Planners Call Route 34 Design Cutting Edge
| Jul 25, 2012 8:10 am
First-in-the-nation raised intersections. First-in-the-state narrowed lanes and “bike boxes.” So what’s the problem?
Depends whom you ask.
City officials describe as cutting edge some traffic-calming measures planned for the $35 million overhaul of the Route 34 mini-highway-to-nowhere. Some bike and pedestrian advocates, meanwhile, blast the plan and continue to push for further improvements.
Mike Piscitelli, the city’s deputy director of economic development, responded to those recent criticisms in an interview. He and other city officials pointed out several first-of-their-kind traffic calming measures as they unveiled new details of the first phase of the so-called “Downtown Crossing” development plan.
The project is designed to transform the maligned Route 34 Connector into what was originally described as two “urban boulevards” featuring, in the first phase, a $100 million high-tech office and laboratory building for biomedical companies.
An estimated $35 million from the city, state, and federal government will be spent preparing the site, including reworking the roads and intersections in the area.
Plans for that overhaul have come under fire from the cycling and pedestrian advocates in the city and nationally. They charge the city is recreating the mistakes of the past by designing the area for cars at the expense of walkers and bikers. They say, for instance, that the pedestrian street-crossing distances are too wide, with too many lanes planned for Martin Luther King Boulevard.
In an interview in City Hall, city officials responded to those criticisms by listing what they called unprecedented bike- and pedestrian-friendly improvements that the city has managed to work into the plans, despite some resistance by state engineers.
Many of those improvements were the result of legislation passed by the Board of Aldermen on Nov. 4, 2011, urging the city to slow traffic and provide “the safest pedestrian experience” possible. A total of 18 proposed design elements came out of that legislation, from bike lanes and bike boxes to raised traffic crosswalks and intersections.
Mike Piscitelli, deputy director of economic development, said the city added 15 of those into the 90-percent-complete design plans, the latest to be drawn up. Piscitelli said the city will submit those plans this week for final approval to the Federal Highway Administration. Click here to see them.
East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker and Urban Design League head Anstress Farwell, who have been pushing the city to design Route 34 to be more friendly for walkers and bikers, said they’re still not content with the planned improvements. Farwell said she plans to continue lobbying the city for improvements in six areas, including turning radii and on-street parking.
The Missing Three
In a letter to Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez, Piscitelli outlines reasons why the city decided it couldn’t include the last three of the 18 requested traffic-calming elements:
• A raised “bump-out” at the southwest corner of the intersection of Church Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard had to be removed because it would have forced cars turning south on Church Street from MLK Boulevard in the way of northbound cars at the stop line on Church Street.
• A proposed traffic island on MLK Boulevard just east of the intersection had to be deleted for reasons outlined in this article and debated extensively in the comments section below it. However, another traffic island, just north of the intersection, has been added back in after being temporarily lost in the shuffle. “It’s a fast-moving project,” Piscitelli said.
• Engineers determined it would be impossible to include on-street parking the MLK Boulevard between Church and College streets. “The proposed on-street parking spaces were very limited in number and ultimately too close to other turning movements,” states Piscitelli’s letter to Perez.
Removing A Highway
Despite those three deletions, Piscitelli (pictured) said in the interview, the Route 34 redo still includes a number of significant traffic-calming and bike- and pedestrian-friendly elements, including the following:
The area will include bike lanes throughout, painted in green to make them stand out clearly. On MLK Boulevard east of Church, the bike lane will be raised to sidewalk level to further separate it from car traffic.
Raised and textured sidewalks will be in place at intersections along with “bike boxes,” green-painted areas at the front of traffic lanes at intersections, reserved for bikes. Piscitelli said bike boxes like this have never been tried before in the state, as far as he knows. They will debut first at an intersection near Gateway Community College’s new downtown campus.
Three intersections—at Church and MLK, College and MLK, and College and South Frontage—will be raised to create “speed tables.” They will be the first raised intersections in the country to be placed on an “arterial” road, Piscitelli claimed. Usually speed tables are reserved for residential neighborhoods, like East Rock’s Edwards Street, where one was installed last year.
Those intersections will not, however, be raised six inches and made even with curb height, as some people had requested. The intersection will be raised four inches. That’s enough to slow traffic down and still create a clear distinction between the sidewalk pedestrian area and the car area, according to Piscitelli. That’s important for blind pedestrians who might otherwise not realize they were walking into an intersection, said Donna Hall, a project manager with the City Plan Department. The city chose four inches rather than six inches also because of the number of emergency vehicles expected to use the intersections.
