In November 2013, the city council narrowly approved the Cannery project on a 3-2 vote. A key provision of that project was having grade-separated crossings to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to avoid the heavily congested Covell Boulevard crossing to the south.
The agreement had a grade-separated crossing at the southwest corner of the project. It also provided the funding to “implement key transportation improvements that will serve The Cannery and enhance the existing network, such as improvements to the H Street tunnel and funds to implement a second grade separated crossing of Covell Boulevard.”
However, both grade-separated crossings never made it into the development agreement, and a crossing to the east was always deemed to be problematic at best.
On the city council agenda for next week is the city staff report on the grade-separated crossing options feasibility study.
Staff writes, “Background and Analysis as part of the Cannery subdivision EIR, three potential bicycle/pedestrian connections were analyzed and cleared. However, the Development agreement for this project chose to focus on two of the alternatives.”
Staff is recommending Option 1, which “is a connection that originates from the multi-use path within the southwest corner of the Cannery and runs south along the UPRR tracks, then sweeps to the east connecting to the Covell Boulevard multi-use path.”
That differs from what was the “preferred option” that “originates at the multi-use path within the Cannery and runs south across the private property of two private apartment complexes adjacent to the UPRR tracks down to the H Street tunnel.”
Staff writes, “The purpose of the study is to determine whether a cost effective alternative crossing could provide equal or better connectivity than Bike Path Option 1.”
Staff notes, “In review of the undercrossing option originally explored, some concerns emerged. This alternative evaluated an undercrossing beginning at the multi-use path within the Cannery, crossing under the Union Pacific Railroad Tracks via tunnel, crossing under the F Street drainage channel, and rising to grade at an access point with the F Street multi use path.”
Staff argues that this alternative is “cost prohibitive.” They cite the following:
- The need to construct a “shoo-fly” to reroute the railroad tracks around the active line.
- The depth of the boring underneath the railroad tracks and channel.
- Waterproofing of the tunnel being constructed within close proximity of the channel.
- The need to construct a pump station to handle high water events within the channel.
“Based upon this analysis, staff met with the Council subcommittee, Robb Davis and Lucas Frerichs, on November 19, 2015 to discuss options and to seek further direction. Due to the overall cost of the overcrossing options and the size of the structure needed to cross the railroad, it was decided to pursue two additional undercrossing alternatives,” staff writes.
Staff comes to the conclusion, “In reviewing the costs associated with these different alternatives, they do cost substantially more than Bike Path Option 1. However, the developer’s contribution of approximately $1.4M for Bike Path Option 1 offsets a portion of the cost. In addition, as part of the development agreement, approximately $4.6M in Roadway Impact Fees are anticipated to be generated from the Cannery and the project will also contribute a fee of $6,717 per market-rate residential unit, generating approximately $3.7M in Community Enhancement funds for transportation and circulation improvements. These fees will not be paid all at once, but will reimburse the City for a portion of the costs associated with the construction of one of the other alternatives should the Council decide to pursue one of the above alternatives.”
Staff adds, “After analyzing all alternatives, staff recommends moving forward with Bike Path Option 1. This is based upon the time to design, complete environmental clearance and the difficulty and cost of the construction of the other alternatives. With Bike Path Option 1, the project has already been designed, has environmental clearance and would be paid for and constructed by the developer. Prior to approval of the plans for construction, staff will present the Bike Path Option 1 details to the Bicycle, Transportation and Street Safety Commission for input.”
The path that the city is now proposing is one that bike advocates argued against from the start.
In the last few days some have expressed horror that the city has allowed Cannery to get away without building the H Street Connection. There are understandings about the problems with the east side and Tandem Properties’ unwillingness to allow the city to have an easement to build the connect there, but some have suggested that Cannery could have built under the railroad and come out by the Little League Park to access the more lightly traveled H Street on the west side of the tracks and the bikeway.
Others have pointed out the city staff’s recommendation is Option 1. Option 1 is what Ashley Feeney took to the Bicycle Advisory Commission prior to the project and that the Commission had skepticism that it was not a good design.
Of course now the city has hired Ashley Feeney as a planner, just as Cannery has reemerged with a series of asks and city staff is now backing Cannery’s preferred (and least expensive) solution for the bike separated crossing.
From the perspective of many, Cannery is the failure that keeps on giving. One of the reasons that Cannery ended up being a 3-2 vote is that the council majority would not insist that two grade-separated crossings would be in the developer agreement. At that point the city lost its leverage and its ability to compel Cannery and the New Home Company to build both crossings.
But it gets worse, because then the council voted 3-2 to allow the New Home Company to have a CFD without even insisting on the two crossings.
—David M. Greenwald reporting