Some Favorite Sites
Government/ Community Links
Bravo! Bike Lane Enters Stage Right
by Allan Appel | Jun 10, 2011 10:00 am
Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, Transportation, Downtown
Applause rippled through the Shubert theater—not for an actor bellowing, but for an raised green bike lane that made a grand entrance onto stage one of the Downtown Crossing project.
The grand entrance took the form of a slide show at the Shubert Thursday night detailing the $140 million plan to turn the Route 34 mini-highway to nowhere off Interstate 95 into part of the city again under the “Downtown Crossing” umbrella. The project aims to create slower, more pedestrian and bike-friendly roads to replace the Frontage Road speedways in both directions, enhance walkability and more human scale activity, and in the process create three tracts for development between the roads. Whether the project will accomplish that goal has become a contested question at a series of public discussions.
The bike-lane slide was among a series of graphics shown to 100 people who gathered on the Shubert mezzanine for the fifth public information session on the evolving Downtown Crossing project.
The event also marked a red-letter moment: the submission to the state Department of Transportation of the first 30 percent of the design for the first phase of the project.
While the general philosophy of Downtown Crossing —the undoing of an urban renewal-era mistake—has met with widespread support in town, the design details have proved controversial. A chief question in a series of public discussions on the plan has been whether the evolving design truly includes pedestrians and cyclists, or just creates a new domain for speeding cars.
While that issue remains unresolved, the emergence of promised dedicated bike lanes along South and North Frontage (the latter to be renamed Martin Luther King Boulevard) encouraged some of the skeptics present at the Shubert Thursday night.
The updated plans also showed bike boxes permitting a left turn in front of cars waiting for the red light at three intersections: Church, Temple, and College.
Where Orange Street meets Frontage, the bike lane will be raised and separated parallel to the traffic until Church, at which point the lane will merge with the lane on the street. George Street will become two-way street, a plus for bicyclists, and College will have on-street parking plus a bike lane, although it will remain one-way south of Chapel.
“In short, making it a city street,” said Deputy Economic Development Administrator Mike Piscitelli, who functioned as the emcee of the presentation at the Shubert. As former chief of the city’s traffic and transportation department, Piscitelli kept his door open to cycling advocates and to a “complete streets” philosophy, now incorporated into city ordinances.
As she leafed through the submission documents, City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg said that a medical student living in East Rock might ride safely in dedicated bike lanes all the way down Orange, onto a raised or separated bike lane from Orange to Church, and then turn, using a bike box, down College to get to her lab or classroom.
“It’s not perfect, but with what they have to work with, it’s OK,” said safe-streets activist Mark Abraham.
He went on to add, however, that the plan thus far doesn’t deal with issues of pedestrian safety. Abraham said he looks forward to seeing the next phase, which he hopes will have the full network of bike and pedestrian amenities along the side streets meeting the spine of the frontage roads.
Cycling advocate David Streever questioned the rounded corners at the College Street intersection. “You’re not going to see much of a change [there] with those rounded corners. People [that is, drivers] are going to blow through there,” he said.
“We agree. It’d be cheaper to put a policeman out there,” Piscitelli responded, noting driver misbehavior at the corner. “It’s on our radar.”
As a bicyclist, Zack Beatty also questioned the wisdom of not turning College into a two-way street between Chapel and Crown. Piscitelli said College is narrower at this location than elsewhere. In addition, the Shubert and other businesses needed the parking.
Beatty asked if Piscitelli would commit to making College Street two-way.
“Long term, they [the consultants] are addressing it,” Piscitelli said.
“If at the end of Phase One, College is still one way, it’d be a missed opportunity,” Beatty said.
The Urban Design League‘s Anstress Farwell had a more negative take on the proceedings: “Do you know what word was not spoken? Transit.” She questioned the value of bike lanes in a plan at whose heart, she said, is the central value of accommodating the most cars possible.
“I call it bike lanes in purgatory.”
Meanwhile, City Plan Director Gilvarg called the completion of the first part of the design and submission to the state “a milestone.” Click here for a summary of the presentation.
Gilvarg said she expects the state to raise questions that might range from large engineering issues to, “What kind of bike box?”
Yet in the arcane world of phased design approvals, she was excited. The plan represents the inputs of the four previous public meetings on Downtown Crossing.
If it’s approved, the state will in subsequent months allow the design to go to 60 percent, then 90 percent. If all goes well, construction can begin in early 2012.
The $28 million phase is the first stage of a massive $140 million effort to erase what’s often referred to as the “scar” of the current Route 34, which has for decades separated the medical district and the Hill from downtown with a continuous blur of cars racing in and out of the city on a limited-access strip.
The first phase, which is being paid for with a $16 million federal Tiger II grant and matches from the city and state, will close Exits 2 and 3 on Route 34 and route medical parking traffic underground directly to the Air Rights Garage. It will replace the College Street bridge decks with a reinforced tract of land on grade with the street. That’s the site of the first of the planned major business developments, Carter Winstanley’s 100 College Street.
Winstanley said his conception of the building, which has not been designed yet, is a place where tenants in his nearby 300 George Street digs can expand, and also to be a destination for new businesses being spawned by the core Yale medical facilities. “You would circulate around the building, with benches and a place to get relief from cast concrete.”
He said he doesn’t know if the building will allow enough room for pocket parks. “But the idea is to separate traffic and pedestrians” by a variety of means, he said. “My goal is to create a pedestrian friendly location,” he said, likening the future site to Kendall Square in Cambridge.
Post a Comment
what proportion of the designers / design team / developers here are racial-ethnic minorities or people over the age of 70?
if none or very few, it would be no wonder cars/tunnels/highways would be prioritized, and the major pedestrian improvements are pushed off into a later year. racial-ethnic minorities and people over the age of 70 are far more likely to die in pedestrian crashes than able bodied residents in their prime.
the federal DOT says only 2% of “stimulus” contracts like Route34 go to minority contractors even though minorities are 28% of the US population.
if we have a fair representation among the designers and power brokers, we will have a more fair city. also there would be more attention paid to mass transit. i havent seen that mentioned at all, really, in many of these big DOT highway/road projects.
the board of aldermen seems like a more representative group, though not perfect. maybe they can weigh in about how much of the money here is going towards the benefit of drivers even though drivers to work are a small fraction of the citys population.
good job to all the people who have put in work on this, but lets make sure it is far.
“You know what’s sad? Martin Luther King stood for non violence. And I don’t care where you are in America, if you’re on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there’s some violence going down.”
I was at the meeting last night (braving the rain and thunder) and I honestly thought this plan was outstanding. It really brought together everything that everyones wanted to see in this projct in development since day 1- deticated bike lanes, wide sidewalks, pedstrian improvements, and slower speeds in the lanes coming off of 91/95 onto the new city streets- MLK Drive… Looking forward to seeing the progress of all this taking shape.
A note of clarification for the comment in the story by Anstress Farwell… There actually will be transit incorporated into this project. I was also in attendance last night and heard one of the staff memebers talking about tying TDM and transit into the new 100 College Street building, as well as referencing Yale’s TDM system. And anyway, why would CT Transit (which runs on these streets now) not run there once they become full-fledged city streets that people can walk, and bike on?!? Com’on people let get the facts stright and have some common sense here.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 10, 2011 10:40am
Can anyone show of an example where bike lanes with bike boxes exist (and work) next to 4 lanes of one-way traffic? I have a difficult enough time riding on Whalley and Dixwell in Hamden which are only 2 lanes + a turning lane in one direction. In order to turn onto College Street from North Frontage will cyclists be expected to navigate across 3 lanes of traffic, or will they be expected to stop and wait for the light cycle to change? If the latter option is expected, then why not just create a cycle track on the sidewalk?
Also, is the rendering accurate that there will be no street trees on the north side of North Frontage?
“The plan represents the inputs of the four previous public meetings on Downtown Crossing.”
The plan here shows a 55-foot wide crosswalk across a widened, five lane street that, while posted at 25 miles per hour, realistically speaking will probably see speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour during the off peak hours.
A 55-foot wide crosswalk on a widened street does not seem to represent the direction of the public input over the past five years.
Longer crossing distances increase the pedestrian’s time of exposure to collision hazards. Multi-lane roads also increase the risk of “multiple-threat” collisions. A multiple-threat collision occurs when one or more vehicles yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk and block the view of the pedestrian from drivers in other lanes, who pass the stopped traffic and hit the pedestrian at high speed.
Long crossing distances also make it more difficult for seniors and persons with disabilities to cross. The challenges of providing safe crossing facilities on multi-lane roads demand we carefully consider the impact that road widening projects like this will have on walkability in populated areas.
Can refuge islands be provided? Or is the city working based on the assumption that pedestrians will walk all the way out of their way to Orange or State in order to walk underneath Route 34?
Really? Fist of all I’m pretty sure with a federal grant like the TIGER II the city recieved, they have to (per the feds) bring in at least one minority, or women-owned firm to help with the project. And I’m sure they’ve taken all those things into consideration. Second, the random stat you just gave about how minorities and people over 70 are more likley to die in pedestrian crashes- what is that based off of, or have ANY relevance to Downtown Crossing? At all? Anyone can get hit by a speeding car or truck or a bus anywhere at any time. Also, think about the jobs which will be created for people in New Haven when this thing is built and under construction. Its a win-win the way I see it. Not a loss for any group.. minority or not.
Should improved bus stops be built in as part of the street scape? Many cities including NYC are creating things like concrete pads, street furniture and bumpouts to help ensure that taking transit is an attractive option for residents. A lot of New Haven residents take the bus or Yale shuttle.
