- 12:40 pm - Wed, May 1, 2013
Interview with Scott Ogilvie, Saint Louis
This Spring, Scott Ogilvie, Alderman of Ward 24 in Saint Louis, spoke with CNU about ongoing efforts to replace I-70 with an urban boulevard.
Alderman Scott Ogilvie’s political slogan says much about how he has engaged the public around highway removal: “A Responsive Voice for the 24th Ward”. A youthful presence in the community and among his fellow aldermen, Scott is committed to meeting people in their home and neighborhoods and voicing their issues with the Board of Aldermen.
He’s both a representative and reporter, embedded in City Hall.
Since being elected, he’s taken a careful, thoughtful look at development subsidies (especially for retail and sports venues). His goal? To push initiatives that would reform and improve the structure of city government and challenge some of the unwritten rules that govern the Board of Aldermen. We asked him a few questions:
What is your vision for downtown St. Louis (and the I-70 corridor)?
The vision for a boulevard conversion of I-70 is based on successful projects in other American cities like San Francisco, New York, and Milwaukee. It was our hope to follow in the footsteps of these model projects.
When did you introduce your proposed I-70 Resolution?
In the fall of 2012 I introduced a Resolution at the Board of Aldermen calling for the conversion of the downtown portion of Interstate 70 into an at-grade boulevard. The Resolution was intended as a vehicle for promoting discussion of this transformation in the context of a large planned public and private investment in the adjacent Gateway Arch grounds and nearby areas.
I-70 has severed the downtown business district from the Arch grounds and Mississippi River for 50 years. In the context of the aging highway infrastructure and planned investment, it seemed like the perfect time to have a thorough public conversation about the potential to transform the livability of the area by removing the highway.
I-70 was recognized as a barrier by some forward thinkers even as it was being built in the 1960‘s. The vision for a downtown St. Louis not severed in two by I-70 is one that is shared by many St. Louis residents. The CityArchRiver Foundation, which has spearheaded the planning process for the area, held an international design competition beginning in 2009. Removing I-70 featured prominently in the public comments on the designs.
Unfortunately, CityArchRiver remained agnostic on highway removal and it was not included in the final design. A lid will cover one block of a depressed section of the highway and improve pedestrian access to the Arch Grounds. However, with the highway still in place a real transformation of the area will have to wait.
Why introduce this now?
A highway conversion project is a major investment, even if it is ultimately more cost-effective than maintaining elevated urban highways. A convergence of public and private efforts meant that a significant investment will be made in the area beginning this year. That investment could either be targeted to correct the heart of the problem - the highway - or to work around it.
Unfortunately, the later option has prevailed, and tens of millions of dollars will be spent getting people over the existing highway. The end result will fix some of the present issues but to many of us, it feels like a half measure.
Speaking of major investments, are there other projects in the works?
In 2014 another major public investment will come online - an Interstate 70 bridge north of downtown over the Mississippi River. This new bridge will make the downtown stretch of I-70 relatively unimportant to regional traffic flow, and re-enforce the idea that boulevard conversion is a reasonable endeavor. In fact, the investment in the bridge can be effectively leveraged only by removing the highway downtown, opening adjacent land to development while simultaneously improving quality of life for downtown residents, workers, and tourists.
Do you believe your proposed Resolution will eventually take effect?
The goal of the Resolution was to bring together representatives from The Missouri Dept. of Transportation, the Mayor’s Office, and downtown stakeholders and have an open discussion about the opportunities and challenges of removing the highway. Unfortunately, as a member of the Board of Aldermen without seniority, my resolution was never allowed a hearing. While the conversation didn’t happen in an open forum at City Hall, removing I-70 is still a goal for many residents of the region. My feeling is that it will ultimately happen when key leaders make it a priority.
- 10:32 pm - Thu, Mar 21, 2013
Interview with Paul Lecroart
In the fall of 2012, Paul Lecroart, Senior Urban Planner for the Institut d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme de la Région Ile-de-France (IAU), Paris (Urban Planning & Development Agency for the Paris Region), sat down with CNU to discuss the Projet Berges de Seine (Seine Banks Project).
“The Seine riverbanks are a major 8 mile-long highway going from the Western districts of Paris & suburbs to the Eastern districts & suburbs. The riverbanks are divided into two highways, the Right Bank Highway (RBH or Voie Express Georges Pompidou) and the Left Bank Highway (LBH). Today, the average traffic is about 40000 vehicles a day on the RBH and 25000 on the LBH, both are limited to just over 30 mph.”
We first asked Mr. Lecroart to briefly describe the planned roadway transformations along the Seine:
“Right Bank Highway: create an almost 2-mile long “urban boulevard” out of the highway with 6 new pedestrian-crossings with traffic lights giving direct access to the waterfront, connection with pedestrian bridges across the river connecting major sites, create a new 0.6 mile sidewalk on the river bank, offer space for a riverside café and 5 new leisure-culture boats.
Left Bank Highway: remove the 1.6 mile expressway and parking lots to create a new 10-acre reversible urban space for leisure, culture and nature, including 5 new artificial islands with all sorts of night-and-day activity, create 2 new urban logistic port areas.”
Mr. Lecroart highlights the primary considerations that drove removal and the aim of the Projet Berges de Seine:
“Give the Seine back to the pedestrians, Parisians, and visitors alike. Develop and diversify activities on the banks such as leisure, culture, civic, and economic activities related to the river. Enhance a unique World Heritage UNESCO listed landscape, part of the identity of Paris. Reinforce the presence of nature in the city.”
Stakeholder support is crucial in projects such as the Seine Banks Project. Resident engagement and support was achieved through “open public debates, exploratory walks, many public meetings in different districts, public workshops, children’s workshops, and finally a formal public hearing process [conducted in October 2011].” The Mayor also eventually received support from “major State Agencies such as Port of Paris, the Police Prefecture, and the Ministry of Culture in charge of heritage and architectural preservation of the Paris Landscape.”
One of the greatest hurdles to transportation reform is always the community’s fear of traffic congestion. In the case of the Seine Banks Project this was no different and “was addressed through a specific joint traffic impact study between the Paris Urban Planning Agency (APUR) and the Police Prefecture.”
When asked what advice Mr. Lecroart would offer to another city that is undertaking a similar project he gives the following suggestions:
“Go for it! In the last 10 years (2001-2010), car-use and traffic has decreased in the inner part of the Paris Region, public transportation has increased so has walking and cycling: this is good news for the future.
If we want to go further, we must go beyond what the traffic models tell us, increase dramatically our shared-car use (beyond HOV), and work on institutional arrangements at the metropolitan/regional level to better combine land-use and transport policies.”
“The LBH project was opened to the public in September 2012 and it is already a great success, particularly on sunny weekends with hundreds of pedestrian walking or sitting on the newly opened river banks.”
The project is small, with only a very short section of the expressway being removed, but it is a good start. To Paul and his colleauges, it is now time to think at the metropolitan level, where dozens or even hundreds of miles of expressway need to be redesigned if we are serious about sustainable development, public health and livability in the Paris Metropolitan Region (PMR).
This summary was written by CNU Project Assistant Kate Witherspoon.
- 12:07 pm - Fri, Mar 8, 2013
Interview with Ian Lockwood
CNU had a wide-ranging conversation with Ian Lockwood about his work on the Riverfront Parkway in Chattanooga, the impact of freeways on cities, how the freeways got there, and what the city ought to be like. Read our previous Highways to Boulevards post with on San Francisco’s Central Freeway here.
When the Riverfront Parkway in Chattanooga was converted into a boulevard, Lockwood was involved in reconnecting the street grid and helping provide pedestrian access to the riverfront. The end result? A more walkable city and a rejuvenated riverfront.
