Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Third Bridge Alliance Blogspot and Facebook Posts

The Third Bridge Alliance Blog and Facebook page will be used for official Third Bridge Alliance postings only.

Much conversation and debate exists amongst advocates and opponents of a third vehicular bridge crossing the Willamette River in Salem. If you are a proponent of a third bridge, we encourage you to continue following our official posts on Facebook ( and  here on Blogspot.

If you are an opponent to the third bridge, we encourage you to engage in the discussion taking place on the following Facebook page:

For those interested in gathering more factual information about the third bridge effort, all data can be found at:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Statesman Journal Editorial Board says "Third Bridge is Vital to Mid-Valley Economy"

The Mid-Valley is inching closer to getting a third Salem-area bridge across the Willamette River. Yet some people question whether that bridge is needed. The answer remains an unequivocal yes.

A third bridge is critical to the Mid-Valley’s economic vitality.

The Salem City Council will hold a work session Dec. 17 on the third-bridge project, known as the Salem River Crossing. The council, working in concert with other local governments, eventually will decide whether to proceed with a bridge, where to build it, what to include as far connecting streets and other infrastructure, and how to pay for it.

It would be at least a $100 million project and conceivably closer to $800 million. “This is such a significant decision,” Salem City Manager Linda Norris said Friday.

Bridge essential for economy

A third bridge should provide an easier, faster connection between Highway 22 and Interstate 5. That would enhance Salem’s role as the gateway to the Oregon Wine Country and to the Oregon Coast. It would make Polk County more attractive for industrial development, while also moving much of the heavy-truck traffic away from downtown Salem. That in turn would make the downtown area more attractive as a place to shop, conduct business and live.

Salem is stuck with having major rail lines traverse the city’s core. But log trucks and most other big rigs — which remain important to our regional economy — could be routed around central Salem via the new bridge and improved street connections. That rerouting cannot be accomplished by simply tweaking the existing bridge access, as some have suggested.

A new bridge — designed and built to withstand the greatest seismic probabilities — would provide a badly needed alternative route in case of a natural disaster that damaged the other bridges or an incident that blocked their traffic. Past incidents have tied up traffic across the Mid-Valley for hours, forcing commuters, trucks and tourists to take bumper-to-bumper detours through Independence, Newberg or other river crossings. Fortunately, such incidents have been rare.

The bridge also would serve the expected growth in Polk and Yamhill counties, especially the West Salem area.

Delays not acceptable

Any bridge is decades away from completion. The environmental impact statement, which was started in 2006, is roughly two-thirds of the way through the process. Then come the funding, design and construction. That’s why it’s important not to delay the project, because many critical decisions must be made before the region can determine local sources — such as tolls or taxes — and seek state and federal funds.

At this point, the favored alternative would cross the Willamette River near Hope Avenue on the west side and near Pine Street on the east side.

As with any decision, there will be winners and losers with whichever alternative is chosen — just as a decision to do nothing would create winners and losers. The public and government leaders have much to consider as far as location, cost and design. But there should be little debate about whether to move forward.

Progress has been slow

A third bridge has been discussed for generations. It was needed decades ago when a planned bridge near Dayton was scuttled. It was needed in the early 1980s when Salem’s Marion and Center street bridges were widened to four lanes each to handle more vehicles. It was needed in the 1990s when Wallace Road NW in West Salem was widened to four lanes to accommodate increased commuter traffic. And it remains needed in the 21st century, even though traffic numbers on the current bridges have dipped slightly, especially during the recession.

Oregon is a manufacturing state and a tourist destination; it has a commuting capital. A strong, efficient and modern transportation system is critical to our economy and to our future. The answer remains unequivocal: The Mid-Valley needs a third Willamette River bridge.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Special Thanks to Salem City Council

At a recent City Council Work Session, 7 members of the Salem City Council agreed that a third vehicular bridge across the Willamette River is a necessary goal for the future of our regional economy.

Due to scheduling conflicts, Councilors Bennett and Thomas were unable to attend.

The Third Bridge Alliance would like to say thank you to all City Councilors present at the work session for saying Yes to a third bridge across the Willamette River.

We appreciate your leadership and your commitment to crafting a vision for the regional economy. The third bridge effort needs strong leadership and we thank you for leading the way as a part of Salem City Council.

The next City Council Work Session on the Third Bridge will take place on Monday, December 17 at 5:30pm in the Anderson Room of Salem's Public Library.

City Councilor Dan Clem Responds to Salem Weekly Questions

- What do you feel the major advantage of the 3rd Bridge across the Willamette would be?

While there are many advantages, the major one is that our downtown traffic grid will be greatly relieved when we have more options for all modes of travel (vehicle, freight, transit, bike, walking, etc). With 36% of the traffic counts being through-traffic, the downtown traffic grid bears the burden for all east-west traffic, and tying up north-south movements as a result. Another river crossing keeps downtown viable, improves mobility and safety for Salem and Willamette Valley communities, lowers costs and emissions from congestion, and will better meet our needs related to future growth in Salem.

- What do you say when others suggest that traffic reduction means that a 3rd Bridge (and/or 4D) is "overkill" for a problem that occurs just a few hours a day, (and is decreasing?)

This problem is not diminishing nor will it go away.  We’ve done all that we can to address the bottlenecks in traffic at both ends of the bridges by completing the projects listed in the 1998 Bridgehead Engineering Study. However congestion will continue to increase due to historical 2-3% and the likelihood of new developments in West Salem and Polk County. The average daily traffic count (not just the morning and evening commute periods) on the two existing bridges is still higher than the traffic count on I-5 at the Market Street ramp.  The decrease in average daily traffic during this period of recession and high fuel prices is temporary.  The long-term trend of increasing need will prevail, and even with aggressive multi-modal projects, traffic counts (and population) will still increase by 80% in the next 20 years. We need solutions to traffic all day long, not just peak traffic periods, and for all travelers (local, regional, through).  Peak traffic periods are not just 7 – 8 am or 4:30 – 5:30 pm.  They are now 6:30 – 9am and 3:30 – 6:30 pm.  Recently, I spent many peak traffic periods holding campaign signs on the bridges – the peak periods are longer and moving much more traffic than before: traffic isn’t going to get better without us taking action.  

- What are the chief facts or arguments that you feel opponents to a 3rd Bridge (and/or 4D) ignore, or simply don't understand?

The Draft Salem River Crossing Environmental Impact Statement (D-EIS) already accounts for aggressive results in improving use of transit, pedestrian, bike, and other Traffic Demand Management (TDM) as avoidance alternatives to driving.  Our Alternative Modes Study shows us that there a variety of solutions we need to put in place to address current congestion, mobility, safety, and to lower costs of another bridge.  Some of the comments we’ve received to-date tend to ignore how we’ve already accounted for maximizing transit, pedestrian, and biking in the projections for future traffic flows, as well as not considering that we will have increasing needs for mobility for employment and housing related to growth.         

- We notice the Chamber of Commerce particularly highlighted your leadership in the 3rd Bridge issue in their November letter to the City Council. We'd like to know how you became interested in Salem having a third bridge, and when your interest began?

The problems of congestion, safety, seismic stability, mobility, and hampered travel existed long before I took office in 2003.  Prior to that, City of Salem leaders, along with leaders from Cherriots, City of Keizer, and Marion and Polk counties had looked at 15 potential crossing sites from Wheatland Ferry south of Independence for several years.  In working with Congresswoman Hooley’s office to obtain federal funds for the D-EIS in 2005, the need for a 3rd Bridge really came to light during the June 2005 incident involving the absolute freeze on all traffic for 4- 6 hours, including movement emergency service vehicles.  While the City of Salem and ODOT have better traffic incident management in place now, the striking fact of how we must have multiple crossings – and not have them in downtown Salem.  Also, concerns about seismic stability of the existing bridges demands that we have alternatives in place to minimize restoration of public services and normal activities.  While it is difficult to quantify the economic impact caused by only having the downtown bridges, we know that the difficulties in getting agricultural products through downtown Salem to and from I-5 are an economic barrier and create higher transportation costs. Citizen concerns about being cut-off and being stuck on the bridges still run high on both sides of the Willamette River.    