Also, does the plan allow a streetcar to be added in the future, like the city’s “streetcar plan” showed last year running along Route 34 out to the historic West River neighborhood?
I am not sure but perhaps Anstress was referencing issues like these, not about the existing routes themselves.
anon- I think you’re right. These plans, as I understood it, weren’t finalized to that great of detail. Things like street trees (which Jonathan Hopkins just mentioned) and ‘streetscape’ sort of details I dont think we’re added at this point- and I’m sure they will be- per NH’s complete streets. Transit stops would also be a part of that… I would think?
What we saw last night was a huge step in the right direction.
The plans displayed offer a lot for cyclists, but shouldn’t necessary be viewed as a long-term solution.
Bike lanes and bike boxes are a big improvement and giant step forward for the City and the State, but ultimately on roads of that size a physically separated bike lane is a must in the long-term if we want to make bicycling a realistic option for most people. I hope we see this kind of bicycle facility in the Full Build phase of the project.
There was a lot of talk about moving traffic, which was necessary, but there needs to be a greater focus on the pedestrian, which should really be the starting point when in comes to designing urban streets. Of course, we will have to move a substantial number of cars through the area for the foreseeable future. However, if we want to create the vibrant pedestrian environment that City, the developer, and the community have all stated they want and need for the area to be an economic success, we’re going to have to agree to live with some degree of congestion, particularly on the side streets like College or Church.
The City seems to be making good on their commitment to Complete Streets and this project has the potential to really demonstrate that.
All things considered this plan is moving in a good direction, but more real estate needs to be shifted from cars to people. Let’s see a few less traffic lanes here and there on the side streets and add some additional traffic calming features such as raised crosswalks, bump-outs and wider sidewalks.
At the end of Phase 1 of this project there really needs to be a much stronger pedestrian connection between Downtown and the Medical district. With some minor changes to the plans we saw last night, this can be fairly easily accomplished.
Connecticut State Facts, from AARP:
Pedestrian Fatalities by Age, CONNECTICUT
Under Age 65: 0.80 ped fatalities per 100,000 people
Over Age 65: 2.19 ped fatalities per 100,000 people
Over Age 75: 2.84 ped fatalities per 100,000 people
From Policy Link:
According to a recent report, designing our streets to move vehicles rather than people, puts a significant burden on low income people and communities of color across this country.
The pedestrian death rate for people of color exceeds that of non-Hispanic whites.
For non-Hispanic whites, the death rate is 1.38 per 100,000 persons.
For Asians, the rate is 1.45 per 100,000 persons.
For Latinos, the rate is 2.23 per 100,000 persons — 62% greater than non-Hispanic whites.
For African Americans, the rate is 2.39 per 100,000 persons — 73% greater than non-Hispanic whites.
In the 234 U.S. counties where more than 1 in 5 families has a household income lower than the poverty level, the pedestrian fatality rate averages 2.91 per 100,000 persons — which is significantly greater the national rate of 1.6 per 100,000 persons.
“The plan here shows a 55-foot wide crosswalk across a widened, five lane street that, while posted at 25 miles per hour, realistically speaking will probably see speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour during the off peak hours.
A 55-foot wide crosswalk on a widened street does not seem to represent the direction of the public input over the past five years.”
The reality is how do you expect commuters into Yale or into Downtown to get there w/ traffic levels the way they are off the highways w/ less lanes? There was traffic studies done for this stuff and still underway according to the city’s consultants last night. What do you want like 2 lanes of traffic, with speed bumps every 10 ft. and a 20 mph speed limit? The only way I think that eveyone is happy with this design is if people (of the interest groups- cyclists, motorists, and walkers) all compromise their special interests for the good of everyone. I drive, and I wouldnt even want a 45 mph speed limit with no sidewalks. I’m all for that and bikes and the lanes. Because in the end, who knows in another 50 years what new haven will look like or what our transpostataion habits will be.
The plan here shows a 55-foot wide crosswalk across a widened, five lane street that, while posted at 25 miles per hour, realistically speaking will probably see speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour during the off peak hours.
A 55-foot wide crosswalk on a widened street does not seem to represent the direction of the public input over the past five years.
Mark my words, if this madness get realized in asphalt, you and the other people that pushed so hard for the destruction of the Rt 34 connector road will look back with misty eyed memories of when the two lanes on that road kept non-local traffic off the local roads until the Air Rights Garage exit. Remember, it didn’t have to be this way: the local “street scape” could have been radically improved with better sidewalks, crosswalks, and even bike lanes without destroying the value of the connector road, but for the arrogance of a small, vocal minority and the ears at city hall they seem to have listening.
NFJ: You have no evidence for your assertion. Thousands of highways have been removed all over the world over the past 30 years, with astonishing success on every single project.
This project will be done correctly and it will result in millions of dollars of additional tax revenue and thousands of new jobs—- in New Haven, not in new strip malls in the suburbs.
Gunther, here is more:
County Data from AARP
New Haven County: 102 pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009, representing 15% of all traffic deaths. Thousands more received life altering injuries.
This is higher rate of pedestrian death than any other county or urban area in the State of Connecticut.
Despite the 15% of deaths, only about 1% of our road funding goes towards pedestrian safety issues.
That, and the facts above, represent some of the concern about equity in New Haven.
Unless major enhancements are made, whoever is approving this project (DOT) is ordering up a calculated number of deaths, particularly among children, minorities and the elderly.
Will equity be advanced by having 55 foot crossing distances across 45 mile per hour roads?
Even the crossings proposed for College Street, which is supposed to be the medical tech district’s “most walkable” street, are well in excess of 50 feet in the Phase 1 plan.
The current connector is universally acknowledged to be a mistake. It eats up a ton of land Downtown that could be put to better use and build the tax base while adding jobs.
The only “value” of the connector road is that it allows you to drive at 60 miles an hour for a couple more blocks. ... Jobs, development, tax base and better downtown transportation trump the needs of three blocks of high-speed cut-through traffic.
interestingly the drawing above does not represent the actual blueprint plans.
the drawing at the top of the story shows an L shaped curb at college and frontage.
the actual plans show a huge turning radius, like streever points out.
because of the huge curve, walking this corner will be like crossing the exit of an interstate highway.
it would be nice if the pretty pictures represented what is actually being submitted.
or at the very least, journalists should try to point out more clearly that the drawing there isn’t what the public is actually going to get next year.
This project will be done correctly and it will result in millions of dollars of additional tax revenue and thousands of new jobs…
And you claim I make assertions without evidence?
posted by: streever on June 10, 2011 11:55am
“The plan represents the inputs of the four previous public meetings on Downtown Crossing.”
This is a factually incorrect assertion.
The plan has largely remained unchanged since previous viewings, despite a large volume of public complaint.
I was told that “bikers and walkers aren’t the only constituent” and that the direction was largely influenced by Yale New Haven Hospital.
Curiously, I have not seen their representatives at a single public input meeting on this project.
This project is extremely problematic. The basic premise is that they can not do anything to inconvenience people driving in and out of the city. I’m glad that suburban drivers are the top priority for a project which has a stated goal of knitting together two communities.
If the State wants to make it easy for West Haven and Shelton residents to drive in and out of New Haven, they should foot the bill entirely, and West Haven & Shelton can help.
If the city wants to get serious about reconnecting neighborhoods, a patchwork of mish-mashed bike facilities (widely diverse styles, all within a few blocks of each other—on sidewalks, separated from cars, in the parking lane, etc) is not going to do it.
If they just want to give Mr. Winstanley a nice spot to build on and a convenient way for suburbanites to drive in New Haven, they are doing so, but I am left wondering why they asked citizens to come out and give input if the end result is such a poor plan?
There is nothing cohesive or comprehensive about their approach to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Would someone want to live here & walk 3 blocks? That is a real question our city planners should be asking themselves.
Sadly, they focused on “Would a man who lives in Derby be able to easily drive in and park at his job for free and then go home in 8 hours without spending any money in New Haven? He can go home and spend the money he earned here on his beautiful lawn.”
I’ve seen some calls from New Haven lawmakers and residents to get employees to live in New Haven. This is how you do it, folks, you STOP BUILDING NEW HAVEN STREETS FOR SUBURBAN DRIVERS AND MAKE THEM MORE CONVENIENT FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS THAN FOR SUBURBANITES WHO DO NOT PAY TAXES OR SHOP HERE.
This plan is fundamentally flawed in the approach, and the execution shows the flaw, by presenting the mish-mash of competing priorities and ideologies. The rounded curbs at a former four lane now five lane road? How the heck will a pedestrian safely cross there?
There is time for the City to salvage this plan. They can start by implementing some of the features and changes that have been requested by taxpayers at public meetings, and stop catering to people who do not represent their own interests in a transparent, public way.
Did anyone know that Yale New Haven Hospital was a major stakeholder? Has anyone heard them say—in public or on the record—what they want out of this project? Not that I can find, and yet their interests are being trumped over those of everyone else.
The features for YNHH will not help emergency vehicles—they are there to ensure that the suburban work force has an easy time getting to YNHH. What about local people who work at the hospital? Why aren’t they at the very top in the priority?
People choose not to live here because they see their tax dollars and their energy being squandered by city staff to support and prop up people who live in other towns.
This is a systemic flaw in our municipality, and one that will continue to impact us as we move forward.
Last point: “This is just a phase I”—lets ask someone from the original Route 34 project how much of it was completed. Like many road projects, it is likely that the city will fail at fully implementing the new Route 34. This current phase is only Phase I, but it may be the only phase we ever see completed. Let’s get it right from the start.
