City News, ECONOMY

Southeast Commercial site chosen as potential south Salem transit center

Salem’s transit agency is hoping a largely vacant piece of land on Southeast Commercial Street will be the city’s next transit hub.

The Salem Area Mass Transit District’s Board of Directors last week voted to move forward with an environmental study of the site at the northeast corner of Wiltsey Road Southeast and Commercial Street Southeast.

The roughly 5.5-acre parcel was one of three finalists the transit agency, usually known as Cherriots, identified in a study as possible sites for a new transit center. It’s intended to make travel by bus in south Salem easier because riders wouldn’t have to ride all the way to the downtown transit center to switch routes, a process that can significantly lengthen rides.

Steve Dickey, the agency’s director of strategic initiatives and program management, presented an overview of the sites at a July 28 board meeting.

The site directors selected, known as site 8, had the lowest likely cost to develop, according to an agency study, which put the price for design and construction at $13.45 million.

It was the only site not composed of multiple parcels of land, which makes the property easier to acquire. Other sites also had multiple businesses which would need to be relocated and owners who were not necessarily willing to sell the land to Cherriots, Dickey said.

The property’s real market value is listed at $2.5 million, Dickey said.

It also offers good access to Southeast Commercial Street at an intersection with a light which wouldn’t require buses to turn left to exit the transit center.

“Having full movement and directional access to Commercial is really important,” Dickey said.

The agency’s board unanimously voted to select the site to complete an environmental study, the next step required before design could begin and Cherriots could attempt to purchase the land.

That study would look for red flags indicating potential contaminants on the site or a history of industrial use that might require mitigation, Dickey said. Future more detailed studies would examine traffic and noise impacts.

Cherriots has the money to conduct the environmental assessment and design of a transit center from existing grants and is actively pursuing grants that could be used to cover construction costs, Dickey said. 

“We’re ready to go,” he said.

Dickey said in June it would likely take about three years to develop the site into a transit center, and it’s difficult to predict an exact timeline given the supply chain issues and delays in the construction industry currently.

“I am thrilled to get started on this,” said board member Sara Duncan.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.