Posts tagged with "Infrastructure":

Chicago’s Wilson CTA Station gets a $203 million makeover

Patrons of the Chicago Transit Authority's 91-year-old Wilson station (above) on the El's Red Line will be happy to learn the city broke ground this week on its long-planned, $203 million Wilson Station Reconstruction Project. The track structure is more than 100 years old. The Uptown station has been somewhat of a squeaky wheel in the CTA system, with neighborhood residents calling for improvements for years. The new station house will be ADA-compliant and, as CTA explained, feature myriad other improvements:
The project will also include significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and Purple Line Express; enhance the street-level environment on Broadway; and improve CTA operations. New, brighter lighting and the installation of more than 100 security cameras throughout the stations and its three entrances will help improve customer safety. Additionally, the restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade and former clock tower (at the corner of Wilson/Broadway) would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.
It's one of the biggest (and costliest) overhauls in CTA history, and is part of the agency's $1 billion "Red Ahead" initiative to modernize the north branch of the Red and Purple Lines. CTA rebuilt the south branch last year, streamlining construction with massive closures—a strategy that angered some area residents. Elsewhere on the Red Line, 95th Street—the line's southern terminus—is getting an inspired revamp led by Parsons Brinkerhoff and Johnson & Lee, with art from Theaster Gates.

Cleveland lands 2016 Republican National Convention

The Republican National Committee (RNC) selected Cleveland this week for the site of their upcoming convention. Cleveland beat out Dallas with a bipartisan lobbying effort that lasted months. At their 2016 convention Republicans will nominate a candidate for President, hoping to regain the White House after eight years of Democratic leadership. But what does it mean for Cleveland? According to the city’s mayor, Democrat Frank Jackson, about $200 million. That’s how much economic activity the convention is estimated to create, mainly for utilities, hotels, airport businesses and restaurants. Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena is expected to host floor events for the convention in June 2016. It’s not free money, though. As Diana Lind pointed out for Next City, the RNC asked its host committee to front $68 million for its venues and security—standard operating procedure for the federally subsidized political meeting. Lind noted that a study commissioned by last election season’s host committee, Tampa Bay, found more than half of the direct and indirect spending the RNC brought to the city was in the form of telecommunications upgrades by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and TECO Energy—infrastructure improvements that might have happened anyway. Cleveland has bet big on convention centers in recent years, building a Global Center for Health Innovation that aims to be the "Epcot of healthcare" at the heart of downtown’s Daniel Burnham–planned civic core. In an ongoing effort to start an urban recovery that will stick, Cleveland could use the RNC convention to show off the city’s growing trade show business in a city whose unemployment rate remains above the national average.

Twin Cities celebrate first inter-city rail connection in decades

For a metro area as widely praised for its alternative transportation options as Minnesota’s Twin Cities, it’s surprising Minneapolis and St. Paul are only now celebrating a new light rail connection between their downtowns. The U.S. Department of Transportation called the Central Corridor, also known as the METRO Green Line, “the single largest public works project in the history of Minnesota.” The Twin Cities' Metropolitan Council says construction employed 5,500 people and created 200 permanent new operations jobs at a total cost of $957 million, $480 million of which was in federal funds, including TIGER grants. State and local governments split the rest. The METRO Green Line runs between Target Field in Minneapolis and Union Depot in St. Paul, stopping 23 times. Some 45,000 people rode the new transit line on June 14, its opening day, reminding many of the more than 500 miles of streetcar tracks that crisscrossed the Twin Cities 50 years ago. Some criticized the project for its costs, the Star Tribune reported, labeling the 11-mile route “the money train.” Others used an opening day with no major hang-ups to call for a slew of other rail projects around the city and state. Now that the Green Line's hoopla is over, as the Pioneer Press put it, “its real test begins.”

Minneapolis breaks ground on massive downtown east development

Earlier this month, workers broke ground on the largest Twin Cities real estate development project in two decades. Budding off a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, designed by HKS, locally based Ryan Companies saw an opportunity to redefine the Minneapolis neighborhood of Downtown East. Their five-block mixed-use development will include two 18-story office towers for Wells Fargo, six levels of parking with more than 1,600 spaces, about 24,000 square feet of retail space, 193 apartments and a four-acre urban park near the new stadium’s northwest corner. Wells Fargo currently has 5,000 employees scattered across more than a dozen offices throughout the area. Bordering the Mississippi River, Downtown East is already home to the Guthrie Theater, whose form mimics the defunct flour mills that comprise much of the area’s post-industrial building stock—a heritage celebrated by the Mill City Museum, also in Downtown East. And while some residential development has followed those cultural attractions, the neighborhood has so far missed out on the artistic cachet that has enlivened nearby areas like North Loop and Northeast. The New York Times took a look at what the Downtown East development could mean for the city and state, which wrestled with financing for the new Vikings Stadium before ultimately approving partial public funding. While officials are quick to tout the project’s economic potential, some residents blast its lack of low-income housing. From the Times article by Christina Capecchi:
Mayor [Betsy] Hodges said she hoped to work affordable housing into Downtown East. “The housing portion hasn’t been fully fleshed out,” she said, “so that’s a conversation we’re having.” Ultimately, Downtown East is a chance to spur the development that the 31-year-old Metrodome failed to generate, said Michael Langley, chief executive of the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership. “This is an opportunity for a huge do-over,” he said.
Minneapolis has undertaken a slew of large infrastructure improvements lately, such as a revamp of downtown's pedestrian strip, Nicollet Mall, and public transportation investments to the bike-friendly city that include a long-awaited light rail connection to neighboring St. Paul and an intermodal transit station next to Target Field.

