There is a cultural aversion to cycling in New York City. At least, that’s the belief of one Lower Manhattan-based engineering firm with a plan to upgrade the network of biking opportunities in the city. Though recent news has reminded New Yorkers that cycling here is dangerous, there seems to be a less-than-friendly approach to changing the inefficient system despite it. Mayor Bill de Blasio has advocated for Vision Zero since he took office in 2013 and continues to push for net-zero carbon emissions across all five boroughs, yet the build-out of safe bike lanes has been incredibly slow and not very innovative. Buro Ehring, a local studio that specializes in structures, facades, and fabrication, has envisioned a world where all this is different: New Yorkers can cycle underneath the Brooklyn Bridge instead of on top of it; an elevated bikeway lined with trees runs above Canal Street; 31st Street is completely and solely dedicated to pedestrians—no cars allowed. These speculative improvements, created under a masterplan called CycleNYC, would decrease commuting times, separate cyclists from vehicles, enhance air quality, and in turn, add joy to the art of bicycling in a major metropolis. It’s not a far-reaching proposal. In fact, some of want they want to actualize is very doable. "CycleNYC at its core simply seeks to repurpose last century infrastructure and elevate it to meet the growing needs of New Yorkers," said Andres De La Paz, a designer at Buro Ehring. But in order to make a series of infrastructural, cultural, and formal moves that turns that aversion upside down—as the team at Buro Ehring aims to, it will take the help of city agencies, local community boards, alternative transit advocates, other design professionals, and maybe even CitiBike. Here’s what they propose: Greenways Arguably the most construction-heavy part of CycleNYC, greenways would require the build-out of elevated bike infrastructure above the city’s busiest east-to-west corridors. In a study, Buro Ehring found that the bike network running north to south in New York is much stronger than its perpendicular counterpart. To fix this problem, those busy axes would be relieved with an above-the-street cycling track. Remember Foster + Partners’ raised bike path for London? It’s like that, but possibly with less glass. Buro Ehring reimagines New York’s most traffic-ridden (and most deadly) thoroughfares with this unique infrastructure. For context, Canal Street’s cycling track would span 5,843 feet starting from the Manhattan Bridge, Delancy Street's path would stretch 9931 feet from the Williamsburg Bridge westward, and there would be similar structures on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, Houston Street in Manhattan, as well as Myrtle Avenue and Sunset Park in Brooklyn. By calculating the exact measurements of these potential bike highways, Buro Ehring outlined the amount of material needed to build these greenways as well. One of the biggest benefits to this idea—besides the increased safety of cycling out of sight from cars—would be the advanced purification of the surrounding atmosphere. Buro Ehring proposes that the sustainable materials used to build these greenways include titanium-painted panels that absorb respiratory pollutants, as well as self-cleaning protective rain screens. Artificial LED lights also installed along the way could help grow the tree screens that envelope the legs and walls of the tracks. Pathways Just as buildings get expanded and retrofitted to accommodate new programming, so can New York’s bridges and elevated subway lines, according to CycleNYC. The goal is to increase interborough connectivity and remediate air pollution that cyclists experience when they cross the East River next to idle cars and their heart rate rises due to the gradual incline. Buro Ehring proposes using existing pieces of infrastructure and building cycling tracks underneath them in order to provide healthier links. Think: Manhattan Bridge with a bike path hanging below the highway instead of structured on its northern side as it is now. In another example, the Queensborough Bridge could feature a pathway that’s 6561 feet long and creates a smoother connection to Roosevelt Island and Cornell Tech. The bike path would spiral down onto the small island and stop commuters from having to cross into Queens before taking the pedestrian bridge or the tram from Manhattan. Pedestrian Walkways This idea doesn’t include building anything, but instead, paving over everything. Buro Ehring sees some of New York’s most packed streets as pedestrian- and cycling-friendly only. A 14,540-foot-long, green-covered walkway on 30th Street could increase the desire to be in Midtown, while a similar car-free space across 61 Street and through Central Park could be a new east-to-west axis. With all these solutions, Buro Ehring also sees the construction of cycling-specific hubs placed on the edges of the boroughs for commuters and advocates to join forces, and create solidarity. Not only that, but there could be a serious placemaking effect from the integration of these healthier cycling options. Just as the High Line spurred both high-design and community-based development along it and underneath, so too could these greener, cycling-centric spaces help influence growth throughout New York. "A simple idea like improving the bicycle network can have a domino effect of positive impacts on the city," said Ryan Cramer, a project manager. "The infrastructure is all in place. It's now just a matter of implementing the solutions."
