Posts tagged with "Infrastructure":

Anything but boring: World’s largest tunnelling machine, Big Bertha, is stuck under Seattle, Tweets an interview

Big Bertha, Seattle's famous tunnel boring machine, is stuck underground again. Bertha was running for just under a month following a two year delay to fix a broken cutter head. And the machine has taken to Twitter, as we imagine it can get lonely so far beneath the city. A little over two weeks ago, a large sinkhole formed while Bertha was drilling the over-57-foot-diameter Highway 99 tunnel to replace the earthquake prone viaduct. No one knows exactly why it happened. Just earlier that day, a nearby Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) barge tilted, offloading tunnel dirt into Elliot Bay and dismantling part of a dock. The 15-foot-deep, 20-feet-wide, and 35-foot-long sinkhole was quickly filled with 250 cubic yards of concrete and sand. But Bertha is still stuck. STP wants to start Bertha again, but the Washington State Department of Transportation (WDOT) hasn't given them the necessary written permission to move forward yet. SDOT says they need more information. But enough of the dismal facts and figures. And now, for something different: The nonprofit blog Strong Towns interviewed @StuckBertha, Bertha's unofficial Twitter account, in January. Enjoy some excerpts from their tongue-in-cheek conversation, below. Check out the full interview on the Strong Towns blog. We all hope Bertha gets unstuck very soon.

Governor Cuomo unveils ambitious plans to overhaul New York’s Penn Station

The lead-up to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address feels like a government-backed encore of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Instead of lords a-leaping and swans a-swimming, Cuomo brings infrastructure upgrades a-plenty in his 2016 Agenda. The governor promised funds to the Gateway and East Side Access tunnels, the Javits Center, new Metro-North stations in the Bronx, the MTA (wi-fi a-comin'!), and an airport on Long Island. Arguably the biggest proposal is the Empire State Complex, a $3 billion redevelopment of New York City's Penn Station and its surroundings. The plan seeks to make Penn Station, which sits beneath Madison Square Garden, less of a hellhole—nice, even. Built to accommodate 200,000 daily riders, the station now serves 650,000 people per day. Channeling public sentiment, the governor ripped on Penn Station in his announcement. "Penn station is un-New York. It is dark, constrained, ugly, a lost opportunity, a bleak warren of corridors. [It's] a miserable experience and a terrible first impression." The governor's plan calls for enhancing connectivity between the station and the street; providing wi-fi; and reducing congestion by widening existing corridors, creating better wayfinding, and improving ticketing areas. As hinted at in previous proposals, the massive, neoclassical James A. Farley Post Office, at Eighth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets, could be converted into the "Moynihan Train Hall," a sun-drenched waiting area for Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and MTA passengers. A pedestrian tunnel underneath Eighth Avenue will connect the train hall with the main station. With this 210,000-square-foot addition, the size of the station will increase by 50 percent. The governor reviewed possible redesign scenarios. In one, Madison Square Garden Theater would be demolished to make way for a block-long entrance to Penn Station, facing the post office. In another, a glassy entrance, with skylights, would be constructed on 33rd Street. The street would be closed and converted into a pedestrian plaza. A third, more minimal scenario would add entrances at street corners and mid-block. In 2013, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) hosted a competition to rethink Penn Station. MAS highlighted designs four firms—Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)—for an improved Penn Station. In addition to improved passenger flow, each proposal imagined the station as a civic hub and neighborhood anchor. The governor said that this would phase of the project would be completed first. The rest of the overhaul could be complete by 2019, an amazing feat in a city where infrastructure improvements can drag on for decades. The Empire State Development Corporation, the MTA, Amtrak and the LIRR will parter with private developers to spearhead the project. $2 billion will go towards the Empire State Complex, while $1 billion will go towards "retail development" on 7th and 9th avenues. $325 million is expected to come from state and federal governments. The rest of the project will be privately funded, in exchange of revenue generated by commercial and retail rents. Cuomo will be issuing invitations to private developers, with an April 2016 due date. Currently, Vornado Realty Trust manages land around Penn Station, though it's unclear whether this relationship will continue.

