A man rides along the Union Street pedestrian bridge on Friday, June 26. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
The city of Salem has kicked off another transportation project that’s part of its efforts to make it easier to get around by bike or foot.
On Monday, Salem City Council approved the transfer of $1.5 million from the Urban Renewal Agency to the city to start designing changes to Union Street to make it more bicycle friendly. The city has also received $2.3 million in Federal Highway Administration funds for the improvements.
Julie Warncke, Salem’s transportation planning manager, said the consulting process should be done in the next couple of months and construction will be two to three years away.
She said the project will include a new signal at the intersection of Liberty Street and Union Street, bike lanes and improvements to the curb.
Warncke said the city will likely have to remove some parking to add in bike lanes which the city plans to do additional public outreach on.
Three years ago, the city installed a signal at the intersection of Commercial and Union streets to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the busy intersection.
Warncke said that was the first phase of the project that was identified as a priority nearly a decade ago.
“It’s part of our overall approach and we’ve been working on it for quite a number of years,” she said.
The city released an analysis last year that projected commuters would stick to cars instead of cycling or walking to work unless improvements were made to cycling infrastructure.
In 2013, the city completed a Central Salem Mobility study which identified Union and Winter streets as family-friendly bicycle improvement priorities.
Warncke said pedestrians and bicyclists leaving the Union Street Bridge headed downtown are guided toward Riverfront Park. If people want to head east, it’s not the friendliest route, she said.
The study lays out a second improvement phase that aims to create connections from the Union Street Bridge to Willamette University and other parts of downtown by constructing buffered bike lanes, shared-use paths and other street improvements.
The Union Street improvements will also connect to the Winter-Maple Neighborhood Greenway, a multi-million dollar bicycle and pedestrian path running from the Capitol to Salem Parkway.
The Winter Maple Bikeway plan was completed in 2017 and is meant to serve as the first complete family-friendly bikeway in the city. Last year, the city installed $50,000 worth of speed bumps along the route.
“Family friendly bikeways are intended to prioritize bicycle circulation while discouraging non-local cut-through vehicle traffic. They are located on low-volume and low-speed streets that have been optimized for bicycle travel by using traffic calming and traffic reduction devices, signage and pavement markings, and specialized intersection crossing treatments,” the 2017 plan reads.
This summer, the city is constructing two pedestrian crossings along the bike corridor – one to cross Northeast Fairgrounds Road at Norway Street and the other to cross Northeast Pine Street at Maple Avenue.
Those are set to be completed on August 29.
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