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Where The Sidewalk Ends
Sidewalk Labs rolls out its mobile tracking services in Portland
Portland, Oregon, has partnered with Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs to roll out a new mobile data collection service, with the goal of tracking how people move through the city. Through Replica, Sidewalk Labs’ program that can aggregate de-identified location data from cellphones and turn it into a “digital map,” Portland will be able to more accurately track public transportation demand and the various ways in which people are getting around. According to GeekWire, the year-long pilot, which has been somewhat under the radar until this point, will cost the city of Portland $457,000. Replica works by first hoovering up de-identified location data from mobile apps, location data aggregators, and telecommunication companies, which sell location data. Using that information, combined with demographic data, Replica can create what Sidewalk Labs calls a “synthetic population” that can be used to model how real people move through any given area. The model is then calibrated against on-the-ground observations for accuracy. A new Replica model is generated every three months to show the impact of new policies and infrastructure on movement patterns. The use of Replica in Portland will be overseen by TriMet, the agency that operates mass transit in the Portland metropolitan area, the Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, and the Portland Metro. Portland’s City Council approved the use of Replica last December, but the program won’t be put in place until Sidewalk Labs provides a model derived from Replica in July that passes the bar set by all three agencies. The initial data aggregation for Replica has already begun, so that Sidewalk Labs can build its initial test population. If the Replica program is approved, the city hopes to use the data provided to measure the usage of bike lanes and public transportation, what impact for-hire vehicles are having on traffic congestion, what areas of the city are underserved transportation-wise, and what facilities are needed in public parks. Because Replica recreates commuting paths, the city would be able to track work commutes as well as where people gather during their free time, providing urban planners with an estimate of what’s actually being used. Replica has the added advantage of providing this information without the need to build surveillance cameras or take surveys, as smartphones are ubiquitous. Of course, privacy advocates have raised concerns over whether the data would truly be anonymous, and who would have access to it, concerns also raised over Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside development in Toronto. Portland has pledged that only the three aforementioned agencies would be able to use the information generated by Replica, but even they won’t have access to the entire dataset, only data returned via filtered queries. Sidewalk Labs is reportedly looking to test Replica in Kansas City and Chicago as well.
Make Way for Ducklings?
Slow streets proposed for New York's Financial District
Now that the New York State government has decided that the busiest areas of Manhattan will have congestion pricing to discourage auto traffic (scheduled to take effect in 2021 for areas below 60th street), there are efforts to provide even more incentives to leave the island to bikers, mass transit, and pedestrians. One prominent example is a study commissioned by the Financial District Neighborhood Association (FDNA) titled “Make Way for Lower Manhattan.” This historic Dutch area of the city has long needed a sensible plan to control traffic on its narrow streets and lanes, but the city’s previous efforts (in 1966, 2010, and 2018) did not come to fruition. FDNA President Patrick Kennell hopes that this time things will be different. His study notes that the area has grown in population, owing mainly to the conversion of office towers to residential uses after 9/11. There are now 75,000 residents of the downtown area and over 300,000 daily office workers who regularly commute to and from the financial district. In addition, tourism has exploded, with more than 14 million visitors per year filling the small streets and waterfront. The new plan proposes a “Slow Street District” extending east-west from Broadway to Water Street and north-south from the Brooklyn Bridge to Battery Park. Using bridge-traffic diversion, wider sidewalks, lighting, and other measures successfully implemented in cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Barcelona, the planners believe that vehicular traffic can be significantly reduced and pedestrian traffic increased. The plan’s before-and-after illustrations portray cobblestone streets full of tourists enjoying cafes and shops while people watching. Will such measures, along with less on-street parking and increased late night garbage collection, finally make lower Manhattan safe for pedestrians and the occasional feathered flock? Stone Street and Maiden Lane have seen many changes, and they can wait for a few more.
Last week, Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the city will be setting up its first-ever transportation department. As one of the largest municipalities in the United States and one with debilitating congestion issues, this is a huge step in bringing more equitable mobility for Atlanta locals. The move is part of the mayor’s One Atlanta agenda, which aims to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through the creation of a safe and welcoming city with world-class infrastructure, services, employment opportunities, and more. She aims to build a better-connected city through the new DOT, which will oversee the management of Atlanta’s 1,500 miles of streets, as well as its sidewalks and bike lanes. The agency will consolidate the road construction and repair efforts of the City’s Department of Public Works along with the planning department’s Office of Mobility. Capital roadway projects that are currently part of the city’s infrastructure investment program will also be integrated into the new DOT’s list of duties. Janette Sadik-Khan, former head of New York’s DOT and transportation official at Bloomberg Associates, will advise Atlanta in the creation of its own office. “A city’s success begins with its streets, and a dedicated department is critical to putting the transportation pieces together,” she said in a statement. “Atlanta has an unprecedented opportunity to change course on transportation, and Mayor Bottoms is showing the strong leadership that a city needs not to just grow but to make real progress for Atlantans.” The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates the metro region—which consists of nine Georgian counties and 5.8 million people—will increase in population by 2.5 million before 2040. While many working-class families in Atlanta rely on the city’s public transit services, including the MARTA system, it’s still a car-ridden town and organized offices such as the new DOT are expected to boost the region’s connectivity and help with long-term planning. Last December, Mayor Bottoms released Atlanta’s new transportation plan that will concurrently guide the future expansion of the city’s transportation services, increase its access and affordability, and help diminish Atlanta's overall dependency on cars.