The intersection of Temple Street and MLK Boulevard will be “tightened up,” Piscitelli said: Made tighter and more perpendicular. Instead of a speedy merge, cars turning right onto MLK Boulevard from Temple Street will have a stop sign and a raised crosswalk to slow them down.
All intersections will feature “exclusive phase” crossing signals, meaning that traffic will stop in all directions whenever the crosswalk buttons are pressed. That’s just one of several features that will mean longer wait times for motorists, said Piscitelli and Hall.
Right Amount Of Congestion?
Designing the project has been an exercise in trying to determine just how much congestion-induced frustration drivers can take, Piscitelli said. The right amount of congestion can encourage people to find alternate routes or even to find alternate means of transportation. “Introduce too much frustration,” he said, “and people start blowing red lights.”
Piscitelli said he expects more fine-tuning in the plan once the work is complete and the city has a sense of how it works in practice and not just in theory. Tweaks could include adjusting the timing of traffic lights and perhaps introducing on-street parking at certain times of day or days of the week.
Asked what he would respond to cyclists and pedestrians skeptical about the new Route 34, Piscitelli said he would point to the bike boxes and bike lanes throughout. He would note that the bike lanes constitute the area’s first “full trunk of east-west” route. He would point out the raised and textured crosswalks throughout, and the exclusive phase crossing signals.
“No One Bikes On A Highway”
City spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton put it more succinctly: “We’re taking out a highway. No one bikes on a highway. No one walks on a highway.”
The intersection of Church and MLK, which has come under fire by biking and pedestrian advocates for featuring five lanes of traffic to cross, is narrower than the intersection of Church and Elm street, Benton said.
It’s narrower than Church and Chapel too, said Hall. “Church and Chapel is bigger than anything we’re proposing.”
Benton stressed the importance of comparing the planned improvements to what is there now—“a highway.”
“Remediation,” Not “Innovation”
East Rock Alderman Elicker said he would still like to see more. He was unmoved by explanations of why some elements had to be excluded. “Ultimately, there’s a technical answer for not doing just about everything,” he said. “If you took out a lane, you’d have room for all the things we’re looking for.”
“I think the problem is the lens that we’re looking at the project through,” Elicker said. It’s a matter of “vision,” he said. “What kind of a city do we want to be?” Are we thinking “two years ahead or 10, 20 years ahead?”
“We should be building infrastructure for the future,” he said. Around the country, cities are building walkable and bikeable centers to prepare for a future in which people drive less, he said.
The problem, too late to fully fix now, is that the city went about the design process backwards, argued the Urban Design League’s Farwell (pictured). Instead of first designing the roads—and particularly creating a better intersection at Orange Street, which would help divert traffic away and obviate the perceived need for five lanes on MLK—and then finding a developer to build in the new corridor, the city went about it the other way around, Farwell said.
“They’ve designed a strange hybrid” road system, Farwell said. It has some of the features of city street, but the city has “left in all kinds of things that are more like an arterial highway.”
As a result, the city is left to to “try to put in these kind of reverse-engineering elements” in order to slow cars down.
“I wouldn’t call it innovation,” she said. “It’s more like remediation. These are remedial techniques.”
It’s not too late to improve the plans, Farwell said. She said she’d still like to see improvements in six areas: landscaping, raising the height of the intersections to six inches, extending turning radii at intersections to require cars and trucks to slow down more when they turn, extending pedestrian crossing times, improving the bike lane on Temple Street, and bringing back the on-street parking on MLK Boulevard.
“I don’t think there’s anything more we can ask than these small things,” she said.
“We are in the 90 percent phase, not 100 percent,” Alderman Elicker said. “Let’s tweak these small details.”
“I don’t think anyone’s trying to take away from the good work the city’s done,” Elicker said. Speed tables are now planned for three intersections rather than two, as in earlier plans, he noted. “They’re great things. I commend the state and the city. ... It doesn’t mean we should say, ‘Good job. That’s enough.’”
“This whole process has been a failure in communication and dialogue between the city and the state and the community,” Elicker added.
Faced with this criticism in the past, city officials have repeatedly noted that they have held dozens of public hearings on Downtown Crossing and Route 34.
That’s true, Elicker said, but cycling advocates feel like after they showed up at all those meetings and gave feedback, the plan didn’t really change.
“There’s a lot of distrust that has been created as part of this process,” he said.
Post a Comment
posted by: Wooster Squared on July 25, 2012 9:18am
If the City had put half the energy into the design process that they’ve put into spin, we might actually have a good project here.
As it stands now, there is nothing innovative about this road. We’re basically rebuilding the highway with a few tweaks.
A word of advice to Elizabeth Benton and co: If you have to tell people over and over that what you’re doing is “cutting edge”, then it isn’t cutting edge.
posted by: Fairhavener on July 25, 2012 9:37am
One man’s “cutting-edge” is another man’s “old news.” Seems to me this is what happens when we leave it to dinosaurs (i.e. City and State Engineers) to design our current cities.
It’s been proven time and again, that safe streets, designed not for cars and trucks, but for people, pedestrians, cyclists, shuttle bus users, and most of all our elderly and children, have positive ripple effects across the board e.g. reduced crime rates, increased public health. Yet, we still worry more about turning radii for cars and trucks than our own people.
posted by: anonymous on July 25, 2012 10:50am
“We’re taking out a highway. No one bikes on a highway. No one walks on a highway.”
That may be the most ridiculous statement yet, and perhaps is an indication of Mayor DeStefano’s perspective on this project.
For more on his perspective, watch the video from his speech at CNU in which he suggests directly that pedestrians are the lowest item on the city’s priority list.
Outside the bizarre reality of City Hall, the fact is that people walk and bike along MLK, Frontage, and College Street all the time.
This plan essentially moves the highway onto those streets, and widens some of them.
Although the changes may result in calmer traffic at rush hour (which is the point the City keeps repeating), during the other hours of the day and on weekends, that will allow vehicles to speed through the Medical District at 60 miles per hour. In the face of that, I’d hate to be a driver trying to navigate this area, much less a pedestrian trying to cross 5 lanes.
It would be great if the measures that had been promised to the Board of Aldermen would be put back into the plan.
It’s very good news that one of the islands was drawn back in, for example, after several dozen residents protested last week. But much more is needed.
posted by: streever on July 25, 2012 11:10am
City spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton put it more succinctly: “We’re taking out a highway. No one bikes on a highway. No one walks on a highway.”
Well, except were we are making more of a highway with widened roads and increased traffic volumes.
People currently bike and walk here—although they get injured, they still go there. They have to. That is how they can get to work. That is how they access downtown from their neighborhood.
They don’t have the luxuries that a lot of our civic leaders have—they can’t drive. If City Hall understood what it meant to not have cars, to not have the economic freedom to drive everywhere, to not have the money to pay for their sins, they’d get this on a fundamental level.
This administration is led by a man who was criticized for his gas-guzzler and swapped it for a Prius. The notion that you can just pay a little money to remedy your impact on the world starts at the top, and is made clear in the deceptive commentary City Staff offers on this plan.
This is an administration that believes in the ends, cares little for the means, and will do and say what it takes to “improve” a situation—all the while ignoring that the real issue IS how we get there.
Hell is full of good intentions and desires.
posted by: FromTheHill on July 25, 2012 11:57am
I live in the hill and love walking downtown so I was excited about this project. maybe its me, but the moore I read about it the moore it seems like it’s going to be another Rt 80, just with big boxed buildings in the middle of it. I hope I’m wrong.
posted by: brain_stringcheese on July 25, 2012 12:09pm
what’s gonna happen when school is back in session and there is so much more traffic in this area, pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
posted by: Fairhavener on July 25, 2012 12:10pm
FromtheHill, you’re feelings are right, this plan had potential to truly change the landscape of the city, but really it is mediocre at best, and certainly not “cutting-edge” as those in power keep repeating to us over and over and over.
It is sad that this project set out to really be a project for suburbanites to skip into town as quickly and efficiently as they’d like, and then out of town so that they could get to their stay-ca-tion locales on the shore.
Sadly, adjacent neighborhoods like the Hill are still being largely ignored by this 5-lane design.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 25, 2012 12:12pm
If the bike lane along MLK is being integrated onto the sidewalk east of Church Street, then why not combine the turning lane and the one of the thru-lanes along MLK into one lane? If bikes aren’t going to be negotiating with traffic east of Church Street and the turning radii at the northeast corner of the Church and MLK intersection is going to be so generous, then why not simply combine two lanes into one thereby allowing the city to use the existing curbs without extending them south, which will be extremely expensive?
posted by: DingDong on July 25, 2012 1:57pm
Just a small point to add: being “first-in-Connecticut” with pedestrian-friendly traffic design hardly makes you “cutting-edge.” Who is New Haven up against for that distinction? Hartford?
The rest of what I would like to say has already been said above by others.
posted by: Nathan on July 25, 2012 4:05pm
Mike Piscitelli said:
The right amount of congestion can encourage people to find alternate routes or even to find alternate means of transportation. “Introduce too much frustration,” he said, “and people start blowing red lights.”
An astoundingly large amount of thought and planning has gone into improving the cyclist and pedestrian experience in this area compared to the current situation. The number of motorists that will be frustrated by these plans is at least two factors greater that the number of cyclists and pedestrians that will be sharing the roads - yet advocates for the latter groups have been wailing in NHI articles and comments that not enough has been. Perhaps the message City Hall should take from this experience is that tithing to the loudest, smallest group may not be the best return on the investment of political energy, because such groups do not generally understand the nature of compromise required to make things work for everyone involved.
posted by: Joe City on July 25, 2012 4:16pm
I rarely am moved to comment about anything on this site, but the pure misinformation shared here is troubling.
First, the highway is not going away, it is being moved to street level.
Where there are six lanes now, three of which are free flow expressway lanes, there will be five, reduced to three west of Church Street, all of which will have to stop at traffic signals. There is NO WAY three surface lanes can handle the volume of the present three freeway lanes. You are being lied to about the capacity of the new “Boulevard.” How in the world is moving the limited access freeway traffic to street level going to make anything safer? The city will be adding the volume of freeway through traffic to the present and future level of vehicular (which includes bicycles) and pedestrian street level traffic.
Second, the existing condition is better than what is proposed, both in safety for pedestrians and bicycles, as well in the capacity to handle the traffic proposed for this area. Just build over the existing freeway lanes. That will do way more to “knit” the city back together than a wall of traffic congestion.
Third, absent a rapid transit system, it is absurd to think that by cutting the roadway (transportation) capacity, development will prosper.
Forth, the design creates a free flow freeway driveway into and out of the Winstanley project, and puts those less fortunate into what will be a traffic nightmare (I’d love to say “on Elm St.,” but most likely no one will get there) along M.L. King Boulevard.
Fifth, the congestion sure to be created by the proposed loss of capacity will result in additional problems elsewhere in the city as vehicles are diverted to other streets. Look for Trumbull Street to be a future bottleneck, as well as Willow Street. This will also impact eastbound traffic, which no one is talking about with the loss of the on-ramp west of College Street. I note predictably higher volumes on George Street. Elsewhere, you may be living on a quiet little street that will be called upon to fill the capacity loss created by this project. These issues HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN STUDIED.
In a nutshell, this project, conceived of by Winstanley, benefits Winstanley at the expense of the rest of us.
posted by: DingDong on July 25, 2012 4:21pm
Nathan Wrote: “The number of motorists that will be frustrated by these plans is at least two factors greater that the number of cyclists and pedestrians that will be sharing the roads.”
Yes, if you build a 5-lane road and don’t include sidewalks along much of it, it is certainly true more motorists than cyclists or pedestrians will use it. That’s kind of the point.
posted by: streever on July 25, 2012 4:31pm
1. There are more pedestrians and cyclists than your assumption states. Pedestrians certainly do not compose a minority in downtown New Haven, when we look at mode share among CITY RESIDENTS. Which group should New Haven planners be more invested in? I suggest the vulnerable local users take precedence over the wealthy out of towners, personally.
2. Building to the ideal, instead of catering to the existing and detrimental use, is a better methodology which creates a better future.
3. In terms of frustration, it will be interesting to see how drivers cope with the extreme frustration at being considered at a 95% versus 100% level for a change. Perhaps you can find another street in New Haven—outside of the blocks around the Green—where compromise means something other than high speeds, long delays in walk signals, and extremely dangerous driving?
posted by: RJohnAnderson on July 25, 2012 5:09pm
Describing the Downtown Crossing Project as “Cutting Edge” is a poor choice of words. Making that claim demonstrates that the project’s boosters don’t have a credible grasp of the best practices for street design and freeway removal.
What has changed from the project that the Mayor defended as half a loaf being better than none, the best we could get under the circumstances, etc. Through the miracle of spin this lame compromised boondoggle has become “cutting edge”. High marks for breathtaking hubris.
posted by: anonymous on July 25, 2012 5:36pm
Nathan, 100% of human beings are pedestrians at one time or another. How can you have a number that is “two factors greater” than 100%? Your point doesn’t come across very well, considering that upward of 90% of the public tends to supports measures that promote walkability and reduce oil dependency. If the streets as currently designed are simply not walkable, and are based on 1950s-era projections that will cripple our nation economically, haven’t we failed?
