In the course of the April 8 Salem City Council meeting, two Councilors, Ward 1’s Chuck Bennett and Ward 5’s Diana Dickey, asked the Council to consider a new bridge concept.

4D was the bridge design the Council was expected to vote on in upcoming weeks but Bennett and Dickey’s concept modified it in significant ways.  The two councilors suggested both that the Council vote to modify 4D according to their recommendations and to schedule a public hearing to allow the public to give feedback on their new plan.  The City Council voted to do both.

At heart, Bennett and Dickey’s plan suggests reducing the construction and impacts of the 4D bridge.  It reduces roadway construction in West and Northeast Salem, proposes minimizing a bridge “footprint” in the Willamette and recommends more bridgehead and surface-street solutions to slow traffic.

The public response that night to their suggestions was that of disappointment.  Commenters expressed frustration and bewilderment that the bridge process would be expanded.

The presenting Councilors acknowledged that their proposal set goals and guidelines, but that details had not been worked out.  Public Works Director Peter Fernandez told the group that if the council decided to approve the new concept, his staff would proceed with cost estimates and other clarifying details prior to the April 22 public hearing.

“A number of us on City Council have been extremely concerned about the proposal that was recommended to us as the best alternative,” Bennett told a CityWatch meeting on April 13, where he gave more insight into his and Dickey’s thinking.   Calling their concept “a substantially scaled-back version” of 4D, he discussed the damage 4D would do to the Highland neighborhood and the “pedestrian-friendly community area of shops and houses” being created in West Salem.

“The politics of it, quite simply,” he told the group, “is that there is a majority of City Councilors who want a bridge, and there is a majority that would build that big bridge if they could get the public to vote.  So that’s where you are today.”

Councilor Laura Tesler of Ward 2 also contributed to the thinking on the new 4D compromise.  She told us, “I do not support 4D without the suggested modifications. I do think we need a third bridge… I think growth will begin again in West Salem, and traffic will again increase.”

Bennett encouraged his CityWatch constituents to attend the April 22 hearing, calling it an opportunity to be involved in “a much smaller project.  I think that we’re starting to talk in a much, much more realistic way.”

Tesler calls this, “a very beginning step in a long process.” All involved expect it to be a meeting of regional importance.

Public Hearing on the 3rd Bridge
April 22    6:30pm
City Hall Council Chambers,
555 Liberty Street SE.