New online portal to help Salem residents voice crosswalk concerns

A new portal on the city of Salem’s website allows residents to voice concerns about dangerous pedestrian crossings. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

Salem residents now have a new way to express concerns about dangerous pedestrian crossings through an online application on the city of Salem website.

So far, more than 20 intersections have been submitted by residents. The portal went live around a month ago, but the city didn’t publicize it until Friday.

Heather Dimke, management analyst with the city’s public works department, said the request form is meant to be easy and interactive.

The online request form is modeled after a safety crossing program in Austin, Texas.

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Users can also view other safety improvement requests and check the status of their inquiry. Requests are prioritized based on proximity to schools, traffic volume, speed and pedestrian activity, among other things. The dots on the map indicating a request have different colors based on their status. An orange dot is requested, blue is scored, purple is funded, and red means it’s not eligible.

“There’s a bazillion places around the city where you’re not next to a crossing signal,” said Julie Warncke, Salem’s transportation planning manager. “We can’t put controlled crossings everywhere. We trying to use data to try to prioritize where we focus limited resources.”

The requests are supposed to build a common platform where residents can look at intersections citywide to see where priorities lie.

“We’re hoping that this can guide decisions about investments and grant applications and communicate to the public that ‘yes we hear you,” Warncke said. “It isn’t because we don’t care, it’s because the universe of requests is larger than just yours.”

The city conducted a pedestrian safety study after a spike in fatalities since 2011.

The study, published in March 2018, recommended developing a more transparent and data-driven way to address pedestrian safety concerns on higher volume and higher speed roads.  

Salem used a lot of the recommendations from the study to start populating the request website. For example, two crossings on Northeast Lancaster Drive that Warncke said the city is certain will receive funding.

But those won’t happen anytime soon, new crossings typically take four to five years to complete.

“It’s definitely not immediate, which is one of the challenges,” she said.

Salem has set aside $125,000 for design and construction of pedestrian safety crossings next year, using money from the city’s share of Oregon’s gas tax.

Warncke said the crossing at Southeast Commercial Street and Southeast Royvonne Avenue cost $170,000.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.