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Scuttled Shuttles

Federal government shuts down self-driving school bus program in Florida
The dreams of a fully autonomous school bus are on hold for a little while longer, at least in Babcock Ranch, Florida. On October 19, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ordered a complete halt to the self-driving school bus program in the Florida town, which had been transporting kids to-and-from school along a three-block stretch. Transdev North America had been operating the Easy Mile EZ10 Gen II shuttle as part of a two-month pilot program within the fully solar-powered, tech-forward community. The shuttle, which seats 12 and included a human supervisor ready to take over in case the “bus” encountered an unexpected obstacle, has a top speed of 8-miles-per-hour and was programmed to brake automatically. The bus was just one part of Transdev’s initiative to launch a network of autonomous shuttles (AVs) across North America, with Babcock Ranch as a testing ground. While the shuttle never picked up more than five students at a time, only operated one day a week during the five-week trial period, and only picked up and dropped off passengers in designated areas, the NHTSA didn’t mince words, calling the shuttle “unlawful.” According to the NHTSA, Transdev had only been granted permission to import their shuttles as demonstration vehicles and not to transport children. "Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety," said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator, in a press release.  "Using a non-compliant test vehicle to transport children is irresponsible, inappropriate, and in direct violation of the terms of Transdev’s approved test project." While the NHTSA claims it wasn't informed about Transdev’s plans to use one of its shuttles to ferry students, the pilot program had been written about extensively and Transdev released several promotional videos touting their self-driving bus. Transdev, for its part, claims to have discussed the school bus shuttle with the NHTSA but that they had never received a letter asking them to stop operating it, and that they voluntarily shut down the program. The company also claims that every safety precaution was taken and that the shuttle was only operated along quite private roads. In its own release, Transdev states that “This small pilot was operating safely, without any issues, in a highly controlled environment. Transdev believed it was within the requirements of the testing and demonstration project previously approved by NHTSA for ridership by adults and children using the same route.” Whether the shutdown was over a miscommunication or because Transdev demonstrably overstepped its certification remains to be seen.
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Traffic Buster

Elon Musk promises first high-speed L.A. tunnel will open in December
Elon Musk has continued his streak of sharing big news via Twitter: on Sunday, he announced that the Boring Company's first Los Angeles tunnel would open on December 10 and offer free rides to the public the following day. The 2-mile tunnel was carved out under Musk's Space X headquarters in Hawthorne and follows 120th Street, and is a test run for what Musk hopes will be a tunnel network that runs underneath the entire city. The high-speed system, which Musk tweeted would run at 155 mph, was originally intended for private cars but will now be designated for public transit, pedestrians, and cyclists. This is not the only tunnel that the Boring Company has undertaken in L.A.—another 2.7-mile route is being dug under Sepulveda Boulevard, which bypassed California's strict environmental review process—but this would be the first tunnel that to be completed. Musk also proposed a 3.6-mile-long "Dugout Loop" that would take riders from Los Feliz or East Hollywood to the Dodger Stadium in four minutes, for which the company held a sparsely attended public hearing in August. Of course, beyond Musk's company's ability to deliver on his grand promises, the feasibility of the Loop system proposed by Musk will be dependent on passing the state's environmental review and other approval processes. The Sepulveda-adjacent tunnel also faced community opposition, with officials in Culver City also considering a legal challenge. Will Musk's eventful summer be capped by the successful opening of a tunnel that improves Los Angeles commutes? Only time will tell.
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Highway to Votes

Senator Gillibrand and her Republican challenger spar over Syracuse's I-81
The fight to bring down an antiquated elevated highway in Syracuse, New York, is among the controversial issues being highlighted in the race for one of the state’s  U.S. Senate seats. On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told The Post-Standard she supports the effort to replace a portion of Interstate 81 with a street-level grid—a position she’s never spoken out on before. “Given where the stakeholders are—and given what I have heard from the community in the last several years,” she said, “ I really think the community grid is the better approach to not only revitalization, but to support all members of our community.” For years, higher-level politicians have shied away from taking a stance on the decade-long debate to fix one of Syracuse’s greatest transportation issues. The 1.4-mile highway viaduct cuts through the heart of the city’s downtown, segregating the community physically and economically. As of last year, it reached the end of its functional lifespan and is no longer safe for the thousands of cars that traverse it each day. Syracuse-based community groups, university leaders, and local politicians have spoken out about the dire need to address I-81. Some have come out in favor of any of the three proposed options—an underground tunnel, street grid, or rebuilt overpass—while some have stayed quiet. So far, Gillibrand is the most influential person to state her opinion. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Representative John Katko, R-Camillus, have declined to comment. “I disagree with the tunnel folks because I think you’re just going to have a bypass of downtown,” Gillibrand told The Post-Standard. “Unfortunately, when you don’t invest in a downtown long-term, your city becomes less attractive. If you create thoroughfares and routes to skip downtown, what you get is boarded up storefront and you get a hollowing out of cities.” It’s no coincidence Gillibrand is speaking out just weeks away from the Tuesday, November 6, election for her U.S. Senate seat. Her Republic challenger, Chele Farley, criticized her decision to pick a proposal.  “I think it’s a little offensive for me to make a decision for Syracuse,” Farley said in a reactionary statement. “Let Syracuse decide, but then it’s my job to get the money and bring it back so the project could get funded quickly and it could happen.” Of all three options, the underground tunnel could prove the most expensive at $3.1 billion—another reason why Gillibrand doesn’t back it. A new elevated highway would be around $1.7 billion, while a boulevard, or community grid, would cost $1.3 billion. Most of the funds will be supplied through the federal government via President Trump’s recent infrastructure rule that places priority on interstate highway projects. But some worry Syracuse’s failure to unite on a decision will prevent the city from getting the money it needs on time. Gillibrand and Farley will face off in a televised debate this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on WABC-TV. Whoever wins the Senate seat will take on the task of pushing the project forward based on the community’s final decision. The New York State Department of Transportation is now working on a new environmental impact study surveying the three options. It’s set to be published in January when a public commentary period will open.
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Heading On West

Construction begins on L.A.’s Purple Line extension as adjacent projects take shape
Over 30 years after it was initially planned, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has started tunneling the final phases of the Purple Line subway. According to Metro, when completed in 2026, it will be possible to take a one-seat underground ride from Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles to Westwood—an area home to the University of California, Los Angeles campus, the Veterans Administration complex, and other major institutions—in roughly 25 minutes. For comparison, today the trip takes nearly an hour and a half by car or bus. Though its completion is many years away, the pending extension has begun to impact adjacent areas as rezoning efforts get underway in anticipation of the route. The pending Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, for example, will modestly boost densities between the three adjacent stations surrounding the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus. As proposed, upper height limits in the densest areas could reach 70-feet, ten feet higher than currently allowed. The prospect of taller buildings on and around Wilshire Boulevard is not a far-off vision, however. The 18-story Vision on Wilshire project by Steinberg Hart and developers UDR, for example, wrapped up construction this summer. The pixelated tower comes with 150 units and joins other new apartment towers recently completed along the corridor. Nearby, a new glass-wrapped tower by MVE + Partners and developers J.H. Snider is slated for a site adjacent to the LACMA campus, and will bring 285 apartments and 250,000 square feet of offices just steps from the transit line. Another project on the boards is a two-tower condominium development slated to join the historic Minoru Yamasaki-designed Plaza Hotel in Century City. Here, Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, Gensler, Marmol Radzinger, and RCH Studios will add 290 luxury condominiums behind the historic hotel on a site that will host a new stop on the extension. The project is currently under construction. Not everyone is happy about the coming transit line, however, especially in Beverly Hills, which will see a new subway stop at Wilshire and Rodeo Drive. The City of Beverly Hills has been engaged in a years-long struggle to block the subway from running below its streets. Most recently, the Beverly Hills Unified School District orchestrated what it called a student “walk out” against the proposed metro line. The demonstration occurred last week and was aimed at trying to get the attention of President Trump, who is himself a Beverly Hills homeowner. According to The Los Angeles Times, students carried signs calling on the president to move the subway route, which is currently slated to run underneath Beverly Hills High School and other sites in the city, away from delicate areas. The students also sought to have the president take the unprecedented step of revoking the $1.5 billion in federal funds and low-cost loans awarded to the transformative project. There’s no word from the president yet, but Metro cranked up its two new tunneling machines Monday to begin digging the next leg of the extension nonetheless. It’s expected the tunneling machines will advance roughly 60 feet per day from La Brea Avenue and Wilshire toward the current Purple Line terminus at Western Avenue. After the tunnel there is excavated, the machines will be driven back to La Brea and begin the work of completing the final leg of the line. Phase one of the expansion is slated to open in 2023 with the second phase due to arrive in 2025 and final completion expected by 2026, just in time for the 2028 Olympic Games.
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Green Queens

AIANY and ASLANY honor 2018's best transportation and infrastructure projects
At an awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Center for Architecture on October 8, representatives from AIA New York (AIANY) and the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLANY) gathered for the first annual Transportation + Infrastructure Design Excellence Awards (T+I Awards). The winners, winnowed down from a pool of 67 entrants, showed excellence in both built and unrealized projects related to transportation and infrastructure, with a heavy emphasis on work that integrated sustainability and engaged with the public. Outstanding greenways, esplanades, and transit improvement plans were lauded for their civic contributions. A variety of merit awards were handed out to speculative projects, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) was honored a number of times for the studies it had commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan; it was noted that many of the solutions proposed in past Regional Plans had eventually come to pass. The jury was just as varied as the entrants: Donald Fram, FAIA, a principal of Donald Fram Architecture & Planning; Doug Hocking, AIA, a principal at KPF; Marilyn Taylor, FAIA, professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania; David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute; and Donna Walcavage, FASLA, a principal at Stantec. Meet the winners below:

Best in Competition

The Brooklyn Greenway Location: Brooklyn, N.Y. Designers: Marvel ArchitectsNelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, WE Design Landscape Architecture, eDesign Dynamics, Horticultural Society of New York, and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates Now six miles long and growing, the waterfront Brooklyn Greenway project kicked off in 2004 with a planning phase as a joint venture between the nonprofit Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and the RPA. The 14-mile-long series of linear parks has been broken into 23 ongoing capital projects under the New York City Department of Transportation’s purview—hence the lengthy list of T+I Award winners. Funding is still being raised to complete the entire Greenway, but the BGI has been hosting events and getting community members involved to keep the momentum going.

Open Space

Honor

Hunter's Point South Park Location: Queens, N.Y. Park Designers: SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi Prime Consultant and Infrastructure Designer: Arup Client: New York City Economic Development Corporation With: Arup The second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened in June of this year and brought 5.5 new acres of parkland to the southern tip of Long Island City. What was previously undeveloped has been converted into a unique park-cum-tidal wetland meant to absorb and slow the encroachment of stormwater while rejuvenating the native ecosystem. Hunter’s Point South Park blends stormwater resiliency infrastructure with public amenities, including a curved riverwalk, a hovering viewing platform, and a beach—all atop infill sourced from New York’s tunnel waste.

Merit

Roberto Clemente State Park Esplanade Location: Bronx, N.Y. Landscape Architect: NV5 with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects Client: New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation With: AKRF, CH2M Hill

Citation

Spring Garden Connector Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Landscape Architect: NV5 Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corporation With: Cloud Gehshan, The Lighting Practice

Planning

Merit

The QueensWay Location: Queens, N.Y. Architect: DLANDstudio Architecture and Landscape Architecture, and WXY Architecture + Urban Design Client: The Trust for Public Land Could a High Line ever land in Queens? That’s what The Trust for Public Land set out to discover, tapping DLAND and WXY to imagine what it would look like if a 3.5-mile-long stretch of unused rail line were converted into a linear park. The project completed the first phase of schematic design in 2017 using input from local Queens residents, but fundraising, and push-and-pull with community groups who want to reactivate the rail line as, well, rail, has put the project on hold.

Merit

Nexus/EWR Location: Newark, N.J. Architect: Gensler Client: Regional Plan Association With: Ahasic Aviation Advisors, Arup, Landrum & Brown

Projects

Merit

The Triboro Corridor Location: The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, N.Y. Architect: One Architecture & Urbanism (ONE) and Only If Client: Regional Plan Association Commissioned as part of the Fourth Regional Plan, Only If and ONE imagined connecting the outer boroughs through a Brooklyn-Bronx-Queens rail line using existing freight tracks. Rather than a hub-and-spoke system with Manhattan, the Triboro Corridor would spur development around the new train stations and create a vibrant transit corridor throughout the entire city.

Structures

Honor

Fulton Center Location: New York, N.Y. Design Architect: Grimshaw Architect of Record: Page Ayres Cowley Architects Client: NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority With: Arup, HDR Daniel Frankfurt, James Carpenter Design Associates Fulton Center was first announced in 2002 as part of an effort to revive downtown Manhattan’s moribund economy by improving transit availability. Construction was on and off for years until the transit hub and shopping center’s completion in 2014, and now the building connects the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, and Z lines all under one roof (the N, R, and W trains are accessible through an underground passage to Cortlandt Street). Through the use of a large, metal-clad oculus that protrudes from the roof of the center, and the building’s glazed walls, the center, which spirals down from street level, is splashed with natural light.

Merit

Number 7 Subway Line Extension & 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station Location: New York, N.Y. Architect: Dattner Architects Engineer of Record: WSP Client: MTA Capital Construction With: HLH7 a joint venture of Hill International, HDR, and LiRo; Ostergaard Acoustical Associates; STV

Merit

Mississauga Transitway Location: Ontario, Canada Architect: IBI Group Client: City of Mississauga, Transportation & Works Department With: DesignABLE Environments, Dufferin Construction, Entro Communications, HH Angus, WSP

Merit

Denver Union Station Location: Denver, Colorado Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Landscape Architect: Hargreaves Associates Client: Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) With: AECOM, Clanton & Associates, Kiewit Western, Tamara Kudrycki Design, Union Station Neighborhood Company

Student

Turnpike Metabolism: Reconstituting National Infrastructure Through Landscape Student: Ernest Haines Academic Institution: MLA| 2018, Harvard Graduate School of Design Anyone’s who’s ever cruised down a highway knows that equal weight isn’t necessarily given to the surrounding landscape. But what if that weren't the case? In Turnpike Metabolism, Ernest Haines imagines how the federal government can both give deference to the natural landscapes surrounding transportation infrastructure and change the design process to allow nature to define routes and structures.
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More MARTA

A historic $2.7-billion plan will expand Atlanta's MARTA transit system
Last week, Atlanta’s notoriously dysfunctional mass transportation authority, MARTA, released a $2.7-billion expansion plan that will extend its services from the city center via light rail, bus rapid transit, and arterial roadways. The announcement marks the largest development strategy made by the organization in decades. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the 40-year plan, “More MARTA,” was approved by the authority's board of directors in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Officials have agreed to dole out money to 17 projects across the city, allocating large sums to the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor, the latter of which will include four miles of light rail service from the Lindbergh Station to a new station at Emory University. In total, 29 miles of light rail will be built throughout the city, as well as 13 miles of new bus lines. Three arterial rapid transit routes serving both the north and south sides of Atlanta will be built out as well, making 20-to-30 minute trips much faster. Station improvements along the MARTA rail line will also be made over the next few years. Initial plans for the major expansion were announced in May, but significant adjustments were made leading up to the final decision after Beltline advocates pushed for more money for public transit along the 22-mile loop. The light rail addition has long been in the works for the famed urban park and trial. Further tweaks were also made to extend train and bus lines more effectively into some of Atlanta's 10 outlying counties. In recent years, several have voted to join MARTA, further incentivizing the transportation organization to provide high-capacity services to the outer regions. Atlanta is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and it has suffered from poor public transportation. A report put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March revealed that nearly 90,000 people moved to the city from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total population to approximately 5.8 million people. It’s the largest single-year growth gain since the Great Recession. These scores of people are moving to Atlanta largely for jobs—77,300 were added last year—but not everyone is living in the areas where mass transit is already available for their daily commutes.
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JFK's New Look

Governor Cuomo releases updated vision for New York's JFK Airport
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last week announced a $13-billion plan to transform John F. Kennedy International Airport into a modern 21st-century facility anchored by two new world-class international terminal complexes on the airport's north and south sides. This record investment, which includes $12 billion in private funding, will advance Cuomo’s vision for a unified and interconnected airport system with best-in-class passenger amenities, centralized ground transportation options, and vastly improved roadways that collectively will increase the airport's capacity by at least 15 million passengers a year. The governor's Vision Plan, initially unveiled in January 2017 and based on the recommendations from the governor's Airport Advisory Panel, calls for an overhaul of JFK’s eight disparate terminals into one unified airport. The plan also calls for increasing the number and size of gates, improving parking availability, adding an array of airside taxiway improvements to allow for bigger planes and reduced gate congestion, upgrading the AirTrain JFK system to handle increased passenger capacity, and enhancing roadways on and off the airport. The announcement followed the selection last September of a master planning team for the redevelopment of the airport, led by Mott MacDonald and Grimshaw Architects.  Grimshaw's portfolio of prior master planning and redevelopment projects includes airports around the world. The proposed new $7-billion, 2.9-million-square-foot terminal on the airport's south side will be developed by the Terminal One Group, which is a consortium of four international airlines: Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air Lines. The plan calls for replacing JFK's Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, as well as the area left vacant when Terminal 3 was demolished in 2014. When completed, the terminal will yield a net increase of over 2 million square feet from the existing terminals and provide 23 international gates, 22 of which will be designed to accommodate larger, wide-body aircraft. The complex will be operated by Munich Airport International and also be connected to the existing Terminal 4, which initially opened in 2001 and has been expanded twice since then, most recently in 2013. On the airport's north side, the proposed new $3-billion, 1.2-million-square-foot terminal will be developed by JetBlue. JetBlue plans to demolish Terminal 7 and combine it with the vacant space where Terminal 6 was demolished in 2011 to create a world-class international terminal complex that would be connected to the airline's existing Terminal 5 and be occupied by the airline and its various partners currently spread throughout the airport. The plans for the two terminals announced yesterday will now be submitted to the Port Authority's Board of Commissioners. Once lease terms are finalized, the leases will be subject to final board approval. Construction is expected to begin in 2020, with the first new gates opening in 2023 and substantial completion expected in 2025. The Port Authority also will seek proposals to develop the new Kennedy Central hub, issuing a request for information in coming months.
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You Have Died of Dysentary

Oklahoma exhibit showcases graphics of golden age of passenger travel
Ticket to Ride, the show now up at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma, gathers paintings, posters, and graphic works by artists and commercial designers who depicted Western rail companies and the landscape they traversed between the late 1880s and early 1930s, the golden age of passenger travel. Private cars were not widely available, so artists and illustrators relied on the Western rail lines, such as the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe, and other Western lines, for travel. The rail companies also commissioned artists and illustrators for images of Western subjects to decorate their offices and hotels. The exhibition features Hudson River School pioneer Thomas Moran and “Master Painter of the American West” Maynard Dixon, among those who rode the Western railways and enjoyed their patronage. Ticket to Ride Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma 555 Elm Avenue Norman, Oklahoma October 5 through December 30
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Building Momentum