After eight years of negotiations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the Central SoMa Plan on December 4, paving the way for a massive density increase, transportation improvements, and infrastructure investments in the heart of the city. The final plan for Central SoMa (South of Market), an area bounded by 6th Street to the west and 2nd Street to the east and Townsend Street to the south and Market Street to the North, ended up at over 1,600 pages (available here). The resultant “eco-district” is aiming to be socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable by 2040, in part by ensuring a diversity of businesses call the neighborhood home. Among the many changes, heights of 400-feet-tall are now on the table for certain developments. The plan allows for an additional 8,800 units of housing—33 percent of which must be affordable—as well as office space for up to 32,000 new jobs. $600 million will be allocated towards transportation infrastructure improvements, including mass transit options, sidewalks, and bike lanes. $64 million will go towards neighborhood schools to accommodate the influx of new residents, and an additional $185 million will go towards improving the area’s existing parks and public spaces, as well as the construction of new civic spaces. $100 million will go towards social programs and the upkeep of the neighborhood’s historic buildings. An unspecified amount of funding will be set aside for stormwater management and projects that will improve air quality, and the plan requires that Central SoMa transitions to non-greenhouse gas-based energy sources. Green roofs and walls will also be required. Hotels, retail, and entertainment options will be incentivized, and the plan looks to include light manufacturing in an Urban Mixed Use zone, which will create a buffer between the residential district and the Eastern Neighborhoods. Such an ambitious zoning update naturally met resistance. Before the December 4 vote, four lawsuits against the project had to first be dismissed by the Board of Supervisors. Community groups took the city to task over fears of gentrification and concerns over increased air pollution owing to the forecasted increases in traffic. A third group, the developer One Vassar LLC, filed a motion because they felt the plan wouldn’t increase housing enough in proportion to the amount of expected office space. Now that the Central SoMa plan has essentially been approved, height limits in the area will gradually rise over the next 22 years, first to 85 feet from the current 30, then to 130 feet, and finally 400 feet.
Meet the Queens
Announcing the winners of the 2018 AN Best of Design Awards
The 2018 AN Best of Design Awards was our most exceptional yet. After expanding the contest to a whopping 45 categories and opening the competition to all of North America (including Canada and Mexico), we received more than 800 submissions, which made the judging more difficult than ever. An impressive range of projects came from firms big and small all over the continent. While we were surprised by the quantity of submissions, we were not surprised by the quality of the work put forth by architects and designers both familiar and new. There were some telling trends in this year’s submissions. First, our drawing categories received more and better entries than ever before. This resurgence in drawing, both analog and digital, seems to mirror what we see in the field: moving away from hi-fi digital photorealism toward more personal drawings utilizing a variety of techniques. See pages 70 and 71 for this year’s winners. It was also a good year for exhibition design, which you can see on page 22. For our Building of the Year award, our esteemed jury was fiercely divided between two exemplary but very different projects. The final debate came down to SCHAUM/SHIEH’s Transart Foundation—a private gallery across from the Menil campus in Houston—and NADAAA’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto. SCHAUM/SHIEH’s relatively small but mighty building employs punched-through balconies and a blurred program to utilize the space to maximum effect. Meanwhile, NADAAA’s extension and renovation of a 19th-century neo-Gothic building includes dramatic, complex lunettes that let in Aalto-esque light. In the end, the jury chose the scrappy Houston project, but the decision really could have gone either way. The panel members were also enamored with the quotidian allure of the Saxum Vineyards Equipment Barn in Paso Robles, California, by Clayton + Little Architects. See this year’s winner and finalists starting on page 14. Our jury this year was incredible as always, with a very talented group (see opposite page) who engaged in spirited discussion and refined the way we look at architecture. It is always good to get more people involved in the conversation, and we are always shifting our views on what is relevant and interesting. We hope you enjoy learning more about this year’s winners and honorable mentions, and we look forward to hearing from you next year as we keep searching for the best architecture and design in North America! —William Menking and Matt Shaw We will be updating this list over the next few days with winner and honorable mention profiles. To see the complete feature, don't miss our 2018 Best of Design Awards Annual issue, out now! 2018 AN Best of Design Awards Building of the Year Winner Transart Foundation SCHAUM/SHIEH Houston Finalists Daniels Building NADAAA Toronto Saxum Vineyard Equipment Bard Clayton + Little Paso Robles, California Public Winner Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Marble Fairbanks New York Honorable Mentions Banc of California Stadium Gensler Los Angeles River’s Edge Pavilion Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture Council Bluffs, Iowa Urban Design Winner Triboro Corridor Only If and One Architecture & Urbanism New York: Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx Honorable Mentions Los Angeles River Gateway AECOM Los Angeles North Branch Framework Plan for the Chicago River Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture Chicago Cultural Winner Transart Foundation SCHAUM/SHIEH Houston Honorable Mentions Magazzino Italian Art MQ Architecture Cold Spring, New York The ICA Watershed Anmahian Winton Architects Boston Exhibition Design Winner Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient Norman Kelley New York Honorable Mentions Living in America: Frank Lloyd Wright, Harlem, and Modern Housing Leong Leong and Project Projects New York Visionaire: AMAZE Rafael de Cárdenas / Architecture at Large and Sahra Motalebi New York Facades Winner Amazon Spheres NBBJ Vitro Architectural Glass Seattle Honorable Mentions The Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech Morphosis PPG New York Museum Garage WORKac, J. Mayer H., Nicolas Buffe, Clavel Arquitectos, and K/R Miami Small Spaces Winner Sol Coffee Mobile Espresso Bar Hyperlocal Workshop Longmont, Colorado Honorable Mentions Cabin on a Rock I-Kanda Architects White Mountains region, New Hampshire Birdhut Studio North Windermere, British Columbia Infrastructure Winner Confluence Park Lake|Flato Architects and Matsys San Antonio Honorable Mentions Rainbow Bridge SPF:architects Long Beach, California Los Angeles Union Station Metro Bike Hub Architectural Resources Group Los Angeles Commercial — Office Winner NVIDIA Headquarters Gensler Santa Clara, California Honorable Mention C3 Gensler Arktura Culver City, California Commercial — Retail Winner FLEX LEVER Architecture Portland, Oregon Honorable Mention COS Chicago Oak Street COS in-house architectural team Chicago Commercial — Hospitality Winner Saxum Vineyard Equipment Barn Clayton & Little Paso Robles, California Honorable Mention Brightline Rockwell Group Florida: Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando Green Building Winner Orchid Educational Pavilion FGP Atelier Oaxaca, Mexico Honorable Mention R.W. Kern Center Bruner/Cott Architects Amherst, Massachusetts Interior — Workplace Winner Expensify Headquarters ZGF Architects Pure+FreeForm Portland, Oregon Honorable Mentions CANOPY Jackson Square M-PROJECTS San Francisco Dollar Shave Club Headquarters Rapt Studio Marina del Rey, California Interior — Institutional Winner Brooklyn Aozora Gakuen Inaba Williams Brooklyn, New York Honorable Mention Jackie and Harold Spielman Children’s Library, Port Washington Public Library Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership Port Washington, New York Interior — Retail Winner Jack Erwin Flagship Store MILLIØNS New York Honorable Mention Valextra Bal Harbour Shops Aranda\Lasch Miami Interior — Hospitality Winner Hunan Slurp New Practice Studio New York Honorable Mentions City of Saints, Bryant Park Only If New York Sant Ambroeus Coffee Bar at Hanley Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture New York Interior — Healthcare Winner NYDG Integral Health & Wellness Brandon Haw Architecture New York Honorable Mention Studio Dental II Montalba Architects San Francisco Healthcare Winner Phoenix Biomedical Sciences Partnership Building, University of Arizona CO Architects Phoenix Honorable Mention Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center Fong & Chan Architects San Francisco Interior — Residential Winner 15th St Mork Ulnes Architects San Francisco Honorable Mentions Fort Greene Place Matter of Architecture Brooklyn, New York Little House. Big City Office of Architecture Brooklyn, New York Residential — Single Unit Winner Terreno House Fernanda Canales Mexico Federal State, Mexico Honorable Mentions Sky House Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster Stoney Lake, Ontario V-Plan Studio B Architects Aspen, Colorado Residential — Multi Unit Winner St. Thomas / Ninth OJT New Orleans Honorable Mentions Tolsá 61 CPDA Arquitectos Mexico City Elysian Fields Warren Techentin Architecture Los Angeles Landscape — Residential Winner Folding Planes Garden Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture Paradise Valley, Arizona Honorable Mentions Greenwich Village Townhouse Garden XS Space New York Landscape — Public Winner Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI with Arup Queens, New York Honorable Mentions Naval Cemetery Memorial Landscape Marvel Architects and NBWLA Brooklyn, New York Ghost Cabin SHED Architecture & Design Seattle Education Winner Daniels Building NADAAA Toronto Honorable Mentions UCSB San Joaquin Student Housing Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects Santa Barbara, California Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall at Carnegie Mellon University OFFICE 52 Architecture Pittsburgh Lighting — Outdoor Winner Spectra, Coachella NEWSUBSTANCE Indio, California Honorable Mention National Holocaust Monument Focus Lighting Studio Libeskind Ottawa Lighting — Indoor Winner The Lobster Club at the Seagram Building L’Observatoire International New York Honorable Mention Midtown Professional Education Center, Weill Cornell Medicine Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design New