“[Chattanooga] lacked access to their key resource which was the water front. Once the street network was restored, the City was much more walkable, lots of stores opened up, investment flowed in, and people loved it. All the conventional traffic engineers’ predictions of the sky falling didn’t happen, and the city became much more vibrant.”
According to Lockwood, the rise of the freeway caused a historical shift in American planning, wherein longer trips in and out of the city were prioritized over shorter, intra-city trips. This shift is linked to a shifting attitude of cities and their purpose.
Limited access riverfront highway
Newly constructed boulevard
Traditionally, cities were places for people to come together for social and economic exchange, exchanges that benefited from proximity and access. Streets were the places for the activity of the city; they were where people lived, shopped, and interacted.
As freeways encroached into cities, the social elements of the city and many street functions were disregarded, in keeping with the modernists’ theories of simplification. Instead of multifaceted places of economic and social exchange, cities became viewed as central business districts and transportation conduits for suburbanites. Long automobile trips and high design speeds were given priority in transportation, disadvantaging local trips, access, and traditional social and economic functions.
The construction of freeways in the city export value from the city to places outside of the city, benefiting those living farther away and harming those closer in.
Lockwood explained the challenge of moving away from an automobile centric view:
“We need to replace those obsolete and damaging value sets with values that are pro-city…I hesitate to use the word balance because I don’t really think there is a balance in cities when motor vehicles are part of the equation. I think it’s more an issue of priorities. If walkability and cycling and transit are priorities they need high-level design and policy support. The automobile and the incomparable individual benefit of automobiles is so compelling on an individual level that we can’t allow rather twisted supply and demand-type forces to take place because you end up with the Houstons and Phoenixes of the world. That is automobile congestion has been mistakenly interpreted as a “demand” for more automobile use and a supply of wider roads.
A more enlightened view would conclude that there is a demand for better choices and more options for transportation modes, housing choices, etc. We don’t live in a fair system; the highway, oil, highway-building, tract home developers, and big box interests tilt the playing field against cities. If cities really want to be great cities they need to really prioritize non-automobile ideas if they want to be increasingly competitive economically and socially while being environmentally responsible.“
Specifically on fixing the damage caused by freeways in cities, Lockwood emphasized that it’s also important to stop currently ill-conceived freeway projects (and not just focus on removal). When pursuing these projects, his advice is “to keep your eyes on the prize” as these projects can take a long time. He also asks leaders to keep in mind the basic purpose of the city, which is to foster social and economic exchange. From here flows the proper role of the transportation system in cities: to reward short trips and transit trips.
This inteview and summary were conducted by CNU intern Tim Huff, Master’s candidate in the UIC MUPP Program.
- 1:08 pm - Wed, Feb 20, 2013
Interview with Jeff Tumlin
CNU sat down with Jeff Tumlin to discuss the removal of San Francisco’s Central Freeway and subsequent conversion into Octavia Boulevard. Read our Highways to Boulevards post on Milwaukee’s Park East Freeway here.
How did the removal of San Francisco’s Central Freeway impact its surrounding neighborhood (Hayes Valley)? Jeff Tumlin is a principal at Nelson & Nygaard with over 20 years experience and focuses mainly on helping cities use transportation investment to improve quality of life and further economic development.
In terms of the removal of the Central Freeway, Jeff Tumlin worked on the neighborhood plan for Hayes Valley, a plan that thoroughly examined the local impacts of removing the Central Freeway (supplemental information on San Francisco’s Central Freeway can be found here).
Jeff described the changes in the neighborhood: “A big increase in housing unit production, a significant increase in jobs (around 23 percent) largely due to increased retail activity and the small secondary office market, a huge increase in transit trips (about 75 percent), and an increase in home values in the blocks around the removal of approximately $118,000 per unit.”
Nonetheless, these encouraging changes also resulted in new community concerns, issues such as gentrification and neighborhood affordability.