I joined my colleagues, Aldermen Justin Ellicker and Doug Hausladen, and complete streets advocates, including Anstress Farwell, in a briefing by city staff last week on this very issue. I think that 90% complete means that there’s at least 10% more room for improvement in the design. I think work should continue to ensure that the final design moves more in the direction of “cutting edge”, and I sense that city staff are game to keep at it.
posted by: Stephen Harris on July 25, 2012 10:39pm
For me whats frustrating about this whole thing has been the lack of vision of where we are going as a city. What started as a great idea, reconnecting the Hill with downtown has devolved into pretty much the same old thing. The needs of one developer trumped everything else.
I never expected the Rt. 34E project to be anything other than the standard approach. Maybe I’ve been around city governments too long to expect anything cutting edge, but I was hoping for a wider perspective.
For instance, instead of looking at the area bounded by the connector, train station and medical district and coming up with a strategy to solve the zoning/land use dysfunction we get the piecemeal approach. The med district wants a block so we do the BD-2 zone, Carter Winstanley wants to put up a building so we do the BD-3 zone. If Church Street South ever gets going we’ll get some other micro solution, and so forth and so on.
“Cutting edge” would be a recognition of the systemic problems we face in energy and finance and then doing the best we can to prepare for smaller, more self-reliant world. Half measures won’t work.
To assume things will stay essentially the same in terms of the energy we use, how we get around, and how we run our economy out into the foreseeable future is shortsighted to say the least.
posted by: Joe Schmoe on July 26, 2012 12:53am
Good point about diverted traffic. That aspect should be studied. But, tell me why it would necessarily be a bad thing if other roadways saw increased traffic due to some motorists diverting/avoiding Route 34. If that was the push that some people needed to use transit instead of car, then it would be all the better. Perhaps transit would become more attractive if the option is there for some people and they get tired of dealing with delays in their car. Heck, increased demand for transit is one of New Haven’s goals, isn’t it?...didn’t I hear something about a streetcar concept recently? Yes people need to travel, but not all by single occupancy vehicle. Bottom line is people don’t like change. But this city has the potential to change for the better. Very few cities have this opportunity.
posted by: JuliS on July 26, 2012 4:14am
if we design our city to speed into and out of, they will.
if we design our city for people to live here, they will.
posted by: Curious on July 26, 2012 9:45am
Where’s “New Haven Rising” on this issue?
What about Local 34 and Local 35? Why are they silent on this?
posted by: anonymous on July 26, 2012 9:53am
That group wants more parking lots, and free parking, not more transit. Their top leaders almost entirely live in the suburbs. Ever hear of CMHC?
posted by: HenryCT on July 26, 2012 11:16am
The Route 34 connector carries an enormous amount of thru traffic - vehicles whose drivers are coming from highways west of the city to get onto I-95 or I-91 and vehicles whose drivers are coming from I-95 and I-95, passing through the city to go west. That makes it a highway. The highway doesn’t change with any the likely designs. If you want to stop the connector from being a highway and instead become a city street, you have to ban thru traffic and aim traffic around and not through the city. Designs for the connector without simultaneous designs for alternative routes are likely primarily to be vehicle friendly.
posted by: Curious on July 26, 2012 12:18pm
Anonymous, where do you get that information from, and what does it have to do with CMHC?
posted by: Joe Schmoe on July 26, 2012 12:32pm
Perhaps this should be viewed at a broader scale. Why not study the implications of removing Route 34 between Route 10 and I-95 so that it runs instead with Route 10 along the entire length of Grasso Blvd to I-95 at City Point? Through traffic would then go around downtown instead of through it, MLK Blvd would be designed as a city street instead of a highway, and everybody is happy. See these two links showing the very small difference in drive time between the two routes:
posted by: TheMadcap on July 26, 2012 12:35pm
You’re taking out what is a de jure highway, and replacing it with what will be a de facto highway the entire way down to the Boulevard. No one wants to walk or bike next to cars blowing through at 50mph either. I’ll be blunt, stop the darn never ending circle jerk around the automobile. Even with all the problems Urban Renewal caused, New Haven is still a dense city, and one of the most walkable, bikable or accessible by bus in the the region. The darn city shouldn’t be designed for people in the suburbs who want to come in and out, get out of your cars. Your entire suburban existence is already subsidized in the fact the gas tax, which is supposed to pay for road maintenance costs, doesn’t even cover half the costs. If we’re going to subsidize your choice to live in an area where 100% of commutes outside of your home have to be in a car, you can get off your butt and out of your steel isolation chamber and actually onto the streets.
posted by: anonymous on July 26, 2012 4:19pm
Joe Schmoe is absolutely correct.