York Restoration & Preservation Winner 100 Barclay DXA Studio New York Honorable Mentions Hotel Henry at the Richardson Olmsted Campus Deborah Berke Partners Buffalo, New York Using Digital Innovation to Preserve Taliesin West Leica Geosystems, Multivista, and Matterport Scottsdale, Arizona Building Renovation Winner 1217 Main Street 5G Studio Collaborative Dallas Honorable Mention 1824 Sophie Wright Place studioWTA New Orleans Adaptive Reuse Winner San Francisco Art Institute at Fort Mason Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects San Francisco Honorable Mentions Empire Stores S9 Architecture, STUDIO V, and Perkins Eastman Brooklyn, New York Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep JGMA Waukegan, Illinois Temporary Installation Winner Trickster studio:indigenous Sheboygan, Wisconsin Honorable Mentions Blue Marble Circus DESIGN EARTH Boston 85 Broad Street Ground Mural FXCollaborative New York New Materials Winner Cyclopean Cannibalism Matter Design Seoul, South Korea Honorable Mentions One Thousand Museum Zaha Hadid Architects and ODP Architects Miami Clastic Order T+E+A+M San Francisco Digital Fabrication Winner 260 Kent COOKFOX Architects Brooklyn, New York Honorable Mentions A.V. Bath House Facilities Design Group Custer, Michigan MARS Pavilion Form Found Design Los Angeles Representation — Digital Winner Fake Earths: A Planetary Theater Play NEMESTUDIO Honorable Mention Cosmorama DESIGN EARTH Representation — Analog Winner Public Sediment for Alameda Creek SCAPE California: Fremont, Newark, and Union City Honorable Mentions Adidas P.O.D. Plexus Standard Set the Objective SAW // Spiegel Aihara Workshop Young Architects Award Winner Runaway SPORTS Santa Barbara, California Honorable Mentions Noodle Soup office ca Lake Forest, Illinois Malleable Monuments The Open Workshop San Francisco Student Work Winner mise-en-sand Jonah Merris, University of California, Berkeley Honorable Mentions Cloud Fabuland Eleonora Orlandi, SCI-Arc Real Fake James Skarzenski, University of California, Berkeley Research Winner Stalled! JSA Honorable Mentions Marine Education Center Lake|Flato Architects Ocean Springs,Mississippi After Bottles; Second Lives ANAcycle design + writing studio/Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Brooklyn, New York and Troy, New York Unbuilt — Residential Winner Brooklyn Senior Affordable Housing Only If Brooklyn, New York Honorable Mentions 150 Central Park South penthouse SPAN Architecture New York Courtyard House Inaba Williams Santa Monica, California Unbuilt — Urban Winner Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex University of Arkansas Community Design Center Wahiawa, Hawaii Honorable Mentions The Hydroelectric Canal Paul Lukez Architecture Boston Brooklyn Navy Yard Master Plan WXY Brooklyn, New York Unbuilt — Interior Winner Children’s Institute DSH // architecture Long Beach, California Honorable Mention Holdroom of the Future Corgan Unbuilt — Commercial Winner Uber Sky Tower Pickard Chilton Los Angeles Honorable Mention Nansha Scholar’s Tower Synthesis Design + Architecture and SCUT Architectural Design & Research Institute Nansha, China Unbuilt — Cultural Winner Beggar’s Wharf Arts Complex Ten to One Rockland, Maine Honorable Mention NXTHVN Deborah Berke Partners New Haven, Connecticut Unbuilt — Education Winner Arizona State University Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7 Studio Ma Tempe, Arizona Honorable Mentions Bedford Stuyvesant Community Innovation Campus Ten to One Brooklyn, New York 80 Flatbush Public Schools Architecture Research Office Brooklyn, New York Unbuilt — Green Winner 6 Industrial Way Office Park Touloukian Touloukian Salem, New Hampshire Honorable Mention Cooling Tower for Chicago Spire site Greyscale Architecture Chicago Unbuilt — Public Winner The American Construct Christopher Myefski American West Honorable Mentions Urban Canopy Buro Koray Duman New York Anacostia Water Tower Höweler + Yoon Architecture Washington, D.C. Unbuilt — Landscape Winner Greers Ferry Water Garden University of Arkansas Community Design Center Heber Springs, Arkansas Honorable Mention Murchison Rogers Park Surroundings El Paso, Texas A special thanks to our 2018 AN Best of Design Awards Jury! Tei Carpenter Founder, Agency—Agency Andrés Jaque Founder, Office for Political Innovation William Menking Editor-in-Chief, The Architect’s Newspaper Pratik Raval Associate Director, Transsolar Jesse Reiser Principal, Reiser + Umemoto Matt Shaw Executive Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper
Building Bridges, Burning Time
Governor Andrew Cuomo accused of dangerously rushing a major bridge opening
Ahead of Thursday's New York State primary, news has come out that in July Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration might have enticed the contractor building the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to speed up construction in order to finish it ahead of its late August deadline. The 1.3-mile bridge opened late last night instead, two days before voters hit the polls. Critics are claiming that Cuomo rushed the bridge's construction, potentially dangerously so, in order to tout its completion during his competitive primary race against Cynthia Nixon. The New York Times snagged an internal document this week reporting that Tappan Zee Constructors were incentivized to open the bridge’s eastbound span by August 24 in exchange for the New York Thruway Authority potentially absorbing “premium additional costs.” The state also said it would pay for any