Regarding highway removal in cities, this is a great idea when the highway is above or at street level. When it is below street level, why not just build over the highway? That way, you keep your efficient through traffic while restoring the walkable urban fabric above. You also minimize the automobile traffic on the surface streets.
In the current New Haven proposal, all the through traffic will be dumped onto city streets at Church. That is why they plan to widen the existing frontage roads. The widened streets will undermine the benefits of bike lanes, street trees, etc., and make our streets less safe for pedestrians.
In Boston, they spent a fortune on their Big Dig. In New Haven, we’ve already done the digging. All we have to do is eliminate Exit 2, refine the geometry of Exit 3, and build over the highway.
streever is correct that residents will be very frustrated if they see their hard-earned tax dollars going only to support the interests of suburbanites and wealthy commuters to yale. we need to either remove the highway in a fair way, or not do it at all.
Mixed bag overall, some things to like, some progress, but overall I was pretty underwhelmed by what I saw last night. The marketing materials distributed at the beginning called this a “bold” vision. I disagree. If you take for granted the highway stub should be removed, this plan is the least “bold” way to accomplish that.
The upside of the current plan is mainly just that the median is reopened for development, which might sort of accomplish the goal of “stitching” neighborhoods back together, and it will build the tax base.
But the city’s stated goal of improving safety and making the streets more hospitable to pedestrians will not be accomplished under this plan. The stub highway wasn’t the problem, it was the frontage roads, and this plan makes them wider and more dangerous.
Likewise, the city’s stated goal of creating an appealing, walkable neighborhood street will not be accomplished under this plan. They claim that future development will be mixed use (retail, residential, office), but NOBODY wants to live in a building surrounded by eight lanes of high speed traffic and the accompanying noise and pollution. Dream on.
The truth is that the City is simply grossly overestimating the amount of roadway capacity that will be needed in the future. They claim to be concerned about traffic backing up onto 95, but I think other elements of the plan like funneling more traffic onto Orange and George Streets will deal with that threat. Once the city streets are reconnected and traffic is better distributed (Temple, Orange, two-way George, two-way College, and direct routes to Union Station), then Route 34 will be able to operate just fine with much less capacity than it has today. Furthermore, the direct ramps to Air Rights Garage will single handedly remove 4,000 vehicles from surface streets that are there today.
If they took the existing drawings, and replaced one entire lane of traffic in each direction with street parking, I would support the plan. Such a design would slow travel speeds, provide better access to ground level retail, and provide a buffer between sidewalks/bike lanes and auto traffic, and shorten crossing distances. THAT would be a much friendlier street. And I sincerely believe that motorists would not be adversely affected. The current design has unnecessarily generous car capacity.
@Ben Northrup: “When it is below street level, why not just build over the highway? That way, you keep your efficient through traffic while restoring the walkable urban fabric above. You also minimize the automobile traffic on the surface streets.”
True enough in theory, but in this case not so. The highway is a dead end, so all that traffic ends up on surface streets anyway, and in many cases (especially exits 2 and 3) this transition is accompanied by terrible weaving movements, and many motorists that are required to double back and make a u-turn to get to their destinations. Nothing efficient about that. That is why support for removal of the trenched highway is nearly universal.
If traffic backs up, I think that more people will get off at I-95 Long Wharf and take Church Street into the hospital or Union Station, which is a faster way to get there anyways. The city built an enormous bridge there five years ago, that hardly any vehicles use.
So the city shouldn’t design based on the assumption of traffic back ups at rush hour. That’s how many downtown streets were re-designed in the 1950s, and 22 hours out of every day they are vast seas of asphalt with barely a single car on them.
@anon: No kidding. I’m all for being fair in this city, but have yet to see it. You’d think with all the pedestrians that have been hit on the 34/York corner in the past few years, this would take precendence.
@uh oh: Right on. Also, hospitals are always in the same neighborhoods, because rich white people wouldn’t put up with the traffic or sirens.
This is how some communities deal creatively with dangerous intersections:
Vic Cianca - Pittsburgh’s Dancing Traffic Cop
Besides, this city could stand to lighten up a bit ... this counts as “entertainment” and a “tourist attraction.”
Steve B: “Furthermore, the direct ramps to Air Rights Garage will single handedly remove 4,000 vehicles from surface streets that are there today.”
True, but not nearly as significant as it sounds. Most vehicles going to the ARG today get off at Exit 3 and are only on North Frontage Road a few feet before ducking immediately into the Garage before York. In the new plan, I like the idea of a direct connection into the ARG, and that should be kept in any plan, but this change is not going to be a major improvement over the current scenario.
Steve B: “The highway is a dead end, so all that traffic ends up on surface streets anyway, and in many cases (especially exits 2 and 3) this transition is accompanied by terrible weaving movements, and many motorists that are required to double back and make a u-turn to get to their destinations.”
Where these vehicles end up on surface streets makes a big difference. I’m all for eliminating Exit 2, which will free up the prime development parcels. But I suggest we keep Exit 3 (with modified geometry to improve the buildability of Parcel 4 and to slow traffic). This would prevent a lot of through traffic from inundating the key blocks that we all want to make more pedestrian friendly.
After all, the City wants to keep the undergound travel lanes for hospital folks. Rather than privatize them, as the City is proposing, keep these travel lanes open for the rest of the public simply by allowing the option to exit after College. In other words, keep Exit 3.
If we did this, a lot of the pressure would be taken off the traffic engineers to widen the Frontage Roads. Then we could easily make the key blocks between Church and College more pedestrian and block friendly.
I might add that creating a parking lane between the bike lane and the remaining travel lanes would also enable the creation of bump-outs, as well as bus bulbs and/or bus pulloffs, that would greatly enhance pedestrian access and transit service through this corridor. Is CT Transit even a stakeholder in this process?
... I support this project, because I think it wil bring in jobs, and as a medical professional at Yale, it creates even more opportunities for me, my peers, and the people in the region.
Your comments about how “The plan has largely remained unchanged since previous viewings, despite a large volume of public complaint” ... I’ve followed this thing fairly close, and the last time I checked, I cant remember bike lanes and improvements for cyclists on the visuals in previous meetings…
And, yes “bikers and walkers” aren’t the only constituents. There’s a huge amount of cars that drive through this corridor everyday commuting to work, to school, to the Valley- wherever. What about them? How do you accommodate traffic flow and achieve the best city “complete street” system possible? I think this plan has all of the elements for everyone involved.
Question: Why wouldn’t someone living in New Haven want to walk 3 blocks? Didn’t really understand what you were getting at there.
And I am failing also to see your connection and overall position on those from the suburbs commuting into the city to work. Not everyone wants to raise their family in an urban environment (like myself), or ride a bike everywhere they go. Or take a bus. They just don’t… This is America, this is how we choose to live, and you really can’t change people’s transportation habits… Everyone can find a place. And you would be wrong to say that people working at Yale and the medical district dont contribute to the local economy in any way. This entire project without them- would not be happening in the first place. ...
Because I work at Yale, this may seem bias, but wouldn’t you think that since the project is taking shape right next to the medical center that they would be a “major stakeholder” as you stated?
... This kind of project is a regional growth effort. NH as a regional urban “hub” for jobs, research, medicine, and culture assumes this role-....
This project might make my commute in from Milford a little longer in the mornings, but in the end if I can safely walk from the hospital to downtown to go out to lunch or shop, its worth it to me. This plan has all the features that everyone needs- and in the end- the final plan, it’s going to make OUR downtown a better place.
posted by: streever on June 10, 2011 1:21pm
@I Love My Car
How is it a compromise if the road is being built to prioritize suburban residents?
The reality is 5 lane roads will inevitably lead to the 45 mph traffic you express concern over—any unbiased traffic planner or engineer can confirm it. Call any firm in a major metro area and ask them about design speeds and what factors lead to fast driving. They’ll describe streets that look exactly like the cities proposal.
If we want people to live in this area, we need to make it a human level street. Why did the city show us photo after photo of beautiful light rail highway replacement, with separated bike facilities, if they were just going to build a 5 lane road?
No one is going to want to live here. This project will fail with the current direction the city is taking.
Why do we need to worry about people from West Haven wanting to drive here? Let’s build a nice light rail system so they can park on the outskirts and use that rail system. Maybe, when they see how hard it is to drive here, they’ll decide to live here instead—they’ll have a gorgeous place to live, after all.
@Ben Northrup, I think we’re actually sort of on the same page here, but they way I see it, the impact of the direct connection to ARG, combined with the reconnected local street network, is significant enough that you don’t really NEED Exit 3 anymore.
I’m not concerned about relieving the pressure to widen the frontage roads, because I think that even under the current proposal of eliminating Exits 2 and 3, it’s not necessary to widen them. The Route 34 exit off of I-91 and I-95 will always be a major gateway to the city, but with a properly integrated network of local roads, the Route 34 corridor as we know it today will be unnecessary to handle the traffic, as motorists will be able to quickly disburse in many directions immediately upon exiting from the Interstates.
@ Steve B.
I spoke with City Plan offcials last night after the meeting and, yes… both CT Transit and Yale Shuttles are to be including into this project and will have stops throughout. I was concerned of that as well. Nice to see that they can find ways to tie transit in as well… I think someone mentioned streetcars earlier on here. That isn’t something that would be included in this design phase. But perhaps down the road?
posted by: streever on June 10, 2011 1:28pm
Sorry, one comment is really sticking for me:
““My goal is to create a pedestrian friendly location,” he said, likening the future site to Kendall Square in Cambridge.”
Could have fooled me. Kendall Square is surrounded by 2 way roads with one lane in each direction, dedicated bus lanes, medians between lanes, and a variety of engineering decisions that accomplish what Mr. Winstanely is describing.
I don’t fault him for not pushing harder—he’s a private developer—but I do fault our so-called “civic leadership” for failing to embrace the principles he is describing.
What person honestly thinks that Kendall Square is a great place to walk because of the bio-tech? It is a great place to walk because the engineers and planners involved in the creation were knowledgeable and thorough in their work, and created a human-scale street. They did not create a monstrous expansion of the highway system with a stated goal of accommodating suburban highway drivers.
They built a road to service the needs of citizens in the immediate area, and it shows.
New Haven is building a road to service out of towners, and it shows.
1) I’m glad that you like your suburb and its slow streets, but the fact is that many people don’t make those types of choices on their own. By constructing streets the way DOT does, in ways that create massive numbers of fatalities and injuries, WE make the choice FOR them.
2) What do you say to the people who do not have the same choices that privileged Yale doctors have? That they should have to die in order to promote your convenience?
Steve B: “I’m not concerned about relieving the pressure to widen the frontage roads, because I think that even under the current proposal of eliminating Exits 2 and 3, it’s not necessary to widen them.”
I agree, but the folks making the decisions do not. Unfortunately, we still live in an age when a project like this is driven by conventional traffic engineering. I hope the day will come when that changes, but it will not be within the timeframe of this project.
The City has an image showing showing clearly how much they intend to widen the existing frontage roads. It is precisely that widening that is causing most of the criticism we hear about the project.
If we must make generous accommodation for the automobile in this project, as CT DOT is requiring, then let’s at least keep it underground where it already is. This will also reduce resistance from suburbanites who love their cars!
posted by: streever on June 10, 2011 2:28pm
There is a folksy charm to your words, but statements like “This is America” really reinforce incorrect cultural assertions.
All over the world—yes, even America—transportation mode shifts toward carpooling, biking, and mass transit do occur when infrastructure is built and roads are changed.
The main logical fallacy in your argument (no disrespect intended—it is a common fallacy which has really gotten out there) is that no one will stop driving a single occupancy car, no matter what, because it is some aspect of their personal rights.
It is usually wrapped up in a line including the phrase “This is America”—it is part of the myth of Americans as independent engines of industry who break the mold and experience true freedom.
I would encourage you to research the mode shifts that occur all over the world (for instance, the Seville Story, where trips went from .02% of all trips to 7% when the government invested in building bike lanes—this in a city of 700,000: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/seville)
The reality is that no one is going to make you give up your car—nor is anyone trying to. However, we are trying to use the money to build a system that doesn’t place you at the top for once, a system where people COULD choose to get to work a different way.
Billions of dollars are being spent in our state alone right now to give drivers more freedom and more rights than any other group. The poor spend 25% of their income JUST to own cars. The worst infrastructure is placed in their neighborhoods, and we all pay for it.
Is it so much to ask that our city spend money to prioritize our own local traffic?
Is it so much to ask that you get a slightly less convenient way to get to work and we in exchange get a SAFE way to cross our own city?
The trade off being made is the safety of pedestrians. We’ve seen too many tragic deaths on this corridor, too many lives shattered, and too many serious accidents. Is your personal ease of driving really a higher priority than the safety and lives of our citizens?
In Boston, they spent a fortune on their Big Dig. In New Haven, we’ve already done the digging. All we have to do is eliminate Exit 2, refine the geometry of Exit 3, and build over the highway.
It’s nice to see someone else “get’s it”. Rather than being mutually exclusive, preserving the two lanes until the final exit at the garage will, in fact, work toward some of the stated goals of those seeking a more pedestrian-friendly street scape. It also doesn’t stop the much desired (by the city for the taxes) construction of the building, which can incorporate a tunnel for the connector traffic. Every can win, if smart design is truly incorporated.
It may come as a surprise to folks who are not used to reading plans that the City is essentially NOT ELIMINATING ROUTE 34, in spite of all the rhetoric. Rather, they are simply reducing the 6 or 7 below-grade travel lanes to 4, and building on top of them. These 4 travel lanes will effectively be privatized because Exits 2 and 3 will be eliminated and those remaining 4 lanes will only go to and from the Air Rights Garage, serving only the medical area. All the remaining through-traffic that normally goes under the Church and College Street bridges will now be dumped onto Church, increasing surface traffic on the existing frontage roads, which will be widened.
In terms of “reconnected local street network”, that is a distant dream. The important parts of the project, including the Temple Street and Orange Street connections, are just talk. They have not even been designed, let alone funded. Given the state of federal and state budgets, those improvements may never come.
As far as I can tell, most of the Tiger Grant money seems to be going to prepare a single parcel (“Parcel 4”) for a pre-selected developer (Winstanley). I’m all for facilitating the expansion of the hospital and medical school, which are vitally important to our economy and do a tremendous amount of good, and I’m all for keeping land in the tax base. But public resources should be directed at genuinely public improvements. I have no problem with the City selling land to private developers, but private developers should have to compete for that land. The City has essentially designed the Tiger Grant and its Route 34 project to meet the requirements of a pre-selected developer, and then thrown in some bike lanes to quiet the opposition. I applaud Winstanley for being willing to invest in the City, but he should not be driving urban design decisions that will affect the City for decades to come.
I am happy that the City is pursuing complete streets and bicycle lanes—these are critical components of good urbanism. But these are merely window dressing when applied to streets that are too wide and frontages that are out of scale. Let’s get the urban design right, and it will attract good development.
This project is such an important opportunity for our City—we need to be paying attention to bigger issues, such as the Temple and Orange Street connections. If the goal is reconnect the Nine Squares with the Hill, how is Congress Avenue being treated? The only sketch I’ve seen actually cuts it off one block away from the new development parcels, thus reinforcing the separation. And what about a meaningful street connection to the train station to facilitate transportation to the medical area and the Nine Squares? Again, I’ve seen very hazy sketches. I’m very happy to hear that George will become two-way, but we also need to make Church, Temple, College, and many other streets two-way.
These issues are all interrelated. Now is the time to think through them all together and come up with a good overall plan. Our investment of the Tiger Grant should contribute to something meaningful in the long run.
Thanks for your insights.
1. Where were there 5 lanes anywhere in what we saw last night?? The most was 4 only because of the Temple St. Garage issues, which will be fixed in the Phase 2, full build plan. Note that theres 4 lanes on Church, Chapel, and Elm Streets through the heart of Downtown and no one complains or sees issues with these street…
2. As far as people “living” in this area… Phase 1 is all commercial/retail, with the 100 College St. building, so where would people be living? New Haven is a great city, and a great place to live if you choose to live there. This will make the city only better.
3. You addition of Light Rail into this plan wasn’t really ever a part of this project (at least in Phase 1, as far as I know)… Why didn’t you ever bring this up at a public forum?
What’s missing here is a good solid consensus between the bike group and the coalition group that this project is GOOD for our city… As a bicyclist and someone who loves the elm city, I think this could be a great part of our city if developed right- like Tom Harned said above, this is a “huge step in the right direction” with the plans the city showed us last night. Good for us, good for New Haven.
You bicycle folks need to see the larger picture! Yes, I am a bicyclist and I am thrilled that the City is getting more serious about including genuine bike amenities. (I was just out in Madison, WI, where I went on a bike tour with the City’s full-time bicycle coordinator—it is wonderful what they are doing with bike boulevards, bike boxes, special signalization, public bike rentals, and all the rest—all of which I want to see in New Haven.)
But a good city is about so much more than bike amenities. There is a whole discipline of urban design (as distinguished from urban planning) which coordinates all these considerations. Accommodating the bicycle is important, but just one piece of a much larger puzzle.
The New Haven bicycle contingent is strong enough to have some clout in this process. I urge you to hold back your support for better urban design. This is not just any project for New Haven—this may be the most important downtown project for a generation.
@streever A light rail? Really? ... I propose this city add a unicorn lane next to the bike lane…
Ben et al.
Wow. So far in this process the bicycle community has gotten accused of being both too accommodating to the City and the developer AND too oppositional and overly-idealist. Well , it can’t be both ways, and in fact it’s neither.
The bicycle community has been one of the strongest supporters of this project and has pushed for progressive urban design from day one. It is a very good project with a tremendous amount of potential but it very clearly needs some work. So far most cyclists are cautiously optimistic, but at the same time we definitely haven’t seen enough effort made to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, though the bike lanes in the plan are an improvement. We would like to keep working with the City to see if we can’t make some positive changes to the design, which as the City mentioned is only preliminary. I’m confident this can be a great project, but it won’t be if the automobile is the focus point from which we plan everything else. Trying to create a good environment for cars is basically fighting for economic development with the suburbs on their terms. Suburbs are better a providing large, fast roads and lots of parking. If that’s what a business is looking for, they’re not going to locate in a City. Mr. Winstanley said multiple times that the reason his tenants are in New Haven is to be as close as possible to Yale and the hospital. They’re not there for the great parking and high speed roads. This project needs to leverage New Haven’s strengths rather than try to match the parking and traffic flow seen in auto-dominated suburbs.
From the first time we met with the City we’ve pushed for pedestrian friendly streets, progressive parking policies, traffic calming, increased access to the train station and a host of other things.
Last night what we saw was a mixed bag. Yes there are a lot of new bike lanes. However, most group members, at least the ones I’ve spoken with, would like to see more done to create a vibrant urban environment, one that really focuses on accommodating pedestrians and creating the kind of face-to-face interactions that Carter Winstanley said were so important, both to his tenants, businesses and to cities in general. Yes,this might mean less space for cars, but as several commenters have already pointed out, this project cannot possibly be all things to all people and some compromise is going to be required. So far however, the largest compromise seems be from pedestrians compromising to accommodate vehicle traffic. We’re going to have to see a little more compromise from drivers to make this thing work.
I’m so glad you liked my ‘folksy charm’ sir.
I never siad that biking was bad, and yes people “could” get to work a different way, in fact im a supporter of cycling in New Haven, I think what the group has done organizing is great. The issue I have is that bicycles are just not the only mode of transportation that those planning this project need to be aware of. There are far more cars to accommodate bikes on this stretch of road- its simple.
At the risk of this getting out of control and sounding like I’m arguing with you, I’ll just say that I agree with what Ben Northrup said about his opinon of the bicycle people- its time to see the larger picture with this project.
@Doc Milford: Thanks for your comment, but with all due respect, I suspect I am much closer to Streever’s position than yours. (Though I do wish Streever would take his tone down a notch—our goal is to persuade, not antagonize!) My comment to the bicycle folks was a challenge for them to take it a step further. They have been one of the strongest groups advocating for better design, and I admire their hard work, but their goals seem unnecessarily limited to bike issues. I would love to harness their passion for broader urban design goals.
Doc Milford, you needn’t worry about accommodation of the automobile. All the press attention that the bicyclists are getting perhaps obscures the fact that this project is sadly and overwhelming automobile driven, even in its current form, as are virtually all transportation projects in this country (even a Tiger Grant!) The bicyclists are getting much deserved praise for a relatively small victory.
I am afraid the bicyclists are being naive about the amount of room for change. If the City is ready to submit to DOT, then they are probably finished in their minds, except for a few bus shelters. I think change is still possible, but only with public pressure. I admire what the bicyclists achieved through their organization and pressure. I am hoping that they will see the larger goals are inextricably linked to their own, so they will withold their support and help build a broader coalition for better urban design.
Lest I sound too ambitious, folks in New Haven should understand that our City, as wonderful as it is, is way behind the curve. Cities across the country are way out ahead of us in all categories of urban design, including bike amenities, walkable streets, infill, transit—you name it. Perhaps because we have so much wonderful urban fabric and architecture, we tend to rest on our laurels. But there is so much more we could be doing, and other folks have blazed the trail. It’s not that hard. We need to be a lot more ambitious for our fantastic City!
The problem with all bike “friendly” proposals is the bikers themselves. They want to be vehicles when it’s convenient and pedestrians when it’s not. I have never seen a bicyclist obey the laws or act as if they have an ounce of self preservation instinct. So all the lanes in the world will not stop cyclists from getting hurt doing stupid things.
This “We’ll fix it later, just approve this now” attitude is crap! Not one bit of dirt should be approved to be dug until EVERYTHING is addressed NOW and not LATER! Where is the TRANSIT STUDY?
All the ... cuddling up to the plan don’t even know the WHOLE plan, but are raving about how great it is. ...
What is being done here is akin to showing a picture of beautiful diamond ring to a woman and promising her you will get her one if she submits to all of your desires tonight; there are no plans for tomorrow, just promises.
This plan is blue smoke an mirrors as it specifically “TUNNELS” traffic from I91 and I95 directly to the garage and then out from the garage. The plan does nothing to increase economic activity in New Haven, it actually isolates local businesses as commuters from whitelandia have no route or reason to mingle. In supermarkets, the milk is put in the back of the store, and not the front, so that when you walk past some groceries you can pick a few other things up as well as the milk.
No one from Ward 3 is altogether enthused by this plan as it does nothing positive for the residents of our Ward, in general or specific. And the “You’ll get jobs” song is an old lame lie that is a big joke. In Ward 3, if a City official tells you today is Monday, you run home an check your calendar twice. And if Yale New-Haven Hospital promises to help you, then you double your life insurance policy and start shopping for a gravestone.
Residents of Ward 3 have been screwed so hard for so long, that if the Mayor came down and said 1+1=2 no one would believe him! In Ward 3, there is general disbelief and distrust in any plan that does not include community input. There has been no outreach from any city agency to any community residents or community leaders to inclusively participate and input on the RT 34 Plan other than discrete reportage of meetings at places where there is no free parking! Ward 3 is blue-collar residents who don’t make a lot of money. Spending money for parking means you don’t eat lunch tomorrow for some people.
posted by: streever on June 10, 2011 9:41pm
@I Love My Car
1. Please review the plans—they showed one portion of Route 34 near College that will expand to 5—expand.
2. As to people living, why does City staff keep bringing that up if it isn’t something they want? Why do they keep describing mixed use residential and small retail side by side if they don’t want that in the future? They claim to want it, but they are building a space no one will ever live in.
3. Why does the city keep dragging out pictures of light rail replacing highways if they don’t want that? I’m not saying it needs to be here, but questioning the smoke and mirrors behind presenting pictures of it but never planning for it.
Oh, I don’t think you are “anti” bike at all. I just think you have a really skewed and incorrect perception.
Do you know how much money is spent on parking cars, building highways, building extravagant and unneeded bridges, etc, versus building nice places to walk/bike?
You say that bike folk want it all and we need to learn compromise. Excuse me? When the DOT is building a billion dollars worth of highway infrastructure not more than a mile from the site of Route 34, and they are putting a half-hearted mish mash of bike lanes which don’t properly connect for, what, a half million? in the Route 34 project?
I’m sorry, but what part of the city blowing a billion dollars of tax payer money on a fancy bridge sounds like a compromise to you?
Like I said—you’re presenting a very nice little image of rural americans driving their cars and loving their freedom, but I don’t think that my city needs to cater to you. You say that we’re going to have to learn to compromise, but you are the one who wants to come into our city.
Maybe you need to learn how to appreciate our city for what it is, instead of demanding that we cater to you and bend over backwards?
I really don’t understand the perspective of suburban residents who expect New Haven to spend our money & time building roads for you.
I don’t begrudge you your rural life—I don’t tell you to get a job where you live—I just ask that you show some empathy, understanding, and respect for the people who either have to live here and travel on foot/bike or those who choose to.
What do you mean by “you bike people” have to learn to compromise? We’ve been doing that by letting the city squander billions on over-blown road projects which they are incapable of maintaining.
This is not just about “feel good liberal stuff”, it is about being fiscally conservative.
40 million would buy us 87 miles of bike lanes which could increase bike ridership by literally 1000 times (look at Seville, Spain, which had no cycling culture—.02% of all trips—and now has 7% after spending 40 million to build 87 miles of bike lanes)
Instead, however, of enabling city residents to enjoy their own city in a cheaper and easier fashion, the city is hell-bent on building 40 million worth of new highway, and yet, they insist on saying they are “undoing the scar”, and “healing” the city by “removing the highway”.
I’m sorry, but when I hear that total line of bull, and I see them replace 4 lanes with 5, I really have to question if they don’t think I’m an idiot. When I then see a suburbanite who is ecstatic at the easier time he’ll have driving around??? criticizing the advocacy of citizens who want to see a city designed for the citizens who live here and pay taxes, I am truly astounded.
Can any posters/readers clarify if there was to be on street parking on the Frontage Roads during off-peak hours? I too am concerned that vehicle speeds on a 4-lane road will easily be in excess of 25 MPH, but during one of the meetings that ECC and the City held in April I came away with the impression that there would be on-street parking during off-peak commuting hours to winnow the Frontage Roads down to less than 4 lanes at least for parts of the day.
@Kirsten Bechtel: At the prior presentation, the City said there would be onstreet parking except during rush hour. Several of us criticized this proposal pointing out that rush hour is when the onstreet parking is needed most. For retail to survive, there must be onstreet parking directly in front of the store, especially when folks are going to or leaving work. Pedestrians need the onstreet parking to feel comfortable on the sidewalks. The onstreet parking also keeps the travel lanes at a more comfortable speed.
@ohan karagozian: You made an excellent point! “In supermarkets, the milk is put in the back of the store, and not the front, so that when you walk past some groceries you can pick a few other things up as well as the milk.”
I care less about cars getting directly into garages than I do about commuters getting directly from their cars to their offices. Winstanley plans to build a new 800 car (!) parking garage immediately adjacent to his building. Those folks will rarely set foot on city streets.
The City needs to drive a much harder bargain. Cities all over American have insisted that parking decks be built a block or two away from the destination so as to generate foot traffic on city streets. This is what makes ground floor retail work. It also makes the streets safer. Look at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
The City is afraid Winstanley will flee to the suburbs. If he does, I say, let him. But he won’t. Medical area workers are desperate to find lab and office space in downtown New Haven immediately adjacent to the hospital and medical school. Furthermore, they are aware of the health benefits of creating walkable communities. The CDC has officially endorsed good urbanism for the health benefits.
The City also needs to prohibit any more overhead pedestrian bridges. Those suck the life off city streets. Look at downtown Minneapolis.
posted by: streever on June 12, 2011 4:47am
There will only be parking during off-peak, and not at all on some of the roads (such as the 5 lane monstrosity).
The problem with on-peak of course—the thing we’re upset about—is the sheer quantity of people who walk to Yale for work right now. They city is building a place that will potentially be more dangerous for them & just trying to rush it through because they are on a tight deadline to get “free” money.