Chicago breaks ground on Navy Pier flyover for Lakefront Trail

Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive.  LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.

Chicago’s Divvy bikeshare wants your help placing new stations

Chicago’s Divvy bikesharing program wants your help placing new bicycle rental stations throughout the city. The Divvy Siting Team will consider your suggestions at suggest.divvybikes.com—they’ve already mapped many public suggestions alongside the 300 existing stations. Last month the program announced its intent to become North America’s largest bikesharing system. Divvy will add 175 stations by the end of 2014 and, pending state and federal funding, bring another 75 online after that, raising the total to 550 stations. As it expands, Divvy could address previous criticisms about equal access. Though it started by focusing on the Loop and other high-density downtown areas, the program has expanded into many neighborhoods. Still, many are unserved—Uptown is the northern terminus, while much of the West, Southwest, and South Sides have no stations.

Video> Ray LaHood Says Congress is Scared to Make Infrastructure Investments

After the fatal MetroNorth crash in New York City last week, former Obama administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood claimed that Washington is “afraid” to invest in transportation infrastructure improvement. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, LaHood said the recent train tragedy was only another example of the problems lurking in America’s infrastructure and that the $48 billion set for transportation use by the economic recovery plan was “not enough money,” something Congressional members later acknowledged. Only in states where the people have voted for infrastructure referendums is progress occurring. He called for nationwide leadership to follow suit.

Bjarke Ingels Reinvents the Bridge as a Mountain of Landscaped Trails

The Swedish Transport Administration launched a conceptual design competition in 2011 for a new bridge in Skuru, Sweden. The competition received great national and international response, including one fanciful proposal by Danish firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The competition brief stated that the new bridge should adhere to high aesthetic standards and coincide with the existing bridge and the surrounding valuable cultural and natural landscape. Ingels deploys his characteristic hedonistic sustainability to bring nature onto the bridge itself. While the design only a concept, BIG has presented an innovative structure with the aim to create a symbiotic relationship between infrastructure and nature. The bridge consists of three main elements: a lower level arc-shaped bridge, a linear road bridge above this, and ultra-slim columns which connect the two. The arched bridge is a visual allusion to a hill between both sides of the strait and also responds to the arch of the existing bridge in profile. This space serves as a green pedestrian walkway filled with vegetation and creates an uninterrupted flow of parkland from one shore bank to the other. According to BIG, "Investments in infrastructure are all too often at the expense of the environment—an untouched natural landscape becomes tainted by a highway intersection...Skuru Parkbridge represents a new form of social infrastructure—which is not only aesthetic and environmentally well-integrated with the existing bridge and the natural landscape—but is also socially activating by creating a place and park for the people who live and work on both sides of the strait." All images courtesy BIG.

Boston Unveils New Map of “The T” Subway System

Navigating Boston's subway system, known as "The T," will soon be a cinch with the help of a new map designed by Mikheil Kvrivishvili. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) named the Moscow-based interactive/graphic designer the winner of its "New Perspectives Map Re-design Competition" after receiving 6,837 out of the 17,045 votes cast by the public. A panel of experts—composed of MBTA officials, academics, urban planners, and cartographers—selected six finalists from a pool of dozens of applicants. Members of the public then voted online for their favorite design. The contest called for ideas that fit within the "Classic Tier" or the "Open Tier." The former required a more traditional approach to the MBTA rapid transit or "spider" map, whereas the latter welcomed interpretations leaning on the creative side. Kvrivishvili's map, according to the MBTA, fulfilled a four point criteria: "creativity, aesthetic quality, readability/visual clarity, and informative quality." This redesign comes at a critical time when the city is planning on allocating $13 billion in infrastructure, and while MassDOT is undergoing a rapid expansion with several new stations  and a new rail line on the docket. The winning map will be updated to include the changes in the system as they are made. “We are entering an exciting period of growth and change in our system and I’m pleased that we were able to work with the public to help usher in some exciting new developments,” said MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott in a statement. “As we continue to grow and improve our system, the new map will be a great symbol of the changes and updates were working on as a whole.” The maps will start popping up in new stations as soon as early 2014.

