Four lanes of speeding traffic divide residents living along Highway 22 in east Salem.
Those in the north wanting to go to Bill Riegel Park or those in the south wanting to go to Miller Elementary School must either drive or face dangerous walking and biking conditions.
The city is looking to change that with a pedestrian bridge over Highway 22.
After Salem City Council unanimously passed a motion to apply for funding from the state, the project is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Those living near the proposed bridge, which would arch over the highway between Cordon Road and Lancaster Drive, say it is vital for having a safe, equitable and connected neighborhood.
“I really do hear a lot from the community east of I-5 that there is a tremendous need for a connection between the north and south sides of Highway 22,” councilor Trevor Phillips said during the Jan. 23 city council meeting.
Thousands live in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed bridge, many in lower-income households.
Students living in this area south of the highway attend Miller Elementary School and Houck Middle School north of the highway. The entire area is classified by the school district as a “Hazard Walk Zone,” meaning students require bussing to school, city staff said in a report.
Phillips said there’s no way for kids to walk to school safely. Pedestrians have to either walk a mile out of their way to Lancaster or cross on the narrow road bridge at Cordon.
“There’s barely enough room there for vehicles to pass each other let alone bicyclists or pedestrians,” he said.
The proposed pedestrian bridge would have access points near Bill Riegel Park and Miller Elementary School, allowing kids to walk to school and neighbors to walk to the park.
Additional project work is needed to determine the alignment, design and cost of the project, assistant public works director Robert Chandler said in a report to council. The city would need to work closely with Oregon Department of Transportation and Salem-Keizer Public Schools during the design process.
Council voted to submit requests for $300,000 for project refinement costs for the pedestrian bridge and $6 million for construction of the Pringle Creek Path to connect the path network along Pringle Creek to the path at Riverfront Park.
More:Pringle Creek Path to connect miles of Salem walking, biking trails
Previous attempts to get grant funding for the Pringle path were unsuccessful. The remainder of the project costs for the Pringle path, an estimated $2.24 million, would come from funding from the infrastructure bond passed by Salem voters in November.
Oregon Department of Transportation’s Oregon Community Paths Program will give $36.9 million in grants this year to support investments in multi-use paths not on roadways. City Council approved submitting applications asking for the Pringle Creek Path and the pedestrian bridge over Highway 22.
The program requires cities to match 10.27% of the project total. The required match of $30,810 for the Highway 22 bridge project would come from the city’s share of the state gas tax.
If awarded, the projects would be included in future budgets and proceed to completion within three years of the award.
Mayor Chris Hoy said as a resident of east Salem, he recognized how important the project would be for the community. During a recent visit to Colonia Libertad, a housing community for farmworkers near Bill Riegel Park, residents were excited about the proposal.
Being able to walk, bike, walk with dogs and jog safely on paths throughout the city will attract tourism, new business and homes, Hoy said during the meeting.
“In conversations with developers who are considering doing developments here in town recently, that’s been one of the topics of conversations. Both of these crossings are things they are interested in,” he said. “Before they invest their money in Salem, they want to know that we’re more walkable and bikeable.”
All councilors voted in favor of the motion.
“This is a big deal,” Phillips said. “A lot of community members have brought it up. I am really pleased to see us moving forward.”
For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at email@example.com, call 503-910-6616 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth