Posts tagged with "Highways":

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More details emerge for plan to raze Robert Moses–era expressway

In March of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would set aside $1.8 billion for a Bronx infrastructure project to transform the Robert Moses–era Sheridan Expressway into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, among other improvements. For decades, nearby residents have worried about the deleterious effects of pollution from the traffic and feared for the safety of pedestrians due to the many large trucks that travel through the residential streets en route to the Hunts Point Cooperative Market.

The 1.3-mile expressway was built in 1962, severing residents from the Bronx River and immediately causing traffic and air-quality issues, a pernicious by-product of Moses’s legacy. Community activists have long fought for the alteration or razing of the expressway; most notably, the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance took up the cause in the late 1990s. News of the plan, then, comes as a long-awaited win for the community, which will have unimpeded access to waterfront.

Its implementation, however, must strike a delicate balance between residents’ health and safety and the economic vitality of the Hunts Point Market, which employs around 3,500 workers, many of whom live nearby. Cuomo promises that this will be achievable, stating in a press release that “The project will create an interconnected South Bronx with access to the waterfront, recreation, and less traffic on local streets while simultaneously better supporting those who use the Hunts Point Market—a vital economic engine for the borough.”

The expressway project was announced almost a year after the state dedicated $15 million to the development of the Greenmarket Regional Food Hub, in Hunts Point, and will purportedly create 4,250 new jobs over its duration. The Sheridan is set to be decommissioned next year as part of phase one, and the completion of the $700 million tree-lined boulevard is anticipated for 2019.

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New engineering study would explore capping and developing a swath of Atlanta’s downtown highway

The private nonprofit Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) is raising $1 million for a detailed engineering study for "The Stitch," a 3/4-mile-long platform and park that would be installed over the congested Downtown Connector highway that runs through Atlanta. According to Atlanta Magazine, CAP already paid $100,000 to the Pasadena, California-based engineering firm Jacobs for an 114-page-long concept plan (whose images are seen here). The Downtown Connector, also known as Interstate 75/85, split Atlanta's downtown and midtown apart when it opened in 1952. The stretch was named among the country's worst traffic choke points by Forbes. The capped area would extend from the Civic Center MARTA station to Piedmont Avenue. The Stitch would reclaim that area; the current proposal includes three mixed use "character zones" with a variety of programs. The first, "Emory Square," would be an urban plaza atop a reimagined MARTA station. The Civic Center bus and train terminal would become the Emory Square station, the centerpiece of a public park. "Peachtree Green," at Peachtree Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard, would become a three-acre park with water features, a restaurant, a pavilion, and a memorial. Finally "Energy Park" would be a mixed-use residential development located next to Georgia Power's headquarters. Energy Park would include lawns, a dog park, a playground, water features, and a pavilion. Other cities, including New YorkToronto, and Philadelphia, also have plans for development on capped rail yards. Additionally, the city of Atlanta is working on the BeltLine, a project to convert the city's old rail corridor into 33 miles of multi-use trails. Four trail segments and six parks are already open, as is affordable housing along the corridor. The Stitch is still in the conceptual phase; a construction schedule and concrete budget have not yet been determined. CAP estimates a $300 million price tag for the project based on recent similar capping projects.
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Toronto’s ambitious plan for a linear garden under the Gardiner Expressway is made of 55 “outdoor rooms”

Toronto’s waterfront is separated from the city by the elevated Gardiner Expressway. While access underneath is relatively easy, it isn’t a pleasant transition. Torontonians, however, can expect some changes to their waterfront corridor as 10-acres of new public space and a mile of multi-use trail are being built under the highway. Project: Under Gardiner was designed by city planner and urban designer Ken Greenberg with Marc Ryan and Adam Nicklin of PUBLIC WORK, an urban design and landscape architecture studio in Toronto. The new park is slated to open in 2017. The scheme is strategically placed along a portion of the expressway that connects numerous destinations—including the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Fort York (an historic military site and museum), BMO fields, and the CNE fairgrounds—as well as a string of high-rise neighborhoods. The project is conceived as a series of 55 "outdoor rooms” formed by the structural bays of the Gardiner. While it is a continuous park, each section or “room” will have a distinct atmosphere and will lend itself to particular activities and programs, including gardens, art fairs, playgrounds, and public markets.  In addition to multi-use park space, the project boasts a 1,640 foot connection to a prominent GO train station, a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists over Fort York Boulevard, and an urban theater at Strachan Avenue to accommodate public programming and year-round performances. Like the High line in New York and The 606 in Chicago, Project: Under Gardiner uses existing conditions as a catalyst for new urban engagements, while also adding significant public space to an underused portion of the city. “The re-imagination of this stretch of vacant land under the Gardiner has the potential to connect 70,000 residents to a linear spine of diverse active and passive spaces and place,” explained Paul Bedford, Former Toronto Chief Planner. “It links our past with our future and establishes a totally new way for city hall to embrace transformative city building.”
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Report: Red tape and deferred maintenance balloon U.S. infrastructure costs to $3.7 trillion

A new report attempts to quantify the cost of our national reluctance to fix aging bridges, railroads and power lines. Delays in approving infrastructure projects cost the United States some $3.7 trillion, according to the nonpartisan think tank Common Good—more than twice what it would take to fix the infrastructure in the first place, according to a report titled Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals. That staggering price tag includes the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution that continues while local, state, and federal agencies forestall fixes to infrastructure that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates is due for $1.7 trillion in repairs and maintenance through 2020. The New York–based think tank based their numbers on a six-year delay, which they reasoned was accurate according to available data about how long projects typically take to get shovel-ready:
Although large projects often take a decade or longer to permit, we assume that the avoidable delay on major projects is six years. There is ample anecdotal evidence of actual years of delay in the US for different types of infrastructure projects, but little cumulative data. The Federal Highway Administration estimated that the average time for approval of major highway projects was over six years. Five to ten years is a common timeframe for interstate transmission lines, and for wind farms and solar fields on federal lands on either coast.
Infrastructure maintenance and repair is, of course, a thoroughly unsexy topic. But, as the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial about Common Good's report, it's important—and perhaps politically viable even in a presidential election cycle:
Common Good suggests building a process that shuttles projects through in a prompt two years. Environmental reviews should be handled by one designated official and kept to 300 pages; litigation should be restricted to the first 90 days after the permit is issued; the White House should be granted authority to appoint an agency as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for interstate projects. Congress could address the permitting morass this fall as part of the transportation bill, and the presidential candidates could include the issue and a horror story or two in their agendas for faster economic growth. It’s hard to imagine a more sensible and politically achievable idea—and one better suited to restoring public confidence that government can carry out its basic duties.
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As crucial vote looms, Toronto’s leadership divided over downtown elevated highway removal

The Toronto City Council will vote on June 21 on whether to remove a one-mile elevated section of the prominent but crumbling Gardiner East Expressway in the city’s downtown. Mayor John Tory wants to rebuild the road, but his staff, including chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, are advocating for removing the highway and replacing it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. It is unclear what the 45-member council will do. The mayor is advocating what he somewhat dubiously calls a “hybrid plan,” which would rebuild the road with some modifications to its ramps and structure. He told the Toronto Star that "I didn’t get elected to make traffic worse. And let’s be clear, removing that piece of the Gardiner will almost certainly make traffic worse.” Proponents of the teardown want to build a widened road along the city’s waterfront. They say that the mayor is wrong about traffic, as evidenced by Toronto’s successful removal of another section and put in a similar at-grade road. It would compliment the recent plans for the nearby Harbour Landing waterfront, designed by West 8. “It’s very clear removing is in the best interest of... [the] long-term vision, as articulated in our official plan,” Keesmaat told a group of landscape architects. “This is an opportunity for us to create a grand boulevard that weaves together the waterfront with the rest of the city, and opens up new development parcels, allowing us to create complete communities within walking distance of the downtown core.” According to polls, 45 percent of residents want to tear down the road, while 33 want to save it. Advocates of the at-grade option say that it will be 96 million dollars cheaper to build, and will save $458 million over the course of 100 years to lower maintenance costs. For the hybrid option, upwards of $100 million would need to be raised just to complete the project. Advocates of removal say that the impacts of their plan are being overhyped. According to experts, only 3 percent of commuters into the core of Toronto use the road. They say that the hybrid proposal would have similar effects on traffic as removal, because in both cases people would find other ways to go, travel at different times, or just avoid the area altogether. Construction on the project would start in 2018.
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Montreal to transform expressway into multi-modal urban boulevard

Urbanists rejoice! Montreal will tear down a major piece of one of its expressways and replace it with a multi-modal urban boulevard complete with parks, dozens of new trees, bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, a dog park, and art installations. The Montreal Gazette reported that crews will start dismantling the city’s Bonaventure Expressway this spring, and that the entire $141.6 million project should wrap up as soon as 2017. “At the centre of the massive project, which was subject to public consultation in 2009, are 42-metre wide public-park spaces, totalling more than 20,000 square metres, that will separate the north and southbound roadways,” reported the Gazette. An original plan would have placed new buildings on the sites now slated for parks. Montreal’s mayor said that the city’s independent inspector will monitor the project for possible corruption. [h/t Planetizen]
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Gritty site underneath Boston’s I-93 to become public space…and parking lot

[beforeafter]01_Infra_Space_BeforeThe possible future of "Infra Space 1". (Courtesy MassDOT) [/beforeafter]   The Massachusetts Department of Transportation wants to transform a gritty site underneath Interstate 93 in Boston into a public space that people actually want to visit—or at least park their car. BostInno reported that the $6 million project, called “Infra-Space 1”, is part of MassDot’s wider initiative to give new life (and lighting) to vacant lots underneath the city’s elevated infrastructure. [beforeafter]boston-highways-01boston-highways-02[/beforeafter]   Curbed Boston noted that the initiative has already 235 “well-lighted” parking spots. “Infra-Space 1” will upgrade an eight-acre, notoriously-dangerous site in Boston’s South End neighborhood. Now, obviously, a planned 175-car parking lot doesn’t necessarily scream urban renewal, but there are aspects of this project that could actually activate the space. The plan is essentially to first clean up the site and then prep it for possible programmatic elements. Alongside the parking lot, which has 24/7 security, the DOT wants to install  “innovative” lighting systems and create an environment for art installations and performances. As BostInno noted, MassDot is fairly bullish on what else is possible at the site. The completion of the project would also include a plaza, green space, a sports facility, dog park, and a connection to an eventual section of the Boston Harborwalk. 08_Dog_Amenity_After
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Streamlined Streets Aim to Enhance Houston’s Quality of Life

Dunlavey Street in central Houston typifies the image of a Southwestern city street. It's a sprawling, four lane affair that is approximately 50 percent usable, 80 percent pedestrian unsafe, and, in this case, 100 percent in need of an update. Transportation officials are evening out the numbers for a proposed road diet that would reduce the four-lane street to two and using the outer lane space for parking, improved sidewalks, and bike lanes. Currently, many of Houston’s wide streets—and some of its highways—operate under the principle of induced demand. This idea dictates that existing space is utilized by sheer import of its presence. In other words, people use big roads because there are big roads to use. But the outer lanes of Dunlavey are hardly drivable. They are pothole-ridden, with uneven gutters and extensive debris. Because the lanes go largely unused, pedestrians misguidedly utilize them, sometimes with fatal results. Removing the exterior two lanes would remove confusion over what is drivable area and what is not. It would clearly delineate the road’s functionality, and create a responsible message to drivers and citizens about the roadway’s capacity. In years past, expanding outward has been the modus operandi of Southwestern transportation. Cars, and not people, determined the size of roadways. But this proposal overturns that tradition. The space that comes from the unused exterior two lanes will be converted into parking, bicycle lanes, and better sidewalks. According to planners, these changes will facilitate more efficient traffic, increase pedestrian safety, and encourage alternative methods of transportation such as biking or walking. It also curbs the expansion trend’s tendency to impinge upon private property—an aspect that, commuter or not, Houston’s citizens should be pleased about. If all goes according to plan, the proposal aims to not only increase the quality of life in Houston, but to be the beginning of a larger trend. Developers hope that Houston will be the next city that roadway planners look to when considering developments. A June open house meeting will follow up on the proposal’s details, while City Council will officially consider the changes in September. The plan’s announcement comes a week after Houston was named among the ten worst cities for pedestrians.
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Ten Roads Whose Time Has Come: Congress for the New Urbanism Releases List of Freeways Ripe for Removal

