Monday, August 12, 2013

Latest Urban Freeway Removal Plan a Winner

Hello all.  The following is destined for the Blog at, but I thought I'd work out the editorial kinks over here.  While unlikely to be read, a personal update is in order.  I've completed the first year of the online Masters of Sustainable Transportation Planning at the University of Washington and earned a certificate in Sustainable Transportation: Planning and Livable Communities.  I currently await news regarding acceptance into the matriculated program to complete the degree by June 2015.

After tasting some success during the last round of the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant program, the city has jumped back into the aptly named moat with an application that we at Reconnect Rochester are extremely excited about.

There is a very conscious effort afoot on the part of city staff to rid us once and for all of a sizable portion of the Inner Loop, that underutilized sunken ring road and choker of downtown connectivity.  And while the Intermodal Station took precedence in the 2012 fight for funds, this most recent expressway removal proposal document is the best we've seen yet.  A financial winner just on its face in terms of reducing future maintenance burden, the latest from city hall is very serious about reconnection and reintegration.  No longer a boulevard, per se, but rather a reimagining of Union Street as a complete street offers more bang for the buck in a myriad of areas, not just development potential, but also in the mobility realm.

Inspiring aspects of the new design are seen right away in the width of the proposed new Union Street.  With the appropriate number of two travel lanes, parking lanes, and pedestrian protection, immediately more development potential is realized.  This treatment has also been extended to long-forlorn Howell Street as well, which can only serve to better connect the new Union Street district to the eclectic Monroe Avenue.  The general straightness and adherence to the grid is vastly improved compared to previous proposal revisions, but what this really lends itself to, and what has us most enthusiastic here at Reconnect, is the possibly of implementation on Montréal-style two-way cycle tracks as seen in the description and rendering on pages 6 and 7.

The potential to create enticing developable and taxable land is a well known aspect of the proposal, but in terms of eliminating future infrastructure liability, this project pays for itself.  According to the application document, the money needed to maintain four expressway lane miles, three multi-span (and structurally deficient) bridges, 16,000 square feet of retaining walls, and other accessories such as guard rails, traffic signals, etc. will no longer be the responsibility of the State of New York and can be utilized to address more pressing needs.  Lifecycle costs to maintain a state of good repair of the existing 1960's-era infrastructure are estimated between $19.1 and $26 million.

That said, and those highly attractive points made, we wouldn't be Reconnect Rochester if we weren't advocating for greatness and going the extra mile.

In order to do that, removal of the Inner Loop clear to East Main Street is necessary. Rather than terminate ramps into the Charlotte Street roundabout (more on that later), a true restoration of Union Street would render the consolidated East Main entrance/exit as the terminus.  A secondary side benefit to this strategy would be the reconstitution of Anderson Park to its original configuration where the city once gathered to light its communal Christmas pine.   A more noteworthy aspect of this revision from Albany's point of view would be the ability to add another bridge, a seven-laner at that, to the list of removable unnecessary infrastructure for future fiscal consideration.

Finally, it is possible that we may have a case of roundabout fever. While the Howell/Union roundabout seems like a reasonable response to the complexity of the intersection and an opportunity for a district gateway, the Charlotte Street roundabout may have the opposite of intended effects.  This installation, as shown in the preliminary design drawing, does a number of deleterious things.  First, the Union Street dynamic is undermined by steering the lanes and sidewalk away from the existing frontage.  Second, the roundabout is seriously land-intensive, cutting into a solid connection both West and North.  Third, and perhaps most importantly is an inability to extend the cycle track from end to end of this new priority corridor.

So while we are absolutely firmly behind the grant proposal (as an undersignee) and the city's efforts to date, there are just a couple of tweaks we'd like to see that we feel would allow the project to reach its fullest potential.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I wouldn't discount the positive features of the roundabouts. They are one of FHWA's Proven Safety Countermeasures and can reduce fatal/injury crashes by over three quarters while improving traffic flow. Final design of the project has not yet occurred so there is time to include better bicycle integration with the roundabouts. Perhaps the cycletrack would have to be split into singular separated lanes in each direction or marked green lanes with could help provide clearer connections from other facilities to the two-way cycletrack.