After a decade-long fight over I-81, Syracuse inches toward a decision
A small sliver of urban infrastructure has been both the bane and blessing of one city in Central New York for 60 years. Interstate 81, an 855-mile-long highway stretching from Tennessee to the U.S.–Canadian border, sliced through downtown Syracuse upon its completion, sparking generations of socioeconomic segregation. Today, the viaduct that hovers over Syracuse’s urban core has reached the end of its functional life, spurring residents and the state’s department of transportation (NYSDOT) to consider next steps for the consequential corridor and how reimagining the site might transform the city in dramatic ways. This isn’t a new transportation tale, but the decisions made in Syracuse could have a major impact on the health and wealth of its locals. For nearly a decade, conversations have centered around three options for the deteriorating viaduct: replace it with a new overpass, build an underground tunnel, or design a street grid that slows traffic through downtown Syracuse and thereby spurs development and a more walkable city. One grassroots group calling for the street grid is Rethink81. They’ve created a digital narrative that paints a clear picture of the city’s wrought history with the highway and what its future could look like. Renderings of the street grid site show new buildings, a green street, and a bike path that extends south on Almond Street in between downtown and University Hill. The street grid seems like the eco-friendliest and fiscally responsible option at $1.3 billion, but many are against it. The DOT estimates that a new elevated highway will cost $1.7 billion but take nearly ten years to complete. Some upstate members of the state legislature even favor the tunnel despite its hefty price tag of $3.6 billion, according to consulting firm WSP Global. The latest discussions—from Albany to Syracuse—center around whether the tunnel idea is still truly on the table. "It's the million dollar question," said Jason Evans, associate principal at Ashley McGraw Architects and member of ReThink81. "The tunnel seems like an excessive investment to make for what would essentially be a duplicate route for traffic to bypass downtown.” Before and after renderings of the proposed street grid for I-81 reveal a tree-lined, walkable street for downtown Syracuse. Shown here: Harrison Street looking north. Both the tunnel and rebuilt viaduct would allow cars to zip through the city at the same rapid pace as they do today. But that’s just the problem, says Syracuse University architecture professor Lawrence Davis. The city’s biggest issues stem from the fact that hardly anyone lives, works, or plays in downtown. The mass exodus of white residents to the suburbs after World War II caused investment to be drawn away from downtown. To this day, the suburbs remain Syracuse’s wealthiest districts. “This is a vitally important thing to study because a lot of American cities are going through a similar thing and are taking a cost-benefit analysis of their infrastructure,” said Davis. “I’m arguing that the city of the future isn’t so much a concentric city but a multicentric city that’s built in the interest of everybody and provides a variety of neighborhood types.” When the viaduct was built, it cut off Syracuse’s lowest-income residents, members of the largely African American 15th Ward, from the new developments that have risen over the last several decades. This has contributed majorly to the city’s rising poverty rates. Ranked the 13th poorest city in the nation in 2016, it’s also one of the worst places for black Americans to live, according to data from 24/7 Wall Street last year. These stark realities date back to the decision made to build the highway in 1957. Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Central New York chapter director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), helps educate the local community and university students on the multilayered segregation that’s resulted, and how this modern moment in Syracuse’s history could help end the physical and financial isolation so many people feel there. “A highway isn’t naturally discriminating against everybody, but it creates a number of issues,” he said. “The car has literally split the city and made parts of it less desirable for development. If you look at these constituencies and their effective income, they are living this way because nothing’s been done to provide equitable opportunities for housing choice, economic mobility, or inclusion. It’s caused generational poverty.” Abdul-Qadir and the NYCLU are putting together an expert team of lawyers, urban planners, and project councilors that will continue to fight on behalf of Syracuse’s underrepresented populations as the I-81 debate moves forward. “This isn’t just an urban movement or a policy movement,” he said. “It’s a human rights movement and we’re trying to build momentum.” As of July, the NYSDOT was working on a new environmental impact statement that details how the three options will affect the city. A draft is expected to be complete by early 2019, at which time the public will be able to weigh in with commentary.
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On the Rails

Against all odds, California is building a high-speed train line
After years of political wrangling, regulatory delay, and economic uncertainty, California’s $100-billion high-speed rail (HSR) project is finally under construction. Though the project has more than doubled in cost and is now over 11 years behind schedule, the California High Speed Rail Authority, a public agency tasked with planning, designing, building, and operating the 300-mile route, has broken ground on a variety of key construction initiatives since 2016. The agency is currently working on 20 sites scattered across five central California counties in an effort to build a 119-mile proof-of-concept route between Bakersfield and Madera by 2022. Among the multifaceted works underway are the 3,700-foot-long Cedar Viaduct that will carry high-speed trains over State Route 99 in Fresno, and the 4,700-foot San Joaquin River Viaduct that will span the San Joaquin River to the north. The aerial alignments are test runs for the types of layered sites the authority will have to build over in more densely populated centers. Here, where temperatures can reach 110 degrees during the day, workers are laying rebar for structural columns, balancing new concrete slabs on elevated spans, and acquiring new properties to complete the future rail alignment. Roughly halfway between the two ends of this initial route, the Dragados-Flatiron Joint Venture Precast Facility outside of Hanford is currently under construction, as well. The precast concrete factory will supply girders and precast slabs for the bullet train project when it opens in 2019. Ultimately, the facility will produce roughly 1,300 different types of beams and nearly 500,000 precast slabs for the rail line. Bruce Fukuji, principal at Albany, California–based Urban Design Innovations, is an architect working to develop transit-oriented community guidelines for sites across the state that will be impacted by the new route. In a statement, Fukuji explained that his goal was to “focus regional economic activity [and] attract public and private investment to stimulate the regeneration of station areas.” Fukuji added, “We are linking locally desired projects with potential cap-and-trade funding [and are] setting up the opportunity for local communities and disadvantaged communities to benefit from collaborating with us and our partner agencies.” Though far from the state’s major urban centers now, when the full route is completed in 2033, it is expected to carry over 30 million passengers each year on trains traveling between 110 and 220 miles per hour.
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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.
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Big Terminal Energy