Jeff shared a few key insights learned from his experiences dealing with freeway removal. The first (and also iterated by Peter Park in our first Highways to Boulevards series) is the public process. Public meetings can help residents to imagine what the space could be without the freeway. In addition, the public process can help engage those who are opposed to the project, allowing them time air their grievances and work through their objections. Jeff Tumlin also noted that opposition to the project dissipated quickly once the project was completed and fears over potential negative impacts never materialized.
In terms of projecting impacts to traffic, Jeff Tumlin emphasized that current traffic modeling is not capable of accurately assessing the impacts of removal. In the case of the Central Freeway, models predicted back-ups stretching all the way to Sacramento after removal. Instead, traffic dispersed through the street grid, transit trips greatly increased, with only a minor, acceptable increase in travel times.
Because of these limits to assessment, Jeff Tumlin emphasized the importance of taking a systems approach to analyzing urban transportation systems. Instead of each road being analyzed independently, it is essential to look at how the grid as a whole operates.
One of the other key lessons Jeff Tumlin shared was of the importance of land value capture. Freeway removal projects tend to open up land for development and can dramatically increase local property values. Effective use of value capture strategies, such as the creation of TIF districts, can help fund removal and development in new areas made available through freeway removal.
As transportation budgets continue to be strained, these strategies become an evermore attractive option for funding removal and can help pay for reinvestment in the community.
This interview and summary were conducted by CNU intern Tim Huff, Master’s candidate in the UIC MUPP Program.
- 10:35 am - Wed, Feb 6, 2013
An Interview with Peter Park
CNU recently sat down with Peter Park, Milwaukee’s former and Denver’s current planning director, about his experiences removing the Park East Freeway and spurring economic growth in downtown Milwaukee.
The removal of the Park East Freeway can trace its roots back to Milwaukee’s 1999 Downtown Plan. During our conversation, Mr. Park stressed the importance of having a plan—not just a “project”—as Milwaukee’s Downtown Plan laid the fundamental groundwork for the eventual removal of the freeway. The Downtown Plan set forth a vision of Milwaukee’s downtown land and illustrated how the removal of a freeway could transform Downtown Milwaukee into a more vibrant place.
An integral part of the formation of the downtown plan was a series of charrettes to engage the public and seek their input on the plan. In terms of planning, Mr. Park drew a distinction between “plans” and “projects”. Projects tend to be things for which there is immediate funding and impetus to complete, while plans are visions for what could be even if they don’t have funding.
In the context of the Park East Freeway, the idea and plan for removal was around for a few years before funding was sought and achieved. This allowed for stakeholders to have a legitimate voice in the process—the plan could be modified significantly over the span of a few years. When funding is already allocated for project, the scope for change is narrowed because the clock is ticking on the project’s commencement and completion.
The planning process can also help diffuse potential opposition by lowering the “temperature” (it’s just an idea being discussed, not something that’s necessarily going to happen immediately). Combined with a vision for the site, this allowed local business to look beyond their immediate concerns (How are my customers going to get here without the freeway?) and acknowledge the long-term benefits (a key to any plan).
While the Downtown Plan help generate support in the City of Milwaukee—the Plan was strongly support by then mayor John Norquist (and current CEO of CNU)—State and County approval was necessary to remove the freeway and provide funding. Governor Thompson was initially opposed to the freeway removal; however, his mind was eventually changed.
Mr. Park attributed the success in gaining the necessary local- and state-level support to two concepts: visioning and planning. Park and his team were not advocating for the removal of the freeway. Instead, they were advocating for a vision of the city that was set on the human scale and more economically vibrant. By presenting an optimistic vision for the city, they were able to engage people who may have been initially skeptical, encouraging them to envision what the city could be and what could take the place of the aging freeway.
Ultimately, the two keys to the successful removal of the Park East Freeway can by summarized as having a positive vision of what could be and planning (and all that entails) well in advance to make it a reality. As Mr. Park said, “It’s amazing where political will and public support can take you.” It seems, much farther than than any freeway.