I just wish they’d take a deep breath, step back, and say, “If we’re going to spend tax payer money on a project, and claim to be improving safety, let us really do that.”
posted by: streever on June 12, 2011 5:04am
Thanks for the comments—we actually have been pushing much broader structural change on this project in our meetings with the city, and trying to convince them that the images they showed us from other places (the entire corridor becoming a light rail line with ped malls and parks for instance) is something they can do here.
Sadly, the city lacks any real creativity in regards this project, and after over a year of meeting with us, have only been able to offer a half-hearted attempt at making it safer by plastering bike lanes on top of the over-built monster they’re working toward.
Your point is well-taken about antagonism, but for me, this entire process has been so disappointing on so many levels. I’ve worked with many of these people in very congenial ways, and heard their lame excuses and apologies for the other poor road jobs they not only allowed but enabled in our city.
Each time they’ve told me that they will do it better next time. I’m just honestly tired of the smoke and mirrors.
Our city has only limited interest in building livable human scale streets. They are really almost solely invested in giving out free land and breaks to developers to get tax money. While I agree that it is important—and said from the start that the Carter Winstanley building would be a really big thing for the city—I am dismayed that the city has let us down again.
After promising to “tear up a highway”, we are looking at lane extensions and additions.
The city has spoken of Route 34 with such a level of scorn and hate, I honestly thought they were on board with our values, and wanted to make a street that people felt safe walking on, living on, and being a part of.
I feel used, duped, and, worst of all, the people who did it are angry at me for not “cheer leading” on it. They honestly think that we should be GRATEFUL to them and have expressed that sentiment.
All or nothing; we need all the puzzle pieces on the table now before anything can be done!
A word on bicycling. I have great respect for bicyclists and I admire their zeal. With that said, there are some matters that need to be kept in perspective.
Bicycle seat neuropathy is something most male bicyclists are aware of or should be aware of. Without getting into details, if care isn’t taken in acquiring the proper seat for your tush, you could be giving yourself a vasectomy. This occurs with prolonged bicycle riding however and not in just a day or two.
Another thing to consider in a New England State is weather. We’re not in California! We do have inclement weather. Bicycling is a seasonal sport for many, however some bicyclist are a bit more hardy and bicycle even in inclement weather thus increasing their risk to injury.
As a transport tool, a bicycle can be effective, without question, however as a matter of safety I am a bit concerned when I see a child of 1 or 2 years old in a bicycle seat tethered to the front or rear of a bicycle.
Motorists, on the whole, are not a very courteous bunch of people. Discourtesy with a 3000 lbs. (or more) vehicle is dangerous to bicyclists. This is where the rubber meets the pavement, as the saying goes: Having bicyclists share the road with automobiles is akin to jogging next to a cattle stampede as far as I am concerned.
One of my classmates from college this past week was a passenger on a motorcycle and was badly hurt in an accident. The driver of the motorcycle, however, is dead. They collided with a Jeep. If they were on a bicycle, I dare say it is possible that they would both be dead.
To me, and I do emphasize me, the idea of driving in 2 tons of steel with a good highway crash test rating is very comforting.
With the foregoing in mind, I do believe that bicycle paths are very necessary and that many times bicyclists have not been given due consideration in planning and in traffic too.
This project should definitely incorporate all possible courtesy and safeguards available to bicyclists and I admonish drivers to look out for bicyclists and afford them the same courtesy they would expect while driving next to a 53’ tractor trailer or cement truck. We’ve all got to get along here and there is something to be said about right and wrong on driving on New Haven Streets.
I only hope New Haven is willing to step back a bit and listen to what Ben Northrup has been explaining here. There are better ways to connect the streets over the existing sunken highway—oh how much money did Boston spend to sink it’s highways?—starting by adding street level bridges over the highway at Temple and Orange and reinforcing the two aging existing bridges at Church and College. This would actually provide the safe street level infrastructure that promotes local business development, bicycling and vibrant street life.
Why spend the bulk or the $25 million TIGER grant to narrow the existing highway to a dedicated 4 lane driveway to the Air Rights Garage?
@Streever: I feel for you, man! You’ve been fighting the good fight. It is depressing to see what a half-baked effort New Haven makes. I know there are well-intentioned folks in City Hall who think that they are really pressing for good urbanism. They don’t seem to realize how far behind we are.
I was just out in Milwaukee where the former mayor John Norquist gave a tour of what was accomplished during his tenure. It was so encouraging to see what can be accomplished with good governance and a genuine understanding of urban design issues. Milwaukee attracted a tremendous amount of private investment that is fine-grained and urban, as opposed to super mega-projects that destroy the urban fabric and continue our pattern of car dependence. Many developers got rich in Milwaukee—not through sweetheart deals with City Hall, but through competition. They built a tremendous amount of housing and office space in downtown that has substantially increased the tax base and made the streets safer.
Norquist is a big proponent of NOT chasing big federal grants and mega-projects. That tends to lead to what we are experiencing in New Haven right now. The Tiger Grant, though well intentioned, is actually forcing us into an ill-conceived plan that is terribly compromised. We would be better off taking the time to do this right. It’s actually not that hard if we engage in true urban design and put in place the right policies.
The Tiger Grant program is intended to subsidize the right moves. I don’t think it is too late for City Hall to do a massive redesign and still take advantage of the Tiger Grant. But they would have to go back to the drawing boards right now.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 12, 2011 6:03pm
If the city could deck over the highway for development and have exit and entrance ramps to the highway from the frontage roads that look like this (http://tinyurl.com/6d38jns), then I would support keeping the highway if they also mandated that parking not be attached to the buildings, but be located in garages elsewhere (with in a couple blocks).
Unfortunately, I don’t think the city would ever be able to design entrance and exit ramps that are less than 12 feet wide with metal safety railings, which would destroy the pedestrian realm, eat away at the buildable lot areas, and allow for high speed driving on and off the highways.
At best, I think we can get the city to do one cycle track on the sidewalk adjacent to South Frontage Road, and one cycle track on the sidewalk adjacent to South Frontage Road, 3 dedicated travel lanes for cars running each direction and a dedicated parking lane on each Road that has a curb bump out of one end and a turning lane on the other. Even with a cycle track though, this area will probably not be bike friendly to inexperienced riders (like myself). The surrounding streets really pose a big problem in that most of them are 2, 3 and 4 lanes wide running in one direction, some have on-street parking but with no curb bump outs. Perpendicular and diagonal parking should be introduced on many of these streets as well as two-way travel and on-street bike lanes.
Streever is correct.
The pretty pictures presented by the city at meetings all show things like what Jonathan Hopkins just linked to. Things like narrow crossing distances, pedestrian refuges, traffic calming and vibrant street level retail.
Meanwhile, the actual blueprints for what will go into construction next year are very different. What we will see next year are 5 lane streets with no pedestrian infrastructure to speak of, 60 mile per hour roadways with six lanes worth of crossing distances, huge curves on every corner so that trucks can fly around the street corners at high speeds, bike lanes that are so dangerous and ridiculous people will continue to bike on the sidewalks like they do today, and streets that are so inhospitable you won’t even be able to sell a hot dog on them.
I encourage folks to check out Jonathan Hopkins’ excellent alternative proposal—click on his name or go to http://downtownnewhaven.blogspot.com/.
He is advocating a true multiway boulevard, which is different from what I have been proposing, but infinitely more thoughtful than what is currently on the table.
I would like to see a public design process where the good alternatives are debated—including, but not limited to a boulevard (as Jonathan has proposed) and keeping the below grade highway (as I have proposed.) I am sure there other excellent alternatives. Perhaps these ideas could be synthesized. Expert urban designers and engineers can draw up and test the alternatives, and the public can have meaningful input in a decision. (Some of these alternatives were explored in the “Future of Route 34 Corridor Study”, but the three options were only diagrammatic. There should have been more exploration before the City settled on a plan.)
@Jonathan Hopkins: I love your link to the excellent example of an access ramp in Barcelona. I agree that such geometries are preferable when a ramp connects directly into a high quality pedestrian area (and that they would be difficult to achieve in this country.) However, in the proposal I have described, I only imagine a high quality pedestrian area between Church and College (including both sides of those streets.) Exit 3 would emerge behind “parcel 4” in the shadows of the Air Rights Garage in a zone that will be hopelessly pedestrian unfriendly for the foreseeable future, connecting to North and South Frontage Roads, more or less where it does now. I am essentially writing this area off (at least in the near term), in the hopes of reducing through traffic in the key streets and blocks from Church to College. This would allow us to achieve a more important goal of creating good north-south connections between the Nine Squares and the Hill. By completely eliminating Exit 2, there will be no ramps in the important pedestrian areas.
It has been pointed out that no building lasts forever. Even the Air Rights Garage has a lifespan. If or when it gets rebuilt/removed/reconfigured, the end of the below-grade travel lanes and Exit 3 can be improved as part of that project. Perhaps the travel lanes and Exit could be continued under York. The geometry of the ramps could be improved along the Barcelona lines so that the pedestrian-friendly zone can be extended.
In the near term, as part of this project, I suggest that Exit 3 only be reconfigured to the extent necessary to:
1) Optimize the buildability of Parcel 4;
2) Accommodate direct access to the ARG;
3) And slow traffic as it enters and exits the Frontage Roads.
