05 November 2008

The future of freeways

Could the future of freeways be to tear them down and replace them with boulevards and surface streets? Next American City suggests just that.

Forty years later, the lifespan of most freeways has come to an end. This leaves urban planners and local governments with a choice: Do they demolish the existing infrastructure to make way for surface roads and boulevards? Or do they invest in freeways yet again, when it makes even less sense to do so – given their crummy past and the ever-rising cost of gasoline?

In our region the CNU has encouraged tearing down Route 29 in Trenton and the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx.


Anonymous said...

Route 29: "The NJDOT has informed the city [of Trenton] that it will have to come up with its own funding."

Yeah, good luck with that.

David Tulloch said...

Not that I think this will happen, but the Route 18 project moved ahead during a funding crisis. Somehow DOT dollars aren't linked with reality.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how "DOT dollars aren't linked with reality?"

Anonymous said...

Good answer.

David Tulloch said...

Thanks for the patience. DOT money seems to magically appear even when all other government budgets are contracting. They get to create emergencies and solve them in the most expensive ways while ignoring other real crises.

Here on campus they are about to embark on building a hugely expensive and fairly destructive interchange at US1 and College Farm Road at a tough fiscal time. The official reason they are moving it forward is that the two very small existing bridges are structurally compromised and this is an emergency project.

While I don't doubt that we need to repair/replace those bridges, I don't currently understand how that problem justifies hundreds of millions of dollars for eminent domain, additional bridging, new ramping, and aesthetic treatments. All of those will make it a better intersection, but is that the right infrastructure investment to be making at a time of financial trouble? Does this relatively minor, albeit awkward, pinch point deserve such a dramatic solution? It does if the DOT wants it.

Meanwhile there is no money for true emergencies and needed infrastructure. DOT's seem to get their funding independent of reality.

Chris said...

The reason that the New Jersey Department of Transportation has funding to plan, design and build projects is because, unlike other state departments, a portion of its capital project funding is allocated by the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund Authority. This authority has revenue sources that have been dedicated by the State Constitution and by the Trust Fund Statute.

Instead of selectively only mentioning that the College Farm Road project is necessitated by "very small existing bridges are structurally compromised," why not mention the other official reasons such as poor level of service, deficient sight distances, non-conforming roadway geometry and inadequate shoulder widths. Perhaps instead of coloring plans and making colorful maps, the students should learn how to become fluent in roadway design issues so they can answer engineers with informed criticism.

Geometrically deficient roadways can cause people to be killed.

"Connecting the neighborhood to the waterfront" and creating a playful celebratory waterpark by demolishing Route 29 pales in comparison to real roadway design issues.

David Tulloch said...

You're probably right. Closing hospitals really will save lives. I am glad our state constitution takes care of emergency geometric deficiencies instead of emergency rooms.

Chris said...

Thank you for agreeing.

Unfortunately, you're attempting to distract readers by playing on their emotions for sick people and digress from the discussion of whether the funding allocated to NJDOT would be best spent on a redesigning a dangerous roadway or whether this funding would be better spent to improve the aesthetics of an existing functionally sufficient highway simply to pursue a new urbanism pipedream.

Nice try.