Salem is hoping to build crossings underneath Commercial Street and the railroad across Pringle Creek. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Salem is hoping to get funding for a “short but critical” bridge that will connect Riverfront Park to parts of Salem across Pringle Creek, including Salem Hospital and Bush’s Pasture Park.

The city is applying for $4 million in grant funding to construct a crossing under Commercial Street, a path connecting to the existing railroad over Pringle Creek, and a crossing beneath the railroad.

“It’s been in our plans for a long time,” said Julie Warncke, transportation planning manager for Salem’s Public Works Department. She said the crossings aren’t considered bridges because there won’t be pilings in the water.

She said the idea has been floated ever since the Boise Cascade Mill left town in 2007, leaving an empty space along the creek.

Warncke said there are hanging bridges under Commercial Street currently, but they don’t cross the creek.

The plan seeks to construct a crossing under the street so people can get across without having to get past traffic on the busy street.

There would also be a covered walking structure underneath the railroad.

“When it’s all said and done, you’d be able to go from Wallace Road at the Union Street pass location, on the path through Riverfront Park, and continue onto Pringle Creek to either Bush’s Pasture or Salem Hospital,” she said. 

A rendering of the proposed crossings at Pringle Creek. (Courtesy/City of Salem)

The city is applying for funds through the Oregon Community Path Program, which has $14 million available through 2024. The city is seeking the maximum grant award.

The new state grant program is funded through state and federal money and “is dedicated to helping communities create and maintain connections through multiuse paths.”

She said the funding source is well suited, because it’s focused on projects that aren’t within the public right of way.

In 2019, the city started a restoration project on Pringle Creek to remove remnants of the paper mill.

Warncke said the project was a necessary component to the future crossings.

“That set the stage for this project,” she said.

If the city is awarded the funds, construction would likely take place in 2023 or 2024, Warncke said.

Warncke said she doesn’t know if the city will get the grant, because she thinks it will be a competitive process.

The cost estimate to complete the project is $5.3 million, with the additional funding coming from the South Waterfront Urban Renewal Area funds.

Grant award winners will be announced this summer, Warncke said.

Even if the city isn’t successful this round, Warncke said they will continue to look for other funding opportunities for the crossing.

“I’m hopeful this will be done in the near term,” she said.

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

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