It’s great that we have so many engaged cycling and pedestrian safety advocates involved in this process and that the city seems to be taking their concerns to heart and incorporating them into the plans. However, I’m shocked that the article doesn’t even touch upon other social or economic aspects of the redevelopment, despite the fact that this project is being positioned as undoing the mistakes of urban renewal. To my mind those “mistakes” were not only about transit or the built environment, but about the large-scale displacement and further marginalization of minorities, the effects of which linger on to this day. How will this project impact surrounding neighborhoods? What about the residents of church street south? Are they being consulted or brought into discussions? What about jobs? Will the developers hire locally during construction? We need to follow the example of the cyclists and safe streets folks and start advocating for our communities so that development and redevelopment serves the needs of everyone, not just east rock or downtown or tourists or yale, but all of us. A plan that at least AIMS to THAT would make our streets a whole lot safer.
posted by: streever on June 13, 2011 9:11am
@Urban Renewal Part II:
Right on! Your comments echo a lot of the thoughts I’ve had on this and tried to express. I’m extremely frustrated with the cities lack of concern for the folks who already live near this polluting, asthmatic nightmare of a road system, who have been completely ignored in the planning process.
Perhaps someone from the city would like to explain what outreach they’ve done to people who live near by the current project?
Have you gone door to door?
Have you used reverse 311 to reach out?
Have you sent letters or postcards?
I don’t think they’ve done any of these things—I think they’ve reached out to people who are already active and vocal. I haven’t seen them make a real attempt to reach out to people who walk to work at Yale New Haven Hospital, and I’m not holding my breath waiting for it, either.
Even better than that would be a “visual preference study.” It is pretty easy, I’m sure one of the highly paid consultants could do one.
Here’s how it works:
1) Get a representative group of neighbors, local residents, elderly people, young children, kids from Co-op school next to the site, university employees who (unlike anyone on the project design team) walk this site every day, and are not necessarily able-bodied, middle aged people.
2) Bring the group to the site.
3) Hold up pictures showing all different options for how the road could look. Including the pictures that the city has been showing at public meetings, with narrow crossings and such.
4) If you want to get fancy, simulate road conditions by driving cars by at various speeds, and temporarily stripe how the lanes might look (e.g., put up an orange flag to show crossing distance, mark off the gigantic curb turning radii that are proposed so that trucks can speed through).
5) Ask the group which options they prefer, why and how strongly. Take a vote.
Final step is, build the streets based on the needs of people who will actually use it.
Doing anything less than this is doing a complete disservice to our city.
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 13, 2011 12:09pm
That makes much more sense. I initially thought that each exit and entrance ramp to the highway would be maintained. I agree that a more charette-style approach to design would be helpful that discusses a half dozen or so viable alternatives that are each fundamentally different solutions. The process currently seems to be like all other public meetings on development projects which are mostly a charade to make it look like the public is involved but is really just the city presenting their design and asking for feedback on their already-chosen design, which they may or may not incorporate.
Transit was not part of this meeting’s presentation. No bus stops or bus lanes were part of any of the plans shown. Once the presentation ended, many people (including myself) talked to the city and its consultants about transit. What the planning team told me was that yes, the current bus lines had been evaluated for how they would connect through the project area. This is a good first step, but clearly, from what we saw at the meeting, not enough. To accommodate a gigantic increase in cars, the plans propose expanding from six lanes to twelve. The roads gooble-up extremely valuable land in a place where every inch has great economic and social potential. Crossing these roads will be dangerous for people on foot. Driving on these roads will be hazardous and confusing for bikes and cars. The program offers no mobility improvements for people who do not use cars or bikes, which is 30% of the workforce. But what we’ve seen proves that TRANSIT EXPANSION is necessary if Downtown Crossing is to be a success. Transit expansion is the only way to put this project on a “road diet” and fulfill the stated criteria of the TIGER II program:
- good state of repair
- economic competitiveness
- environmental sustainability
We are concerned that the plans being developed by the City for the Route 34 Connector are serving a narrow set of interests focused on expanding parking in the Yale Medical area. Hospital planners see five cars for every 1,000 square feet of space as a desirable standard of development. This is a suburban standard, not a standard for a city, and especially not one for a small, land-locked, land-hungry city like New Haven with “F” rated air quality. Nor is it a sustainable standard for the Yale Medical Area (YMA) itself—which has, after the Port District, the worst air quality in the city, is burdened by severe traffic congestion and frequent traffic accidents - many resulting in injuries, and some in deaths. Additionally, the YMA is surrounded by low-income neighborhoods with many children, high rates of asthma and limited access to health care. We hope YMA interests and the city will look for ways to solve, not just ameliorate, traffic and pollution issues, and embrace their public health mission in both medical services and urban design.
Unfortunately, the plans being developed now look to add more cars - and at astonishingly high numbers. Indeed, the city’s intent is to fast track an infrastructure project to facilitate parking, so much so that one development component, a building with an 800 car garage in front of the 2,600 car Air Rights Garage, would be allowed to be completed in 2013, three years before the completion of the infrastructure of tunnels and widened arterial roads needed to serve it.
Our organization takes great interest in plans for the Route 34 corridor. We were early advocates for removing the Connector and replacing it with regular city streets. The opportunity to reclaim 11 acres of land and allow downtown to expand and reconnect with the medical area and the Hill is important for a small city which had lost so much viable and useable land to highways. But we need to do this in ways that really solve key problems, and not do more harm. Pollution and traffic congestion are enormous problems but not insurmountable ones. Indeed, solving them with enhanced transit options would serve many other important city objectives—for job development and equity, and the competitive advantage that an attractive, clean and safe environment offers to business development and property values. We need to use this once in a century opportunity to heal the damage of past planning disasters, and not, as Duo Dickinson has said “repeat the sins of the past.”
This looks an awful like Stamford CT. I worked there for over 15 years and found the pedestrian atmosphere intolerable. The avenues were very wide and difficult to cross. The scale and massive buildings in Stamford made up most
Of the street scape. In the evenings it felt very uncomfortable for the pedestrian walking to the train station everyday.
The plan is far from perfect but it does break the inertia, push a project along and set the table for future development (assuming banks will start loaning money again). This is a complex traffic puzzle to solve and no solution will please everyone. This is a case where something is better than nothing. I think the true value of this project will be how fast it pushes development along the remainder of the corridor down to the blvd.
We should remember that Rt. 34 West is the most important piece of the puzzle. It’s straight, flat, wide and much much larger than Rt. 34 East. It doesn’t need complex traffic engineering, just proper zoning.
@Stephen Harris: “This is a case where something is better than nothing.” I respectfully disagree. The 11 acres in Route 34 East are prime real estate in the heart of our city, immediately adjacent to our downtown core, to the historic Nine Squares, and to the medical area, and close to the train station and the I91/I95 interchange. It is rare that a City gets the opportunity to redevelop 11 acres in such a prime location. It is very important to get it right. If we need more time, let’s take that time.
“This is a complex traffic puzzle to solve and no solution will please everyone.” True enough—good urban design is always a matter of balancing priorities—but I am confident that we could get do a lot better. I can think of at least two models that can handle large amounts of traffic while also fostering a high-quality pedestrian environment: the multiway boulevard and buried travel lanes for through traffic. The first was barely touched on in an early study before being rejected for reasons that are not clear, and the second seems not to have been considered at all.
The City has taken an excellent concept—replacing the divided highway with blocks—but as the design has been developed, a fairly conventional approach to traffic engineering has taken over and driven the entire project. Bike lanes, complete streets, and bus stops are being added as an afterthought—they should should be components woven into the design from the beginning.
“We should remember that Rt. 34 West is the most important piece of the puzzle.” Rt. 34 West may or may not be easier to solve than Rt. 34 East, but East is certainly no less important than West, for all the reasons listed above.
[Rt. 34 West is] “straight, flat, wide and much much larger than Rt. 34 East.” I get your point, that it is easier to build on land like this. And, quite understandably, that is how developers tend to look at land, especially developers that specialize in conventional sprawl development. However, from the perspective of the City, I would argue that the developability of a parcel is not the only consideration in deciding how much design energy and infrastructure to put into that land. Sometimes, the thorniest challenges are the most important. Often, they have been neglected because they are difficult. However, once solved, they increase the value of all the surrounding areas. It is remarkable how good design of streets and blocks can actually add value to the land.
Think about it. If Rt. 34 East becomes an attractive new walkable district within the City, it will dramatically help the medical area, the Nine Squares, and the Hill. However, if we kick the can and accept a highly compromised plan such as is on the table, we will end up with a sliver of Stamford. Sure, it may increase the tax base of the City, and gain the medical school some more lab space (all good things, to be sure!), but it will fail in so many critical ways. I am suggesting that with a more thoughtful urban design, we can succeed on many fronts at the same time. This will multiply the value of all the surrounding areas.
“It doesn’t need complex traffic engineering, just proper zoning.” Hmmm. I agree that it does not need complex CONVENTIONAL traffic engineering—the kind that priorities automobile flow over all other functions of the street. However, we will need sophisticated traffic engineering in the service of good urban design. After all, we are eager to accommodate the automobile and parking.
Proper zoning is required, but it will not be enough. Some of the existing infrastructure is excellent and worth keeping (especially in this time of fiscal austerity,) but we will need to make changes. For example, the existing blocks are far too large. The one-way traffic erodes the pedestrian experience and encourages speeding, often without meaningful increases in capacity, as drivers race from one traffic light to the next. The introduction of alleys on some block could increase the efficiency of city services while maintaining smoother traffic flow on the surrounding streets. We should set aside some public places. At least three excellent alternative designs have been put forth.