OMA selected to design The Factory, a major arts complex in Manchester, England

After fending off  Rafael Viñoly, Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Haworth Tompkins Limited and compatriots Mecanoo, OMA's design for "The Factory" will become Manchester's new art house. Lead by Rem Koolhaas, The Factory will be in the British city's center and is touted to cost $166 million with a further $13.5 million-a-year to run. Funding will not be an issue for Koolhaas' building as U.K. Chancellor George Osborne has pledged $117.5 million to the project with the view that The Factory will become the "Northern Powerhouse" showpiece. The project's name supposedly comes from the home-grown Factory Records, an indie record label launched in 1978 that produced notable bands such as Joy Division and Happy Mondays. Koolhaas has designed what essentially is an art-box that will host a wide range of artistic events in Manchester, with an aim for the facility to become the cultural focal point of the region. The venue is dedicated to theatre, music, dance, technology, film, TV, and scientific advancements and will have a combined capacity of 7,200—2,200 seated and 5,000 standing. This will be OMA's first major public development on British soil, aside from a few minor forays into London, Glasgow, and the south coast. “The importance of the Factory cannot be overstated," Manchester council leader, Sir Richard Leese, told the Guardian. "It will be of international significance, the cultural anchor for the next phase of economic and cultural regeneration in Manchester, Greater Manchester and beyond. It will help power Manchester and the wider region towards becoming a genuine cultural and economic counterbalance to London, as well as being a place where inspirational art is created.” Koolhaas' project in Manchester is set to break ground next year with the aim to finish by 2019. According to the Guardian, "Those behind the project have predicted that within a decade it will help create the equivalent of 2,500 jobs adding nearly $211 million to the local economy."

Japanese government to fund a maglev train line between DC and Baltimore

You can do a lot in fifteen minutes: cook some surf-and-turf, blast through paperwork, star in a mediocre crime drama, or travel 40 miles between major East Coast cities. Well, not yet. Given the excruciatingly slow pace of infrastructure modernization in the U.S., there will be a wait on that last one, probably for decades. Yet, the U.S. is taking small steps towards twenty-first century transportation. Last week, the U.S. Transportation Department granted $27.8 million in Federal Railroad Administration funds to the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to conduct feasibility studies for a maglev train line that will run between DC and Baltimore https://www.flickr.com/photos/geoffwhalan/16578045553/in/photolist-6ZNtXq-bkjuSb-byeyp6-qdzcUH-u8F6rc-9DN21-byeq9i-bkjwuj-7sUSTT-4TEqye-qZoBxP-78WXSR-7ya8wK-rfWPnB-7sYQD7-7sYQLS-ziKfWR-6pTxyU-4SpKK-21THR5-4jpRM-Ab3VT-aans1n-aansdz As the above video illustrates, Maglev trains move very, very fast, reaching speeds up to 375 miles per hour. If built, the DC-Baltimore maglev train would be a 40 mile demonstration project to determine how to best bring maglev trains to the United States. Overall, the track will cost an estimated $10 billion to build. Japanese transportation companies and the Japanese government are keen on spreading their products and expertise to the United States, a potentially lucrative market. This spring, Governor Larry Hogan and Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn rode on the Yamanashi Maglev Test Track. The Japanese government has committed $5 billion to the project, and the train operator, the Central Japan Railway Company, will not levy licensing fees for the technology. Stateside, The Northeast Maglev, a private investment group, will also contribute to the project. For those who can't delay gratification, ferroequinologists the world over love to share their love for ultrafast trains.  

Tonight! Join AN’s Matt Shaw in exploring energy, politics, and architecture in New York

Tonight, Monday, November 9, at New York's AIANY/Center for Architecture, AN Senior Editor Matt Shaw will be moderating a book talk between Janette Kim and Erik Carver, the authors of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, a new book released by Princeton Architectural Press. Stop by at 6:00p.m. tonight for light refreshments and beautiful drawings alongside a discussion about the future of ecologically minded architecture and urbanism. The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform is equal parts architect's handbook and toolbox for effecting environmental change with the built environment. The book maps different approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for collective life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures. Check it out on our events page here.