This interview and summary were conducted by CNU intern Tim Huff, Master’s candidate in the UIC MUPP Program. Originally posted on cnu.org.
- 10:44 am - Wed, Jan 30, 2013
Highways-to-Boulevards Video Contest
Hello Transportation Advocates:
We’d like to share with you a great opportunity to demonstrate how urban freeways impact your community. CNU wants to hear your urban highway story, so enter a short video in CNU’s Highways-to-Boulevards Video Contest! We want to know how and why your urban freeway of choice affects your community and what you envision in that highway’s place (Hint: It doesn’t have to be a boulevard).
CNU will post video submissions on cnu.org for tow months and share the videos with Highway-to-Boulevard advocates, like you, throughout the country. Plus, CNU will award the three most compelling videos with prizes!
1st Place: $500
2nd Place: $250
People’s Choice Award: $250
Honorable Mentions (5): CNU Advocate Memberships
In addition to the above prizes, a “People’s Choice” award will be given at our annual Congress in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 29 to June 1, 2013.
The deadline for submission is March 3, 2013. Contestants will be rewarded on May 3rd, 2013 based on creativity, originality, and properly addressing the contest’s central theme. For a complete list of rules and for the entry form visit cnu.org/highways/videocontest.
- 4:26 pm - Mon, Jan 7, 2013
CNU 21: Living Community Registration Now Open
Registration for CNU 21: Living Community is now OPEN. Take advantage of our Early Bird rates by signing up before April 24th, 2013.
CNU 21 Living Community will be held in gorgeous downtown Salt Lake City , May 29 - June 1, 2013. Living Community balances the demands of physical, social, economic, and environmental values by connecting people to place and awakening in us a stewardship for our land and each other.
Stewardship is tangible. It is measured by how well we care for the people around us, the places we make and the land that hosts us. This year’s Congress will delve into these issues, contemplate the role of cities within nature and place within cities.
Join Plenary Speakers Richard Louv, Sarah Susanka, Chuck Marohn, Andres Duany, and many, many more at CNU 21. Register today!
- 3:14 pm - Mon, Oct 1, 2012
Wanted: Artwork for CNU Charter Book
Want to get published in the new CNU Charter Book (McGraw-Hill, 2013)?
Give us your best shot! (or drawing, illustration, rendering, etc).
Please include a short caption: what principle does your photo/illustration show?
Deadline: November 1, 2012
Resolution: at least 300 dpi at target size
Black and white only (you can submit color, but they will be converted to B&W). Please only submit your own material or material for which you have (or can easily obtain) the copyright.
- 3:47 pm - Mon, Sep 24, 2012
A lobbying effort is underway to remove Interstate 70 from Denver entirely to make way for the rebirth of a depressed part of the city cut in half by the highway for decades. Activists and others championing the rerouting of I-70 say a recent proposal by the Colorado Department of Transportation to drop the highway below ground level between Brighton and Colorado boulevards is not bold enough to save the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods. “CDOT is really good at laying concrete,” said Thaddeus Tecza, a senior instructor emeritus of political science at the University of Colorado. “These guys are engineers, and their answer to everything is to put down a lane of concrete. What they are not really good at is planning for a community.
- 3:46 pm
The idea of dismantling that stretch of I-10 has been in the air for a while now, largely because the state of Louisiana constructed a bypass in the late 1970s that siphoned off a considerable amount of the interstate’s traffic. Even so, I-10 is heavily used, so doing away with it entirely is a fraught proposition. There is also no clear consensus among neighborhood residents about what to do with the elevated highway: many of them want it gone, some are concerned that its elimination would flood the neighborhood with traffic (an unfounded fear, judging by the experiences of other cities), and others are afraid of the rapid development that seems sure to follow the removal of the overpass. To complicate matters further, because the acoustics underneath the highway magnify the sound of drums, the Mardi Gras Indians have grown quite fond of it.