possible accidents that might occur if construction continued on the bridge while traffic flowed upon opening. Vox reported yesterday that the second section of the twin-span, cable-stayed bridge was set to open August 15, but due to construction delays the date was pushed back by 10 days. In the document, a letter from Jamey Barbas, the state official overseeing the project to TZC president Terry Towle, Barbas detailed her reasons for asking the contractors to ramp up their efforts. The NYT wrote that Barbas said the extension and concessions are “part of the normal give-and-take between the state and its contractors.” While Governor Cuomo said Sunday in a press conference that he denies having any influence over the bridge’s timetable, the letter suggests otherwise as the Thruway Authority is a key part of his administration. Additionally, according to the NYT, the Governor outright admitted his involvement. “We’ve been accelerating the second span,” he said. “And Jamey and Matt [Driscoll, Thruway Authority executive director] have been doing everything they can to shave time because the sooner we open the bridge, the sooner the traffic comes down.” After further schedule changes, the bridge was supposed to open last Saturday, but due to weather concerns and safety issues, cars only began passing through the second span into Westchester yesterday. The governor announced its completion in a big ceremony last Friday that included a congratulatory speech by Hillary Clinton. Throughout his campaign to be reelected as governor, Cuomo has repeatedly praised the many infrastructure projects his administration has achieved over the last 12 years. While the bridge, named after his late father and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, is a much-needed project set to replace the 63-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge, critics argue that the Governor’s aim was to use its rapid completion as a ploy for good press. This weekend, Cuomo’s gubernatorial opponents Marc Molinaro and Cynthia Nixon both called for an investigation into the bridge controversy, according to ABC 7 New York. The administration claims that hours after Friday’s ceremony, workers found a flawed joint in the old Tappan Zee structure that could have caused part of it to fall. Because of its proximity to the new bridge, officials shut down construction and postponed Saturday's opening. The first span of the Mario M. Cuomo bridge was finished in August 2017. As of this year, both Cuomo and the Thruway Authority said it would be done by 2018, but, while cars are already crossing over part, construction is still underway. When finally finished, the bridge will include eight traffic lanes, a bike and pedestrian path, as well as room for future bus transit and commuter trains.
The Gordie Howe International Bridge, a six-lane span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is set to begin construction this fall after the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) selected a team to design and build the structure. Bridging North America, an architecture, engineering, and construction 'whos-who' team including ACS Infrastructure Canada Inc., Dragados Canada Inc., Fluor Canada Ltd., AECOM, RBC Dominion Securities Inc., Carlos Fernandez Casado S.L/FHECOR Ingenieros Consultores, S.A., Moriyama and Teshima Architects, and Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, LLP, will oversee construction of the $3.7 billion bridge. The WDBA touted the bridge’s benefits in a project update on July 5. The Detroit-Windsor crossing is currently serviced by four separate crossings and accounts for 25 percent of the trade between the U.S. and Canada. Gordie Howe is supposed to streamline entry and exit across both countries for the 2.6 million trucks that make the crossing annually. The 1.5-mile-long span would be the largest cable-stayed bridge in North America and would be supported by two enormous, A-shaped structural towers. In addition to the six lanes for vehicles, three in each direction, bike lanes have been planned for the side of the bridge facing Detroit. The bridge project includes new ports of entry on both borders and a new connection to I-75. Not everyone is on board with speeding up the flow of goods from Canada. Reflecting the sometimes tumultuous relationship that the Trump administration has had with America's neighbor to the north, owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family, are reportedly trying to kill the project. The Ambassador Bridge currently handles 60 to 70 percent of truck traffic across the Detroit River, and the Canadian Government, owners of the WDBA, have stipulated that the Ambassador Bridge will need to be torn down once the Gordie Howe is complete. In response, the Morouns have been buying commercial airtime on Washington, D.C.-area Fox News stations in an attempt to influence Trump to scrap the Gordie Howe. The family has also been trying to get the Trump administration to inject the Gordie Howe into NAFTA negotiations and to pressure the Canadian government to drop its requirement that the Ambassador Bridge be dismantled. The Morouns are also fighting to keep the Michigan Department of Transportation from using eminent domain to acquire the land it needs to build a 167-acre port-of-entry in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood. The WDBA is still negotiating contract details with Bridging North America, and if everything proceeds as planned, work on the Gordie Howe should begin by the end of September.