Oslo plans to make its city center free from cars in four years

Norway currently boasts three World Rally Championship drivers (second only to France), all of considerable pedigree, yet its capital city of Oslo is planning to remove cars for good. Along with the proposal to ban cars is the plan to build 37 miles worth of bike lanes by 2019 and a new system for handicap bus services and delivery vehicles. In a bid to reduce pollution, Reuters reported, politicians in Oslo said they want to be the first European capital to implement a comprehensive permanent ban on cars. With a population just under 650,000, Oslo has around 350,000 cars with most owners living outside the center but inside the city's boundaries. Emulating Paris' one day-a-year car ban, Oslo is bucking a trend many fellow European cities are following. Currently Brussels is trialling an eight month traffic circulation program involving the pedestrianization of its boulevards meanwhile the old cities of both Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia are completely car free. Shop owners in Oslo, though, fear the plans will hurt business, though it is worthwhile noting that the city is not banning all vehicles, so delivery trucks and the like will be allowed. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, lead negotiator for the Green Party in Oslo has said "We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone." The plan also outlines the need for significant investment in infrastructure, most notably in public transportation that will have to support the growing number of users. Trials will be run after authorities investigate precedents in other european cities where plans have so far been a success. Aside from a marked reduction in pollution, the change will also make the city a much more appealing place for pedestrians and cyclists, something which the authorities are not alone in trying. According to Gemini, researchers from Scandinavian group SINTEF claim that much needs to be done about Norway's noise problem which is responsible for 150 deaths a year.

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.

Indiana draws conservative ire for $55 million 200th birthday bash and bicentennial plaza by MKSK

Hoosiers, if you didn't get a gift for Indiana on the occasion of its 200th birthday next year, don't fret—state and local governments have pledged tens of millions in infrastructure investments and new buildings for the Bicentennial. The state's share carries a total value of more than $55 million, inviting criticism from fiscal conservatives. Americans for Prosperity, the political group bankrolled by Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, is among those casting doubt on claims from statehouse budget officials that a decision to sell off underutilized cellular tower capacity will offset the new spending. Projects include a long-discussed upgrade to the state archives facility totaling $25 million, and $24 million for a new inn at Potato Creek State Park near South Bend. The state has also planned to spend $1.6 million on a six-week, statewide torch relay across all 92 Indiana counties, and $2 million to build a new Bicentennial Plaza designed by landscape architects at MKSK Studios. Former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who co-chairs the state's Bicentennial Commission along with former Congressman Lee Hamilton, told the Indianapolis Star the projects leading up to the actual statehood Bicentennial of December 11, 2016 are an investment in the future of the state:
We want to celebrate and make memories, of course,” Skillman said, “but more importantly we want to help prepare Indiana for the next 100 years of progress and change.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill selected for high-tech overhaul in South Bend, Indiana

Union Station Technology Center (USTC) in South Bend, Indiana began its life as a train station. Now it's a data center and the state's second largest carrier hotel. As a piece of internet infrastructure, it's high tech. With the help of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the building owners are aiming for a design to suit. The building is in South Bend's Studebaker Corridor, so named for the wagon company turned automobile titan. Before it closed in 1963, Studebaker was the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the nation, employing as many as 23,000 people in South Bend. Union Station Technology Center is among the tech-oriented rehabs that local businesspeople like Nick Easley, director of strategic initiatives for USTC, and developer Kevin Smith are using to rebrand the area as South Bend’s Renaissance District. AS+GG was selected as the emerging district's master planner in 2012. On Sunday it was announced that the Chicago-based firm—known for energy-efficient, eye-grabbing projects around the world—would lead the redesign of USTC, as well as “a mixed-use campus consisting of more than one million square feet of Class A office, education, technology, research grade manufacturing, data center, and live-work spaces.” A press release promises to turn USTC into “a large scale, sustainably designed tech hub that promises to spur a second economic boom for South Bend and the surrounding region.” South Bend's boosters hope the cold climate—which cuts server cooling costs—and local knowledge base at University of Notre Dame will help it stand out among cities from coast to coast currently chasing tech jobs to replace manufacturing work.

Orphaned segment of Minneapolis skyway destined for art installation, modernist lakeside home