If the City had listened to neighborhood residents in Hill and West River, that’s what we would be doing now.
The result here is that we will be funneling more truck traffic through their neighborhoods, degrading it to the point where it will no longer be inhabitable.
Splitting this project up into tiny pieces was a brilliant move, as it allowed the City to ignore neighborhood residents’ input, and make sure that all the highway funding could be used to subsidize the major developer (Yale) instead of being used to address these serious environmental concerns.
Since none of the planners, officials, or developers live in the impacted neighborhoods, they do not care about this issue.
posted by: Curious on July 26, 2012 5:08pm
posted by: anonymous on July 26, 2012 9:53am
That group wants more parking lots, and free parking, not more transit. Their top leaders almost entirely live in the suburbs. Ever hear of CMHC?***
Anonymous, where do you get that information from, and what does it have to do with CMHC?
posted by: anonymous on July 26, 2012 5:37pm
Curious, the information below is from the Independent.
“The mental health center’s state employees currently park at the city’s Lot E surface lot, at a total cost of about $327,000 per year, according to the state.
Dillon said she and other legislators became alarmed when they heard that the cost would jump to $1.5 million after Lot E was conveyed to the Yale-New Haven Hospital as part of the cancer center project.
“Asking CMHC to cough up the money for parking in their existing budget is going to be difficult,” said Dillon Tuesday. Parking is an integral part of the CMHC budget because according to labor contracts, the center must guarantee free parking to all its state employees.
Dillon took offense that the state delegation was not included in conversations about developing Route 34 or Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center that affected CMHC’s parking needs.”
Once again, the needs and lives of city residents are subordinated to politically powerful and wealthy groups like “New Haven Rising” (or whatever the PR term is these days). Dillon seems to be one of the strongest supporters of that group.
posted by: okaragozian1 on July 27, 2012 6:31pm
As a vice-chair of The Hill North CMT the way I see it, and other residents of The Hill see it, is that access to and from the highways (I91, I95) to The Hill will be impeded. Traffic on and off the highways will be steered to side streets which are designed to slow traffic down for pedestrians.
Slow traffic is OK for pedestrians, but not really. Slow traffic causes more pollution. Just look at any car’s EPA sticker which shows that you use more gas in city driving as you are driving slower. More gas, more smog. More development, more cars, more traffic more smog.
This City is so interested in increasing it’s tax base that it would run the Daytona 500 at Yale Bowl if it could tax it. Al the City wants to do is bring in more development and more people and more cars. More, more, more.
Yale-New Haven Hospital is not complaining because the more sick people there are the better. Sick people increase the hospital’s bottom line.
My solution is to reduce pollution which means reduce traffic, which means reduce development. 100 College street building is over 400,000 square feet. ALL the previous buildings that were knocked down to create the existing RT34 connector barely added up to 400,000 square feet. Do you know how many other building with hundred’s of thousands of square feet of retail, office, etc. space will be built?
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on July 29, 2012 3:09pm
A moratorium on new development is one way of preventing additional automobile traffic from entering the Route 34 Corridor, which is an area already saturated with parking, traffic, and pollution. The downside to this is that it maintains the status quo and does not grow the grandlist, which is not sustainable for a city that already receives a significant portion of its annual revenue from the State.
While the current project will add significantly to the grandlist, it will also expand on many of the indirect and secondary costs that result from automobile-oriented development, such as higher health care costs and increased travel times, which already plague neighborhoods like the Hill.
The way to discourage additional traffic from entering the area, while encouraging new development is to require that any new development must follow a transit and pedestrian-oriented pattern. This can be accomplished by implementing residency requirements, homebuyer’s programs, housing rehabilitation loans, expanded transit service, and pleasant sidewalks.
Another key compondent to reducing automobile traffic in the area should be to discourage through-traffic from using the Route 34 Corridor, as Joe Schmoe suggested. However, I think that getting rid of the highway spur entirely is unrealistic in the short term since the entire medical area currently depends on it and an enormous investment was just put in the fly-over exit ramp. Perhaps Forbed Avenue and Water Street can eventually replace the need for the highway spur, but in the meantime it would be worthwhile to encourage through-traffic to use the Boulevard, while only destination-traffic use the Oak Street Connector - that would significantly alleviate congestion and allow much more flexibility in the Route 34 West redevelopment plan.