Hear My Train A Comin'
Charlotte's light rail extension connects UNC Charlotte to the city center
On March 16, Charlotte launched a major extension of the city’s Lynx Blue Line light rail route. The extension comes just over a decade after the Blue Line’s inaugural run in 2007, and connects UNC Charlotte directly to the city center. The light rail line runs along an exclusive right-of-way and is projected to carry a daily ridership of 24,500 by 2035. Architecture and engineering firm STV was the principal firm behind the project's design. In a bid to provide greater physical and visual amenities to transit users and pedestrians, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) set a $4.9 million budget for public art installations. Additionally, the project includes bike lanes, improved sidewalks and green landscaping. The 9.3-mile extension adds 11 new stations to the Blue Line, bringing its total up to 26 stations on 18.9 miles of trackage. Four park-and-ride stations have been constructed as part of the line extension, providing approximately 3,000 spaces to reduce vehicular congestion of the I-85. Further intermodal opportunities are planned with the integration of the CATS bus services from neighborhoods adjacent to the light rail stations. As reported by the Charlotte Observer, funding for the $1.1 billion project came from the federal government, providing half of the budget, with the city and state splitting the remainder. The LYNX Blue Line is one of two light rail lines operated by the CATS, the other being the 1.5-mile CityLYNX Gold Line. Total daily ridership of CATS is just over 80,000, a figure expected to grow exponentially with an anticipated expansion of the Gold Line, as well as the development of an entirely new light rail line and commuter rail line connecting the city center to Charlotte's northern suburbs. In an press conference reported by WFAE, CATS CEO John Lewis estimated the budget of these three transportation projects to be between $5 to $8 billion. In line with the growing trend of transit-oriented development, Charlotte’s municipal government has rezoned areas surrounding new stations. According to BISNOW, hundreds of acres of mixed-use development, in varying states of completion, have already cropped up around the rail line extension.
The collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami yesterday that left six dead is raising questions over how the supposedly state-of-the-art project could fail. The 174-foot-long, 950-ton span was assembled on the side of the road and later rotated into place by Munilla Construction Management over the course of only 6 hours, after testing by structural firm BDI.
The FIU bridge, meant to cross eight lanes of traffic at a particularly dangerous intersection in front of the school, was designed to double as an amenity deck and would have featured a bike lane for students. Instead of being constructed in situ, the span that collapsed was built on temporary supports on the side of the road, and rotated 90 degrees into position on March 10th. Using this “Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC) method” to build the bridge’s superstructure elsewhere was touted as a way to cut costs and minimize disruptions to traffic below. According to a press release from LIU, the bridge would have also been the first in the world to have been constructed from self-cleaning concrete. It’s currently unclear whether the construction methods used to build the span played a part in the collapse, which flattened the cars underneath at the time. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez had said earlier that day that the bridge had just successfully completed stress testing. In a statement given to the Miami Herald, FIU President Mark Rosenberg said that the testing was done in accordance with best practices. “I know that tests occurred today. And I know, I believe, that they did not prove to lead anyone to the conclusion that we would have this kind of a result. But I do not know that as a fact.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter to discuss the work being done on the bridge before its collapse, saying “The cables that suspend the Miami bridge had loosened & the engineering firm ordered that they be tightened. They were being tightened when it collapsed today”. The engineering firm Rubio is referring to is FIGG Bridge Design, who were collaborating with Munilla to build the bridge. While the span was to be supported by steel suspension cables installed from a central column later on, Rubio may have been referring to tension cables inside of the bridge itself. It's unclear what form of temporary support was holding up the bridge at the time of the accident. At the time of writing, it’s unclear why engineers had chosen to stress test the bridge while allowing traffic to pass underneath, or if the cable tightening had played a role in the failure. The $14.2 million bridge, financed through a US Department of Transportation TIGER grant, had originally been slated to open in early 2019.
Engineering company BDI appears to have quickly deleted this tweet. pic.twitter.com/hA1McwVubS— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 15, 2018
Santiago Calatrava’s second Dallas bridge faces engineering questions
After a highly anticipated opening last summer, the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret McDermott Bridge in Dallas, Texas, has been plagued with cable rod issues, according to the Dallas Observer. The Margaret McDermott Bridge spans the Trinity River and is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s Horseshoe Project, a plan meant to revitalize downtown Dallas by addressing the city’s traffic congestion. Work on the Margaret McDermott Bridge was spurred on by the public’s reception to the iconic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in 2012, a cable-stayed bridge supported by a 400-foot-tall, central, arched pylon. While the concrete core of the Margaret McDermott Bridge, which extends Interstate 30 and supports vehicle traffic, opened in 2013, the 1,200-foot-long suspension arches, designed by Calatrava, were appended to both sides of the bridge separately to give it a “signature element.” The east span was supposed to support the bike and pedestrian lanes, but has remained closed due to safety concerns after several engineering issues came to light. In a bid to save as much money as possible, the construction contractors and city of Dallas worked out an agreement to skip stress testing for the design, which would have spotted the vulnerability earlier. The use of smaller, cheaper adjustment rods, has led to the cables vibrating in the intense wind over the river, and both the walking and bike paths remain closed since the bridge’s completion. Heavy dampers were later installed to minimize the movement of the cables after several failed, owing to the undue stress caused by the vibrations. Both lanes currently remain blocked with notices that threaten legal action against trespassers. The spans have been causing problems since their inception. After Calatrava initially proposed a $200 million bridge with four arches, the city was only able to wrangle $92 million, knocking the two interior archways off the bridge. The cost soon ballooned to $115 million, which the city promised to make up for through donations and value engineering; it now seems that original decision will end up costing the city even more money down the line. Calatrava argued that the testing should have gone ahead and offered to pay out of pocket. Some have questioned the installation of a suspension bridge near Dallas, real or fake, in the first place. “We are not a city with a large navigable river that would warrant a suspension bridge,” said Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs. “This is Texas, not Spain.” Calatrava's projects are no stranger to controversy, from the highly publicized leaks in the lower Manhattan Oculus to the recent halt in construction on the World Trade Center complex Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. It remains to be seen how much it will cost to fix these engineering oversights, or how much of the blame will fall on Calatrava.