In February, a Twin Cities design firm advertised an unusual yard sale of sorts. CityDeskStudio offered to pay $5,000 to whomever could haul away and repurpose an 84-foot long section of Minneapolis' famous skyway system that once spanned South 5th Street. The skyway segment is now headed to a private residence in Brainerd, Minnesota—but not before playing host to a contemplative art installation that examines the philosophical dimensions of this defunct piece of pedestrian infrastructure. Dubbed LONGING—“an emotional expression and a verbal play on lengthening,” in the words of its Vancouver-based artists—the exhibition opens Saturday at 2:00 p.m., and will remain open through May 10, 2015. It is located at the edge of the University of Minnesota campus, northeast of the intersection of 6th Street SE and SE 23rd Ave. (44°58’39.3”N 93°13’10.2”W) “We have been working on this off and on for two years, so we are really excited to see this come to life,” said Jennifer Newsom Carruthers, principal of Dream the Combine, the artists mounting the exhibition. Their installation uses strategically placed mirrors to alter visitors' perception of the object. Per the artists' description:
LONGING reestablishes this fragment within a network of its own making. Using two inward-facing, 10’x15', moveable mirrors suspended at either end of the skyway from a tensegrity supported gimbal, LONGING creates a visually infinite environment that bridges toward distant horizons. This virtual space flexes as the wind rotates the mirrors and the audience performs with and occupies their reflections. By using just 35lbs of pressure on a dampened counterweight at the rear of the panels, people can manipulate the large mirrors and the illusion of depth within them. As the images move and infinity wanders, the space bends into unpredictable forms.
After the exhibition closes, the 140-ton skyway segment heads 130 miles north to bucolic Brainerd, Minnesota where a young family has commissioned the current skyway owners, CityDeskStudio, to repurpose it as a lakeside home. Aimee and Preston Jobe plan to add a wing to the skyway segment to make an L-shaped floorplan. "It's like a dream come true," said Aimee Jobe, a photographer, in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I'm a lover of old things and I live to renovate things." Here's a gallery of the installation, currently under construction, from Dream the Combine:

Sandhogs continue to make progress on New York City’s enormous $11 billion East Side train tunnel

New York City's MTA has posted another collection of East Side Access construction photos to remind New Yorkers that its majorly delayed and hugely over budget project is still actually chugging along. When East Side Access is ultimately completed, at the cost of nearly $11 billion, it will connect Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central making life easier for about 80,000 commuters. But that's a long ways off—last we heard, the project will not be completed until 2023. As for where the project currently stands, the MTA explained in a statement, "Work continues on the Manhattan side of the East Side Access Project below Grand Central Terminal with waterproofing, rebar arch installation and drilling for couplers. In addition, temporary shoring for concrete slabs that will make up track and room levels can be seen." To see for yourself, take a look at the photos below which were captured by the MTA deep beneath city streets.

Twin Cities architects will pay you $5,000 to take this piece of the Minneapolis skyway

Minneapolis architects CityDeskStudio are sitting on an iconic piece of Twin Cities infrastructure. Almost a decade ago they acquired a defunct chunk of the city's elevated pedestrian network, the Minneapolis Skyway. Years later they're still wondering what to do with it, which could be to your benefit if you're in the market for a 140-ton steel box designed by Ed Baker. You don't need deep pockets, either. In fact, they'll pay you $5,000 to haul it away. Built between 1962 and 1972, the skyway system comprises more than eight miles of enclosed footbridges criss-crossing downtown Minneapolis. Though urbanists sometimes blame it for sucking the air out of street life, the skyway system serves a vital function during long Minnesota winters. But this particular segment, which used to connect the J.C. Penney and Powers stores across South 5th Street, became defunct with the demolition of Powers more than a decade ago. Bob Ganser and Ben Awes of CityDeskStudio bought the 83-foot skyway segment in 2006, winning a blind auction from its previous owner, the University of Minnesota. As Jim Buchta writes for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, CityDeskStudio's attempt to unload the 1,380-square-foot structure has attracted some interesting proposals:
In 2009, CityDeskStudio posted an ad for the skyway on Craigslist, offering the 1,380-square-foot structure for $79,500. The ad went viral, but still no takers, so they dropped the price to $49,500. “We’ve had more proposals, inquiries and exciting conversations than we could count,” said Ganser. There were four or five serious possibilities, including converting the skyway into a rental retreat near Brainerd, a nonprofit career-training program in north Minneapolis and a rooftop studio space/artist loft in south Minneapolis. Some of the ideas weren’t so serious. Someone suggested a nightclub on wheels, and just last week the duo received a proposal to turn it into a “sweet-ass mobile deer stand, complete with repurposed tank track wheels and a gun turret,” Ganser said. “This idea included the use of our finder’s fee to pay for gas and ‘a bunch of coolers of Bud.’ ”
The structure now it sits on land leased by CityDeskStudio, instead of looming over 5th Street. Given its heft and sturdy engineering, it could be repurposed as a bridge. Previous plans to turn it into a Philip Johnsonesque modernist house received a lot of attention, but so far no takers. With a $5,000 incentive, perhaps the “skyway to nowhere” will finally go somewhere again.