highways_to_boulevards_2 The Congress for the New Urbanism has released their annual list of Freeways Without Futures. The organization selected the top 10 urban American (and one Canadian) highways most in need of removal. The final list was culled from nominations from more than 50 cities. Criteria for inclusion included age of the freeway, the potential that removal would have to positively effect the areas where the roadways are currently situated, and the amount of momentum to realize such removals. Additionally the CNU highlighted campaigns in Dallas, the Bronx, Pasadena, Buffalo, and Niagra Falls, that are taking significant steps towards removing freeways (some of which have been included in past lists) as illustrations of broader institutional and political shifts on urban infrastructural thinking. I-10/Claiborne Overpass - New Orleans The already aging Interstate 10 was heavily damaged in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. The Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) suggested that the removal of the elevated portion of the highway would allow for the reclamation of 35 to 40 city blocks and 20 to 25 blocks of open space. With the help of public engagement Livable Claiborne Communities outlined a plan for a similar removal that would improve living conditions in the neighborhood in the immediate vicinity of the expressway. I-81 - Syracuse This road, including an elevated portion that runs through downtown Syracuse, was built in the 60's. Advocates for the transformation of the most urban portion of the freeway could be replaced by a boulevard that would connect neighborhoods, inject economic activity into the area, and be cheaper to maintain. Numerous local politicians have spoken in favor of such a plan and the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) co-led the I-81 Challenge to examine traffic patterns and alternatives to the current state of the highway. Gardiner Expressway - Toronto Unpopular with local citizens, the overworked Expressway requires more than $10 million annually in repairs. Recently, the City of Toronto and WATERFRONToronto finished work on the Gardiner Expressway & Lake Shore Boulevard Reconfiguration Environmental Assessment & Urban Design Study which will dictate the future of the portion of the Gardiner overlooking Lake Ontario. Route 5/Skyway - Buffalo The Skyway Bridge and Route 5 mar public views of the Buffalo River, diminish land values, and create a web of confusing traffic patterns predicated on inefficient one-way streets. The Department of Transportation rates the Skyway bridge as "fracture critical" while the Federal Highway Administration classifies the bridge as "functionally obsolete." It is likely to cost more than $50 million to maintain over the next two decades. Inner Loop - Rochester The Loop was built for the city Rochester once was, rather than the shrunken metropolis that stands today. For this reason much of the beltway carries traffic that could easily be carried by a urban avenue. Furthermore it constricts the downtown area, inhibiting development and isolating adjacent neighborhoods. In 2012 the city was awarded a USDOT TIGER grant to replace the eastern portion of the Loop with a two lane boulevard flanked by street parking. I-70 - St. Louis I-70 separates the city from the waterfront of the Mississippi River and Saarinen's iconic arch. Calls for bridging this divide by converting the expressway into an urban boulevard have been long simmering. Park Over The Highway is a $380 million project for a park and pedestrian and bike path that leaps I-70 in connecting the city to the area abutting the river. I-280 - San Francisco Meant to be part of a larger web of freeways that was ultimately halted by mid-century protests, the removal of this highway stub would increase the land values of the area by $80 million according to a report by Fourth and King Street Railyards. Replacing the strip with a urban boulevard would open the area for further redevelopment and allow for greater fluidity between neighborhoods. The city's Center for Architecture + Design has hosted a design competition for such a project. I-375 - Detroit This 1.06 mile strip served to divide portions of the city and contributed to the isolation and subsequent decay of once thriving black neighborhoods. Detroit's drop in population has lead to a 13% decrease in usage since 2009. In December of 2013, Detroit's Downtown Development Authority moved forward with alternative plans for the highway, with particular focus on converting the road into a more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. Terminal Island Freeway - Long Beach As it stands the freeway currently serves a mere 14,000 vehicles a day, numbers that could drop further if plans to expand the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility come to fruition, a development that would redirect significant freight traffic in the area. Local nonprofit urban design studio City Fabrick have spear-headed a movement to convert the road into a greenbelt that would act as a buffer between residential districts and industrial port infrastructure. In 2013 the plan was awarded a Caltrans grant. Aetna Viaduct - Hartford This 3/4 mile stretch of elevated expressway was completed in 1965. In running directly through downtown Hartford the Viaduct destroyed historic architecture, public spaces, and severed inter-community links once easily traversed by foot. Initially set for costly re-surfacing that would increase its lifespan by 20 years, new plans are being considered for the heavily-trafficked road. Hartford officials and Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) are currently considering plans to re-align nearby rail tracks that would open 15-20 acres of nearby land for redevelopment.
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Tunnel Rats: Does Texas Favor Building Highways Over Subways?