New Orleans Unveils Urban Water Plan That Embraces Flooding

[beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-07anola-urban-water-plan-07b[/beforeafter]   On September 9th, New Orleans unveiled an innovative proposal for flood management: the New Orleans Greater Water Plan. Designed by Dutch engineers and led by chief architect and planner David Waggonner of locally-based firm Waggonner & Ball Architects, the plan seeks to mitigate the damages caused during heavy rainfalls. The concept is simple: keeping water in pumps and canals instead of draining and pumping it out. The idea is to retain the water in order to increase the city’s groundwater, thereby slowing down the subsidence of soft land as it dries and shrinks. [beforeafter] nola-urban-water-plan-05b nola-urban-water-plan-05a[/beforeafter]   New Orleans is built on swampland and suffers ravaging damages when floods occur, as sea levels rise quickly and the community becomes quickly submerged. The current floodwater management system uses a forced drainage mechanism that dries lands quickly. This heavy reliance on drainage practices leads to damaged lands, severe soil imbalances, and subsidence. As the ground sinks, the city’s infrastructure weakens. Not only does this increase residents' exposure to risk when faced by a natural disaster, but it also diminishes the value of the area’s waterways as public assets. Under the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, floodwaters are retained rather than drained. During rainfall, water is slowed down through water retention and corralled into areas used as parks during dry seasons. The retained water is then channeled into canals and ponds that will help sustain wildlife, improve soil quality, and increase safety levels in case of flooding. Water will flow year round, ultimately maintaining the stability of soils and the general health of the city’s eco-system. [beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-08anola-urban-water-plan-08b[/beforeafter]   Nowadays, water-management is a particularly important issue as the world is looking for ways to appease and manage the impacts of climate change and increased human activity. Louisiana is currently experiencing the highest rates of sea-level rise, making the ‘Big Easy’ highly vulnerable to damages caused by intense downpours. The $6.2 billion plan would help mitigate flooding during heavy rainfalls, and repair soils that have been dried up by the previous flood management system, hence preventing further sinking of the ground under sea level. Refurbishing centuries’ old infrastructures will be challenging and it still remains unclear how the plan will be funded. The project’s estimated competition date is 2050. City officials believe that it would be effective in mitigating the risks induced by floods and will bolster the appeal of acquiring local real estate.The Urban Water Plan re-envisions New Orleans as a vibrant metropolis of ponds and canals. The core idea is to efficiently manage water, instead of trying to get rid of it. If successful, the plan will transform the city into an urban landscape filled with rain gardens and bioswales, create appealing waterfront properties, and promote home values. New Orleans is on the right track to becoming a potential leader in water management and a potential model for other cities around the world. [beforeafter] nola-urban-water-plan-06bnola-urban-water-plan-06a[/beforeafter] [beforeafter] nola-urban-water-plan-04bnola-urban-water-plan-04a[/beforeafter] [beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-09anola-urban-water-plan-09b[/beforeafter] [beforeafter]nola-urban-water-plan-03anola-urban-water-plan-03b[/beforeafter]

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.

HUD Secretary Donovan Announces Kickoff of “Rebuild by Design” Competition

Resiliency is a word that has become lodged in the vocabulary of nearly every lawmaker since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast last October. And this month, government officials—on a local, state, and federal level—are taking steps to ensure that coastal cities are more resilient and rebuilt to better withstand natural disasters in the future. Yesterday, at a panel discussion on Innovation & Resilience Design in Sandy Rebuilding at NYU, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, announced the launch of a new regional design competition, "Rebuild by Design" seeking teams—made up of the top engineers, architects, landscape designers, and other experts—to propose projects that tackle issues such as climate, economic, and infrastructure (and as the press release states, "will actually be built"). These proposals can run the gamut from green infrastructure to residential retrofits. "It is not enough for communities to build back to what they were," said Secretary Donovan during the panel. "Our solutions will have no boundaries." Donovan is collaborating with the Rockefeller Foundation, which will provide $3 million in funding in support of the competition. The competition calls on teams to look at "coastal communities, high-density urban environments, ecological networks, and a fourth category that will include other innovative questions and proposals." Donovan explained that the competition will "unfold in four stages" starting with a call for proposals and the selection of up to 10 teams. Teams will then study the region and submit design proposals. From there, Donovan and his partners will choose a winning project, which will then be implemented. Speaking on the panel today, Seth Pinsky, President of New York City Economic Development Corporation, pointed out that the advantages of this competition are that it endeavors to "pull together inter-disciplinary teams for a common goal" and its savvy "regional approach" that looks at the relationship between each region to provide more thoughtful and effective solutions.