City News

Plan for Pringle Creek walking and bike path gets $6 million from the state

A newly awarded state grant has taken Salem pedestrians and bikers a big step closer to having a safer route to Riverfront Park.

On Friday, the city announced it received $6 million from the Oregon Department of Transportation to construct a multi-use path between the Civic Center and Riverfront Park.

The new path would connect the Salem Civic Center to a network of trails reaching Willamette University, Riverfront Park, Minto-Brown Island Park and Wallace Marine Park, and give pedestrians a more direct path with fewer intersections to cross.

Plans also include a new pedestrian bridge over the creek, under the Commercial Street bridge and art alongside it. 

The new multi-use path would be about twice the width of the average sidewalk, and bikes and pedestrians would share it. Similar paths are used in Riverfront Park. The new trail would connect existing paths to make a larger network.

The blue line on the left shows the planned Pringle Creek Path expansion between the Civic Center and Riverfront Park, as depicted on the city’s online infrastructure bond project map (Courtesy/ City of Salem)

The infrastructure bond that voters passed in 2022 will contribute $3.6 million to the project, according to the city website. The newly awarded grant closes the gap to fully fund the project.

Julie Warncke, the city’s transportation planning manager, said the project was first recommended in the early 2000s in a feasibility study. Even though plans have been nearly 20 years in the making, she said it’ll still be a while until construction happens. The city will start the design and permitting process in October, after the state funds come through.

Construction likely isn’t going to happen until around 2028, she said.

“From concept to completion, this one will probably be somewhere around 22 years,” Warncke said. That’s relatively quick, she said, compared to other large projects like the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge which took twice the time.

“You just gotta keep moving,” she said, and laughed.

Warncke said the state grant was a huge step forward for the project. The $6 million award is the maximum offered by the state’s Oregon Community Paths Program, in its second year. She said the city did not receive funding when it applied previously.

The Central Area Neighborhood Development Association, which encompasses the area, submitted a letter of support to the project.

“We’re really pleased that it’s gone through this time, although this process is quite frustrating when you have a project like this infrastructure that benefits the whole community and everybody gets geared up for it and then there’s a long, long delay for funding,” said chair Michael Livingston.

He said he would like to see more projects that open up access to the riverfront and add amenities for walkers and bikers, and is happy the Pringle Creek project will contribute to that vision.

“That’s really needed, particularly with more people residing in the downtown area,” he said. “Those can’t be looked at just as grace note amenities. They have to be looked at as core infrastructure.”

The city also announced an additional $269,190 grant from the state funding to develop a plan for a pedestrian overpass crossing Highway 22, east of Southeast Lancaster Drive. The funding will help planners decide a location.

The Salem-Keizer School District classifies the area as a hazard walk zone, which requires nearby students to take the bus because it’s too dangerous to walk to nearby schools, the city said. The overpass would give children in the area a safer walk to Miller Elementary School, Houck Middle School and Bill Riegel Park. 

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.