not only do we not need this project, it's the epitome of making the problem worse at great expense.  Traffic counts over existing bridges are already declining and will continue to do so, and Salem's congestion problems are not a function of how many lanes go over the river but the idiocy of how we handle the traffic at each end.

Moreover, the Highway Lobby's refusal to apply least-cost planning methods to what little congestion we face in Salem for a couple of brief periods daily tells you everything you need to know -- this isn't a solution to a problem, this is a profitable project that they want to ram down our throats regardless of all other considerations.  If Salem had a serious congestion problem, it would be greatly reduced if not eliminated instantly just by staggering the start times for state government workers and offering good cross-river transit options.  A "fast-pass" electronic toll collection system on the existing bridges would not only provide all the money needed to address the problems with the existing on and off interchanges, it would also encourage carpooling and other reductions in cross-river trips.

Of course, these wouldn't put millions of dollars into the pockets of the land speculators and the concrete lobby businesses who care about nothing but taking your money and making it theirs.
On Nov. 5, dozens of Salem residents filled the City Council chambers to say no to building a $687 million bridge and freeway from Highway 22 to Interstate 5.

Their testimony was eloquent and convincing about the fact that this project is destructive, too expensive, not needed and should be rejected by the council. They said we can relieve congestion by fixing the bottlenecks at both ends of the bridges and by improving transit, all at a much lower cost.

Alternative 4D, as the third bridge is called in the staff report, will not relieve congestion on the existing bridges and will destroy 160 residences and small businesses.

The only testimony in favor of the third bridge came from the homebuilders association and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, but when pressed by Councilor Chuck Bennett if they would be in favor of imposing tolls or raising taxes to fund the third bridge, they could not give him a straight answer.

The council will hold a work session on Nov. 28 and resume the public hearing on Dec. 10. I hope concerned citizens will mark their calendars and plan to be at the Salem City Council to continue to oppose this $687 million boondoggle.

Jim Scheppke
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