Pelli Clarke Pelli creates a collection of new civic nodes in San Francisco
The Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA)–designed Salesforce Transit Center and its 5.4-acre rooftop park in San Francisco are now officially open to the public. Decades in the making, the opening of the $2.1 billion, 1.2 million-square-foot terminal this August capped off eight years of construction and followed the completion of the 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower next door in February. Taken together, the three elements—terminal, tower, and park—represent the beginning of a new era that, according to the planners behind the transformative project, is driven by a focus on public space and public transit. Dubbed the “Grand Central Terminal of the West” by its civic boosters, the new multimodal transit center is meant to be the crown jewel of a new high-rise, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood anchored by the multifunctional rooftop park and capped off by the tower. The arrangement is one of the many by-products of a far-reaching district plan crafted to embrace the terminal and reshape the city’s skyline. Designed as a massive, skylit, indoor-outdoor living room sandwiched between transit and a park, the terminal is geared for public use first and foremost. Inside its cavernous halls, terrazzo-based flooring by Julie Chang, a light installation by artist Jenny Holzer, and a fountain by James Carpenter enliven the grand and formal spaces designed by PCPA. A total of 3,992 perforated white aluminum panels—designed in collaboration with British mathematician Roger Penrose—wrap the terminal, skinning a bulbous, undulating object that sneakily cuts across the neighborhood. The lacey wrapper brings light into a second-story bus terminal and helps to dematerialize the massive complex. This visual transparency becomes physical porosity along the ground floor, where the multiblock building spans over city streets, weaving through the commercial district with its 85,349 square feet of retail space. Fred Clarke, a founding partner at PCPA, described the transformative project and the whirlwind of construction it has engendered as “transit-oriented development at a scale we haven’t seen before” in the United States. Clarke observed, “Our car-oriented society typically works against this building type, so we feel like we are cutting new ground here.” The expression is quite literal in this case, as the complex begins 125 feet below ground, where a five-block-long concrete box acts as a massive foundation for the complex containing below-grade ticketing, retail, and concourse levels. For seismic resiliency, the 1,000-foot-long terminal is designed as three structurally isolated sections connected by a pair of 2-foot-wide expansion joints that allow each piece to move independently. Thornton Tomasetti is the engineer-of-record for the project and served as a sustainability consultant for the Salesforce Tower project, as well. The also building comes outfitted with one of the largest geothermal installations in the world, according to the architect. It is a design that not only allows for impressive energy efficiency, but also reduces the need for the clunky air handling units on the roof that would typically accompany conventional HVAC systems. Situated 70 feet above grade, the terminal is topped by a new public park designed in partnership with PWP Landscape Architecture. Flower beds and tree pits of varying depths meander around the rooftop, where the verdant park is home to 100 trees, a 1,000-seat amphitheater, three sculptural lanterns, a playground, and a 1,000-foot-long fountain by artist Ned Kahn, among other elements. The stormwater-retention-focused park is also sculpted by artificial mounds concealing elevator overrides and mechanical equipment. Standing beside all of this is the Salesforce Tower, a tapered pinnacle defined by rounded corners, “classical proportions,” and a large crown that lights up with a large-format LED video artwork by artist Jim Campbell. The 61-story tower connects directly to the park and touches the ground with a light, open lobby that is meant to enliven the district, “in a simple, elegant way,” according to Clarke.