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Getting Thorough with the Salem Weekly

The Salem Weekly recently reached out to receive feedback on reasons to support a third bridge in Salem. Here are our answers provided to their reporter.


Given that we are working to present a positive perspective of the project, we thought you would be an excellent person to contact.  Could you share with us, briefly, your own thoughts on the following:

- What do you feel the major advantage of the 3rd Bridge across the Willamette would be?

The Salem MSA represents the second largest population base in the state with over 390,000 people residing in Marion and Polk counties as of the 2010 census. The trends for population growth clearly show the region growing with increased market demand for housing and business activity. Vision planning for the future of our regional economy is absolutely crucial. A 3rd bridge across the Willamette River improves public safety, improves livability for local residents, improves access to market for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and most importantly represents crucial infrastructure to encourage the continued development of new businesses and jobs for Salem area residents for generations to come.

- What do you say when others suggest that traffic diminishment means that a 3rd Bridge (and/or 4D) is "overkill" for a problem that occurs just a few hours a day, (and is decreasing?)
Major infrastructure investments can spark lively communication amongst members of our community. The facts of the issue speak for themselves. The most credible source for information relating to  third bridge options is clearly outlined in the Environmental Impact Study (or EIS). The report, which is over 1,000 pages in length, provides the in depth analysis on traffic data. The report clearly speaks to the increasing demand and need for additional bridge infrastructure. For example, Figure 3.1-9 shows that projected PM peak traffic for one hour in 2031 out of downtown and onto the current bridge is just under 7,000 vehicles.  Traffic coming over the bridge and into downtown Salem is projected at just over 5,000 vehicles during the hour. Our current problem of traffic congestion a few hours a day will become a nightmare if nothing is done and acted on now.

Seeing the vision is critical for maintaining and improving our quality of life throughout the region. Any short term arguments for stabilized or reduced traffic on the current bridge system do nothing to prepare our community and the region for the growth that will come to this area. If we do not act, our children and grandchildren will live with that mistake for decades into the future. The third bridge infrastructure is absolutely necessary to accommodate long term growth projections and protect our livability.

- What are the chief facts or arguments that you feel opponents to a 3rd Bridge (and/or 4D) ignore, or simply don't understand?
Fact #1 – Planning for a third bridge originated as early as the 1970 Pine Street Bridge and Mission Street Bridge community conversations. Therefore the community has identified the need for an additional bridge across the Willamette for over 40 years.
Fact #2 – According to the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments Salem-Keizer Housing Needs Analysis, the population within the Salem-Keizer Urban Growth boundary is expected to grow 28% by the year 2032 from 239,760 residents now to 307,543 residents 20 years from now. If we assume the same rate of growth for the entire Salem MSA, we are looking at a regional population of just under 500,000 residents compared to a current Salem MSA population of 390,000.

Fact #3 - According to the EIS study, approximately 56% of bridge traffic is defined as local meaning the user originates and ends their trip within the Salem-Keizer area. 44% of traffic is attributed to a combination of freight and outside of the area trips. These facts are crucial as the regional population continues to grow and the need for a third bridge becomes that much more obvious as growth projections come to fruition.

Fact #4 – If no bridge is built or modifications to the current bridge are made, we do nothing to solve the major problem which revolves around the bottlenecks on both sides of the bridge. Downtown will continue to be impacted by higher congestion levels, reduced livability, and will directly hinder efforts to revitalize and market our downtown as a destination that spurs demand for living, playing, and shopping.

Fact #5 – The current growth and traffic projections include multimodal and alternative forms of transportation being utilized. In other words bridge and traffic congestion in the available studies would be worse than currently projected if alternative modes of transportation were not included as part of the planning process.