Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Less highway, less congestion – no, really

Uptown thinking, Part 2:

Some counterintuitive thinking comes in this blog item (link) about three cities (Seoul, South Korea; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.) that tore down four mid-century freeways and found congestion didn't get worse.

I've heard one highly placed uptown executive muse privately about the prospect of tearing down the Interstate 277 loop that encircles (and isolates) uptown Charlotte and replacing it with a boulevard. I think it's a great – albeit very expensive – idea. (And of course you'd recycle the concrete.) Maybe it's a public-private partnership kind of proposition, as it would create more on-the-tax-rolls land for development. Witness the city/state deal reconfiguring the Brevard Street/I-277 interchange into a smaller ROW footprint and selling the land to private owners. A smaller I-277 footprint puts land back on the tax rolls. Just as important it removes those vastly overbuilt, Robert-Moses-woulda-loved-'em interchanges, designed for the middle of farmland, from the heart of the city's most pricey real estate.

If you agree, please make sure the idea emerges during the upcoming Center City 2020 Plan process. After all, it was a remark at a Center City 2010 public workshop by the late Dave Ritch – picked up and championed by then-City Council member Lynn Wheeler among others – that led to the uncapping of Little Sugar Creek and the greenway along Kings Drive. Ideas with champions really do make a difference sometimes.

Uptown thinking, Part 1 is yesterday's item (link) about Rome, the Pantheon, and Charlotte.


Anonymous said...

recycle the concrete into a pantheon

Mia said...

I do like this idea, though I think a better solution is to cap 277. This would open up extensive areas to walkable development, new commercial space & possibly a light rail connector? Also, this would maintain the usage of the underlying road - win win no?

JAT said...

Is there still any 277/Brevard money in the pipeline? I know at one point there was $12m. in the kitty months ago -- are those deals still good?

The first step in dismantling the 277 loop is finishing the 485 loop. Until then this is all quite pointless. Plus the original sin in Uptown's layout was not 277 but the cemeteries which cut off traffic flow to the West.

Jumper said...

Demolishing is easy in the sense that it takes no brains; no hard thinking. What is difficult is to stop building stuff then changing ones mind and tearing it down when the paucity of intellect leading to its construction in the first place is revealed.

Transformation is more difficult than destruction. This is why I like Mia's idea of 4:02 PM.

Everything is connected. Worldwide, manufacture of Portland cement used in concrete necessitates the release of countless megatons of CO2, and mountaintop removal closer to home. They didn't tear down Rome every decade and rebuild the dang place. Madness!

beyonddc said...

The problem with the 4:02 suggestion and the reason it's not win-win is that anybody who still drives in will demand parking, which means large areas of otherwise developable square footage will have to be given over to parking, which means there will be less square footage available for development, which means the place will be less walkable.

LizFun said...

I-277 is absolute heaven to me! Joyous freedom from road humps and 25 mph zones. A driver’s escape from pedestrians, cyclists and Sunday drivers. Breathtaking panoramas and vistas of uptown and the surrounding city and neighborhoods. To come up off of Charlotte’s gorgeous tree lined streets to the wide open road and sky is thrilling to me! To see the weather breaking in front of or behind the skyscrapers is magnificent. To be able to cross town and be most anywhere I want to be in 7 minutes is sheer delight! These are the things I love!

5 years ago I could cross uptown in 7 minutes. Now it takes 15. My prediction is that with the demise of I-277, by the year 2020, it will take 45 minutes. Don’t kid yourself - we’ve slowly been turning many of the close in 4 lane thoroughfares into 2 lane roads with parking and bike lanes. That’s wonderful! But it also means we can’t go back to moving large amounts of traffic through town.

Let’s keep I-277 and beautify it! Move the vertical billboard that blocks the JFG sign, and let this icon from our past blink again. (City Council can make yet another exception - the best exception!)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Liz Fun on this one. Keep 277, makemits surroundings better.


Anonymous said...

please get rid of 277.

Anonymous said...

First, it was leave 485 unfinished, next demolish 277 and turn it into a boulevard. And don't forget how Mary also didn't want the Garden Parkway (at least as it is currently planned) or the Monroe Bypass.

Who knows...maybe we can turn I-77 and I-85 into boulevards as well and turn US-74 into a two lane road with a bike path. Then every major thoroughfare through Charlotte could have a fifty mile traffic jam in either direction from center city. Think about it, Charlotte could have traffic jams from Lexington to Gaffney on the new US-85, from south of Chesterfield to Statesville on US-77, and from Wadesboro to Shelby on SR-74.

kickazzz2000 said...