According to a very confidential source, engineers currently working on the Waller Creek tunnel believe that Austin sits on top of some of the most optimal conditions for tunneling in the entire U.S. These number-crunching problem solvers claimed that a subway tunnel beneath the Texas State Capital’s downtown would cost 1/10th of the amount it would in most places in the country. However, the brainiacs also said that there are those in high places who do not want that knowledge spread around (read TxDOT) because the construction of more freeways is making certain people a great deal of money.
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Groups Call for People-Friendly Lake Shore Drive Overhaul in Chicago

Lake Shore Drive could look a lot different if a local design alliance gets its way. The "Our Lakefront" plan, commissioned by 15 different organizations including the Active Transportation Alliance, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, would reduce the speed limit on the north branch of Lake Shore Drive from 40 to 35 miles per hour; carve out lanes for bicycles and either bus rapid transit or rail; and replace parking spaces with greenery. Connectivity is a hallmark of the concept. The plan calls for increased lakefront access for both vehicles and pedestrians, perhaps through programmed parks and plazas “serving as access points across Lake Shore Drive and as iconic gateways between the city and the lakefront.” Unlike the southern segment of Lake Shore Drive, which was rebuilt about 10 years ago, this seven-mile stretch of highway is between of 60 and 80 years old. The “Our Lakefront” team says as long as Illinois Department of Transportation officials are considering restoring infrastructure along the road, including several ailing bridges, they may as well as look at restoring the iconic Drive’s original design. “Redefine the Drive,” as they put it. From the Sun-Times:

Lake Shore Drive was originally designed as “a boulevard. It was a pleasure drive early on,’’ said Lee Crandell of the Active Transportation Alliance, among the 15 groups that helped to write the “Our Lakefront” plan.

“It’s slowly turned into a freeway,’’ Crandell said. “We want it to feel like a boulevard.’’

Read the full conceptual plan here. Three public hearings are scheduled this week:
  • Aug. 6, 6 - 8 p.m., Gill Park, 825 W. Sheridan Road, 3rd Floor
  • Aug. 7, 6 - 8 p.m., Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Avenue, Atrium
  • Aug. 8, 6 - 8 p.m., Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, South Gallery
After the meetings, a formal design team will convene to hash out details. If anything is built, it won’t be for years. Daniel Burnham’s vision for Chicago is often evoked here to lend credibility for urban planning proposals. Amid both shrinking budgets and an urban reawakening, landscape and infrastructure projects have become increasingly common and closely watched. UPDATE Aug. 7: This story originally said the plan considered high-speed rail. That was not accurate. From Lee Crandell, director of campaigns for Active Transportation Alliance:

The platform calls for separating transit from car traffic with bus-only lanes and other public transit enhancements, such as Bus Rapid Transit. BRT vehicles are often designed to look similar to light rail vehicles (this is why BRT is sometimes referred to as light rail with rubber wheels), and the drawing does intentionally leave it open to interpretation whether LSD could include something like BRT or light rail.

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Architecture Filmmaker Wants to Take You Cross Country

Los Angeles-based landscape architect and indie filmmaker Evan Mather is crowd-funding his to way to his first feature-length film. After having produced a series of experimental time-lapse videos about the built environment—including 12 minutes to Vegas— he’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund From Sea to Shining Sea, a 105-minute documentary celebrating the diverse American landscape. Moviegoers will be able to cruise the Interstate Highway System from coast to coast through the extensive video collage, which Mather hopes to complete some time next year. Commentaries and factoids will be layered on from noted landscape architects, geographers, journalists, and those Kickstarter supporters who have similar cross-country jaunts to share. Based on the trailer, it looks like the film will be one part simulated science class, one part awe-inspiring imagery and one part epic road trip. So if you don’t have the days/weeks that it would take to drive across, this may be the next best thing.