The June 24th Salem City Council vote on a recently-created “3rd Bridge” option alters a discussion that has evolved over many years in Salem.

The 9-0 vote expressed that the City Council supported a new alternative (dubbed “the Salem Alternative”,) created by four City Council members, and that it rejected a more elaborate one.

A number of residents attending the council meeting objected to the vote for wide-ranging reasons, including the belief that bridge traffic will not need remediation in years to come and that the price of any river crossing under consideration is too high.

Peter Fernandez, the Public Works Director whose presentation preceded the vote, told the audience that the Salem Alternative was a significant improvement over the massive raised roadway, the lack of bicycle accommodation and the larger bridge “footprint” of the “4D” alternative that had been recommended to the City Council.   Several Councilors said that the tremendous public objection to “4D” and the values citizens contributed by their comments, played a role in the design of the Salem Alternative.

“Of the evening’s decision, Fernandez expressed relief that this phase had ended, and that the process could move forward.”

Opponent Scott Bassett, who has spoken against the matter numerous times, said, “Some Councilors who voted for the Salem Alternative didn’t seem confident that it will ever be built but apparently decided it is OK to keep spending our region’s share of Federal transportation money planning for it anyway.”  Bassett was referring to Councilor remarks that evening, saying construction could only go ahead after citizens voted to fund it, and that it might be more than a decade before this happened.

Now that the Councils decision is in place, several years of study on the Salem Alternative will occur before another vote is taken.  Possible funding sources will be investigated and a funding plan developed.  Research will be done on matters such as bridge designs, neighborhood impacts and details of how existing roadways would need to be adjusted .

Opponent Jim Scheppke is unimpressed.  “This alternative is just as expensive and just as nutty as ‘4D’,” he said.  “It’s a span two times the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, three times the length of the existing bridges, across the Willamette River flood plain.”

Thousands of area residents believe there will be need for an additional bridge across the Willamette as the decades pass.  For them, the Council’s endorsement of the Salem Alternative on June 24 is a positive development.  What seems certain is that the process of the Salem River Crossing will continue for years to come.