Anonymous 602

Hyperbole much?

The only person that wants the Garden Parkway is that senator that will get fatter from it.

Anonymous said...

This has to be the dumbest idea ever. That loop is the only good thing making going downtown pleasant. No matter what the downtown crowd pr people say, no one wants to go down there and spend their afternoon hanging around when we have such great areas as Ballantyne, UNCC, and others.

The Spoofer said...

Build two dams on I-277, one where the Brookshire portion nears I-77, and one where the John Belk portion nears I-77. Then drill some deep wells or pipe in water from Lake Norman to fill the trench, creating a huge lake out of the resulting “U”. The existing connector bridges at present street level can remain; enough clearance would be allowed so large boats could pass beneath. Engineers could provide a means of letting overflow enter Sugar and Briar creeks, so boats can navigate those waterways down the new greenways.

Marinas and marina mixed-use condos, restaurants and commercial property will rise as Charlotte’s wealthy rush to secure their private docks. Smart young professionals will own houseboats on the lake, noting that the mortgage interest on such property is just as tax deductible as mortgage interest on a house. The tourist industry will boom now that San Antonio will have nothing on our fleet of riverboats. Our future water needs well be provided for as well. Fishing derbies will take place within view of uptown skyscrapers.

I never understood how a city without a waterfront can expect to become world class. Even Rome has a river running through it. Once Lake Spoofer is ready, we can move the Whitewater Center to uptown, where it was originally proposed to be.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to change the subject Mary but could you ask your people to stop throwing out the separate edition of the Observer advertising rag to houses in Concord? They are clogging our storm drains and some end up in the middle of the street. It is becoming an environmental disaster.
Why the plastic bags?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Where do they think all that traffic on 277 is gonna to go after they tear it down? It's the heart by-pass that keeps traffic in the inner city at a manageable level. Thank god I don't live in Charlotte anymore.

Anonymous said...

UNCC and ballantyne are some of the worst parts of charlotte. Just work from home if you worry so much about the traffic or just leave. UNCC is maybe one of the worst examples of urbanity in the entire south!! They don't have any sidewalks. You have to be a slave to your car there. Ballantyne is just full of mcmansions just covered in vinyl.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

How about a Ringstrasse?


a-concern said...

Gutting 277 would stall traffic of course. Independance Blvd would wither on the vine of course. To service the east side we'ed need a full fledged Heavy Rail at a cost of $4 Billion to build and $10 a ride of course.
Charlotte's not a Seoul or San Francisco with such luxuries.

Mason said...

My take would be to focus on street level retail that is inviting to all - yes , all of us would have to deal with the idiotic few and airhead teens - but , from my experience in NYC , this is where it begins. Couple that with a 24 hour swap meet and less cheesy ALL NIGHT clubs , and it would be more interesting to visit , not just drive through enroute to other places. Also , berid downtown of all those wannabe stormtrooper cops. Looking at footage of the July 4th 'celebration', I wondered if the patrons were forced to look as if they were having a good time. Sad to say , but I saw less cops at a 10 block get together in Troy!!

Martin Zimmerman said...

Sounds like we are all on the same page so to speak....I will be serving on a transportation advisory to the 2020 plan. One of my top priorities this time around (which actually entered my noggin'around the time the last plan was done) ...is... YES! to convert I-277 to a tree lined boulevard.... YES! with light rail... or YES! with street cars ...and YES! bike lanes and generous wide sidewalks lined with buildings on the (pick a city) Boston's Tremont street.

Martin Zimmerman, Exec Dir. Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance

Anonymous said...

Martin Zimmerman,

If you think everyone here is in agreement, you need to read the comments again.

Why does anyone want to spend any money on this when we have a transit plan that is vastly underfunded, an outerbelt that is not finished with portions of the outerbelt need to be widened from 4to 12 lanes, and in general have terrible infrastructure.

Charlotte already consistently fails EPA air quality standards and cars run much less efficiently in stop and go traffic which is what boulevard traffic is.
The city can not fund it's major transit lines much less a center city Light Rail loop and street cars do nothing but clog highway lanes.

Every major city in the US has major freeways; Charlotte is no different. Do not advocate the destruction of important infrastructure.