City and MTA reveal alternate transit plans for L train shutdown
Last night the two agencies in charge of transit in New York kicked off an open house series for the public to learn more about plans to move commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the 15-month L train shutdown. The events are being held over four weeks in neighborhoods that will be most impacted by the closure.About 70 people filled the cafeteria of Williamsburg's Progress High School for the first open house, which was jointly hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT). Employees of both agencies stood by boards outlining transit options, science fair–style, as members of the public approached to ask questions about the bus, train, ferry, and bike routes that will carry them to Manhattan and back. The shutdown begins April 2019. During that time, the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River will close so workers can replace infrastructure that was damaged by flooding from 2012's Hurricane Sandy. Each weekday, 225,000 riders move through the tunnel, and 50,000 rides take the L just in Manhattan. The agencies are in the process of soliciting community feedback on the transit options; no plan has been determined yet. In Brooklyn, proposed changes include three-person HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge during peak hours, as well as new protected bike and bus lanes to ferry riders between the J/Z/M and G trains, L-adjacent lines the city expects 70 to 80 percent of affected riders will utilize to get across the river. Work is being done to ensure these lines can handle additional capacity, and the bus routes could be upgraded to give buses priority over private vehicles. The city estimates an additional 5 to 15 percent will use buses only, with new Williamsburg Bridge–bound buses, dubbed L1, L2, and L3, slated to carry approximately 30,000 riders, or 13 percent of the weekday total. After that, the agencies say five percent of straphangers will switch to the ferry, two percent will cycle to work, and between three and ten percent of riders may use taxis or ride-sharing services for their commute. In Manhattan, 14th Street (the crosstown thoroughfare under which the L train runs) would be converted into a busway, with only local private car access allowed. A block south, protected two-way bike lanes would be added to 13th Street to accomodate cyclists headed to and from the Williamsburg Bridge, which touches down on the Lower East Side. The next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 31, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan.
Residents had many questions—and more than a few concerns—about the proposed routes. "The main impetus of the plan is to keep people out of North Brooklyn," said Felice Kirby, a longtime Williamsburg resident and board member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. "There are a couple of thousand small businesses and manufacturers who, along with residents, made this area famous. We're in a lot of trouble if people can't get into our area to eat, shop, and work." She grilled an MTA official on why ferry service wasn't being expanded to increase the percentage of L-train riders who might use the boats to get to work."It's a timid and meek approach," she added.
Lifelong Williamsburg resident Vikki Cambos has already started thinking about alternative travel plans. Though she lives off the Grand St L and works off Hewes Street J/M, she is weighing the shutdown as she job-searches. "I don't want something directly off the L, because that will be a headache," Cambos said. As another option, she's considering jobs in lower and upper Manhattan that are easily accessible by trains other than the L. She's worried too that the proposed shuttle will add crowds in a neighborhood that's already undergone extensive gentrification. "I'm excited to see people move out," she said. Jeff Csicsek, a software engineer who volunteers with the North Brooklyn arm of transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, wants Grand Street in Brooklyn to be for bikes, buses, and pedestrians only—no private cars allowed. He cited Downtown Brooklyn's no-car Fulton Street, one of the city’s most profitable retail corridors, as an example of how the streetscape could be retooled to favor pedestrians and mass transit on Grand. "I don't think it's physical changes [that are needed] so much as policy," he said. "A do-not-enter sign for private cars would make this actually work." Even Andy Byford, the newly-appointed president of MTA New York City Transit, showed up to hear the public's questions. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was also in attendance. "We simply have to get this right," he told a small crowd of reporters. The MTA, he added, is soliciting community feedback to decide on final transit options. "The plan is not set in stone," he said. This post has been updated with the MTA's map of possible transit alternatives during the shutdown.