Posts tagged with "transportation":

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Shovels in the Ground

Yesterday, President Obama made a visit to the Department of Transportation to applaud them and the rest of the nation for their work spending those stimulus dollars, marking the occasion of the 2,000th infrastructure project to be approved for Federal stimulus money. In his speech, the president joked that something unusual had happened at DOT and throughout the land: "We can utter a sentence rarely heard in recent years: This government effort is coming in ahead of schedule and under budget."
Now, some may have thought it would take months to get to this point. But in part because of the hard work and commitment of the people in this department, we approved these 2,000 projects in just 41 days.
However, what is most impressive--or depressing, depending on your perspective--is just how little contractors are willing to charge for such work:
And that's why I'm pleased to hear that in state after state across America, competition for these projects is so fierce, and contractors are doing such a good job cutting costs, that projects are consistently coming in under budget. The final bid for one road project in Connecticut was $8.4 million less than the state budgeted for. Another one in Louisiana was $4.7 million less. A project at BWI Airport will be completed for $8 million less than expected. Bids for projects in North Carolina have been 19 percent under budget. Colorado is reporting bids up to 30 percent less than they expected. And the officials in California have seen bids that are close to half as much as they had projected. And because these projects are proceeding so efficiently, we now have more recovery dollars to go around. And that means we can fund more projects, revitalize more of our infrastructure, put more people back to work, and ensure that taxpayers get more value for their dollars. [Emphasis added]
The big question to our minds, though, was where, how, and, most importantly, for what will that surplus stimulus be allocated? For example, does California, through its thrifty bidding processes, get to build twice as much as expected? Or does that money go back to the Feds to be reallocated? Neither Governor Schwarzenegger's office nor the Times knew the answer to this question, and the Obama press office did not return calls seeking comment. Still, more money and more work is always a good thing. Now we can only hope its the kind of aspirational work planners and architects have been clamoring for and not just more repairs and repaving. Not that that's a bad thing. The renderings just aren't as sexy.

Hooked on Biking

Speaking of biking in the city, the Forum for Urban Design held an exhibition and party last night for its first-ever competition. Entitled Reimage Red Hook, the competition sought to make the pioneering, cobblestone neighborhood the premier cycling spot in the city. Red Hook is notoriously inaccessible, with only one distant subway station and two bus lines. More than the jobs or cheap furniture it brought, the opening of the new IKEA was most celebrated by locals for the free water taxi and shuttle bus services it brought to the neighborhood. Which is why Lisa Chamberlain, the group's executive director, said it decided to set the competition where it did. "Red Hook has a serious transportation problem," she said. "We didn't want to take a nice neighborhood and make it nicer. We wanted to take a neighborhood where it could actually have a real economic impact." At the exhibition, hosted at the Beard Street Warehouse adjacent Fairway, six finalists were displayed, along with ten honorable mentions. Jonathan Marvel, principal of Rogers Marvel Architects and one of the jurors, made brief remarks about the six finalist, before Chamberlain announced the winners. The four runners-up were Heather Aman Design, Route Peddlers, H3 Hardy Collaborative + EWT, and Jordan Parnass Digital Architecture. She then called the remaining two teams up, HOK Sport and Jonathan Rule, had them say a few words about their projects, before announcing the upset winner, Rule, who also happened to be the only individual entrant. A recent grad from GSD, Rule has actually been working in Spain for morcillo + pallares the past few years, though he is a native son of Brooklyn. His father, a fellow architect who was beaming after the winners were announced, said Jonathan had almost not flown over because of the $1,000 ticket. Thanks to the $10,000 prize, though, the elder Rule joked, "He should have no problem covering that now." Asked by AN if he might be swinging by Disneyland, or at least Euro Disney, with the remains of his prize money, Jonathan paused before admitting to the unsexy truth. "No," he said. "This is going to pay back Harvard." As for his triumphant return to the borough of his youth, Rule acknowledged that is was familiar territory, having written his thesis on the Gowanus Canal. He also said it was gratifying to beat out such big names as HOK Sport and Hugh Hardy. On a more somber note, Rule said his entry was dedicated to Sam Hindy, a childhood friend and son of Brooklyn Brewery founder Stephen Hindy, who died in a cycling accident last year. "It's been on my mind ever since," Rule said. "How can you educate motorists and make the city safe for bicyclists." Here's hoping, through Rule's hard work, that we're one step closer. Be sure to check out the Forum's special competition page for videos, renderings, and explanations of all 16 projects. Chamberlain said the group is still deciding the best way to further these designs, though she also pointed out that representatives of both the city planning and transportation departments were on the jury. "Hopefully they absorbed some of our ideas," she said.
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Columntrava

This week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) and Santiago Calatrava released renderings of the scaled back World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Gone is the sweeping column-free span, originally envisioned by the Spanish architect known for his expressionistic structures. Tapered columns have been added, which the Port Authority and the architect argue will speed along construction and reduce the amount of steel needed to complete the project. The skylights, which were to bring natural light into the mezzanine, have also been eliminated. This is only the latest compromise at the WTC site. As Alec Appelbaum wrote on October 2, a new report from the PA laid out plans for a revised timeline and simplified construction, including at the hub. When the report was released, the PA pledged to open the memorial in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks. By Tuesday, Christopher Ward, executive director of the PA, speaking at a City Council hearing, pushed back the schedule for the public opening of the memorial to 2012. Calatrava has often said the new hub would rival Grand Central Terminal as one of New York's grandest public spaces. As his vision has steadily been eroded, it's time to ask if the space will be closer to the underground interior of Pennsylvania Station.