After redesigning the streets, blocks, and lots, that is the time to institute the proper zoning that supports the new layout. Apparently, the City is considering a form-based code, which would be a tremendous move in the right direction.
posted by: streever on June 15, 2011 3:49pm
Very well said. Thank you for articulating all of that!
Yikes, all this wasted debate when the obvious is staring us in the face.
Has anyone, anyone, seen a street with four lanes of one-way traffic, much less with no safety islands, ever knit a community back together in a pedestrian cohesiveness? Ever?
Need we debate the obvious?
the ONLY thing I like is the raised bike lanes, the ONLY thing. Am I the only one who feels exactly like this? I think we ALL do. I think some of us are in denial about it. I think we are all in agreement deep down. We all know it, we are all looking right at it.
@ Ben Northrup:
We’re on the same page. But I can tell you this plan has been in the works for a long time and is costing a lot of money. For those reasons it isn’t going to change in any substantial way, hence the resignation. So, at this point it really is better than nothing. We should turn our eyes towards 34 west.
As to the value of downtown real estate being wasted I would point to Gateway College (tax exempt entity) taking up two superblocks of prime land that could have been used for intensive mixed development (Heavy Sigh). That’s a long story.
As far as I know the city is looking at Form-Based coding for Rt. 34 East. If so, we agree that’s the right approach. But I don’t understand why they are going the MDP route. It’s just adds unneeded complexity. Straight ahead rezoning is the better approach IMHO.
I’m well versed in both Form-Based and Transect zoning. These zoning models are unified codes so the issues of block size, street width, landscaping and so forth will be addressed. When the city is ready to move forward (sometime soon?), I’ll be happy to add my voice.
@Stephen Harris: Route 34 East is too important to give up on. New Haven boasts the Nine Squares, an amazing legacy in American urban design that generations of New Haveners preserved and improved. Do we really want our generation’s mark on the City to be so lame? Especially when so many other cities are doing so much more?
There are a growing number of voices challenging the City to do better. I encourage you to be one of them.
I wish there had been a different design too but too much time and money has been spent on the project for any radical redesign. As an urban planner myself I can tell you that most of Connecticut’s planning community is stuck in a Euclidean mindset. If you talk to suburban planners you’ll see what I mean. I can tell you that our City Plan Department is forward thinking, but there’s always a political dimension to planning. Sound planning principals don’t always win the day.
We should all keep in mind Rt. 34 East is only one part of the overall project, and the smallest portion at that. Let’s work to make sure the balance of the corridor is a true urban boulevard.
Has anyone considered that the Rt34 development proposal is more akin to a Mephistophelian mindset?
Ohan—-No, but under the category of “Implosions from Hell”, one might note a “colossal” error: they imploded the Coliseum instead of the Air Rights Garage!
When I first visited New Haven and saw that garage, my only thought was “What the hell were they thinking?”
Maybe these “forward thinking” planners need to go a little “retro?”
The reason I think that it is a bit devilish (Mephistophelian) is that not only does the plan deceive us but also has us all at each other’s throats (as the devil would like us to be as per various religious texts), but that the plan itself, although disguised as some type of a “bridge” between neighborhoods, actually creates a “rift” between neighborhoods with these 4 lane streets; this is definitely devilish - to say you are doing good when in fact you are doing bad.
The sad part is that if you only make 2 lane streets, as they really should be, traffic will be backed up for dozens of miles in every direction in and out of New Haven, every morning and night, every weekday, for eternity!
Compromise is the battle cry of the invading hordes and their paid minions who do their dirty work. All of these paid officials, consultants, and other ... on high payroll are nothing but handmaidens of inequity and folly.
Let us not bicker, but unify on principles which then could be translated into concepts and only thereafter should we build.
The concept of 4 lane streets is incongruous with my principles of unification, pedestrian safety, etc.
Back to the drawing board guys!
The ARG was built several decades ago when redevelopment was all the rage across the country. Don’t blame those who work at City Plan now for the sins of the past.
Also, you can bet that 40 years from now people will be blaming us for doing what we thought was the right thing to do. That’s just the way the world works.
At a certain point in time, in a person’s life, a person must face themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they are a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
Right now, I don’t think that too many people can look at themselves in the mirror and say that a 4 lane street is OK but if you think it is OK then for you it is OK.
Not everybody has to agree with what I say, but then not everybody has to agree with what the planners dish out either.
Can somebody convince me that a 4 lane city street is OK for this development?
I believe that a 4 lane city street is folly and iniquitous. Further, I believe that people who propose this type of city street are part of the problem not a part of the solution. This is my opinion and I feel I should be able to voice it without too much derision.
Ohan, you make a very good point about traffic being backed up. Nobody wants that, either. That’s exactly why I brought up the point about the ARG. It’s the main obstacle to making BOTH North and South Frontage Roads TWO-WAY, because of its width. Two-way “normal” streets (or avenues) would allow traffic to flow either to downtown or to the medical center and be funneled (via a mini-flyover) at an earlier point on Rt. 34.
I have a “fantasy” diagram you can look at—- the fantasy being, what might have been able to work IF the ARG had not been there.
I do have a suggestion, though, for how the large number of archi-types in this city could collaborate better. I would encourage everyone to add one or two buildings to 3D Google Earth for downtown New Haven, which has a paltry and pathetic presence right now. Somebody at Southern has been busy and that campus is much better represented in the world of GoogleEarth than is New Haven. Having a “complete” presence in the virtual world could help to engage people more in planning. This would be a really good volunteer project for the city. (My two cents.)
posted by: streever on June 18, 2011 9:10pm
The reason why I keep fighting so hard against this in public is because the city seems to have no clue as they spout nonsense which makes no sense.
“We’re knitting together two communities”
“We’re making walking and biking better”
All this as they increase the lanes on many of these streets and build more road than is there now.
If they would just be honest about what they are doing in public, instead of just admitting behind closed doors that they are doing this to make it easy for out of towners to drive to work at Yale New Haven, I could forgive them & move on.
However, as long as they lie, claiming that they are building a great street for pedestrians, I am going to keep pointing out the utter insanity of their words.
For anyone following this thread who is unaware of how “behind the curve” New Haven is on Google Earth, or who may be unaware of what Google Earth is (as opposed to Google Maps), I am posting this link to the page “Put your city on the 3D map.”
Watch the brief Google video and pay particular attention to the part about boosting tourism. This could very well be a volunteer effort and need not cost the city anything. The necessary software for volunteers is all free.
I may have missed it but I saw no detail on plans to slow traffic entering No Frontage road from I91/95. There are signs now saying the speed limit is 40mph but no one obeys them. This may be drastic but we need laned traffic lighted barriers that stop vehicles at about a point just east of the KofC building, and then sequentially “release” them into the traffic flow. Speed bumps may work but I think a full stop is necessary.
@geecor: See p. 21 of the City’s latest PowerPoint presentation, which shows their plan for signage:
http://downtowncrossingnewhaven.com/documents/pub_mtgs/06-09-11/Rte 34 East - 06-09-11 public meeting presentation Final 06-09-11.pdf
You’re right, there’s not much to make that transition. But that seems like the least of our concerns. The City’s current proposal is flawed in much deeper ways.
To list but one, the intersection of Orange, Water, and North Frontage will be all but eliminated in the new plan. Water will become one-way, and Orange will become a dead-end for vehicular travel heading south. In the north direction, it will essentially become an exit ramp. This will reduce connectivity in the City, and actually increase travel speeds at precisely the location you are concerned about. Folks heading to the train station from Route 34 will have a longer path. Instead of being an improvement, this is actually an expansion of the system of one-way streets and restricted vehicular movement that have done so much damage to our downtown.
I see that the last two blocks of George will be made two-way. Bravo! However, it looks like they are doing this at the expense of on-street parking. This will not help the already bleak pedestrian and retail environment.
I have seen what Westville Mom has suggested, but will this appease Yale-New Haven Hospital and ... City Hall and Carter Winstanley?
Further, both geecor and Ben Northrup make valid points: There are deep design flaws in “The Plan”, but also that traffic matters ( especially in slowing of traffic speed) are important enough to be discussed now as opposed to later.
We don’t want to take a cake out of the oven before it is ready and we, the residents of this city - through our elected officials - should not want to approve something that is half-baked either.
Ben—Thanks for the link, but it didn’t work, so I’m attempting to re-post it:
http://downtowncrossingnewhaven.com/documents/pub_mtgs/06-09-11/Rte 34 East - 06-09-11 public meeting presentation Final 06-09-11.pdf
Didn’t work again. Simply go to:
On left, click on “Public Outreach,” then “Public Meetings”
Then in the June 9 meeting section click on “Presentation”
@Westville Mom: Thanks, but that’s still not working. Here’s another way to get there. Go to http://downtowncrossingnewhaven.com/index.html
Then select “Public Meetings” on the left.
Then select “Presentation” under Public Meeting #5.
By the way, I love the “Fork Plan”! So clear and simple.
Ben—I’m quite sure the designers would say the “Fork Plan” (as you call it) is TOO simple. But what it does is create redundancy. It gives two options for paths for both entering the city and exiting the city, so that if one is blocked or backed up for some reason, there is a go-around possible. Not to mention greater flexibility for connecting to two-way cross streets from whichever side of the ARG you happen to be on at the moment.
For instance, downtown traffic headed to I95 would not have to cross over to the medical side first, but would still have the option to do that if needed.
But this is all a hypothetical concept anyway. I DO think the basic, fundamental aspects of circulation in the plan presented are not as developed as I (and others) would like, even before considering the street detailing.
Could this be a case of “too many cooks?” (going along with Ohan’s culinary metaphor.)