The 2012 Top 10 Freeways without Futures

The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) published a list of the top opportunities in North America for replacing aging urban expressways with boulevards, Freeways without Futures 2012. President and CEO for CNU, John Norquist, was the former mayor of Milwaukee where he championed the tearing down of an inner city expressway. In our local effort to redirect a new inner city expressway in Shreveport into a business boulevard John wrote an editorial for the Shreveport Times posted on Agile Planning here. Here is an excerpt from the CNU web site describing their Highways to Boulevards Innitiative:

CNU believes replacing urban freeways with surface streets, boulevards and avenues is the most cost-effective, sustainable option for cities with aging grade separated roads. As the federal and state DOTs confront shrinking budgets, and cities look for ways to increase their tax bases and revenues, support is building for connected street grids and improved transit that are less expensive to maintain and offer urban alternatives to the reconstruction of urban expressways. The Highways-to-Boulevards Initiative unites a diverse set of professionals, residents and activists in advocating for these goals and demonstrating the value of freeway teardowns to restore urban neighborhoods. final_2012_freeways_without_futures_3

Here is a video telling the story of how elevated expressway Interstate-10 destroyed Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans and how a local group is working to tear down I-10 to reverse the damage. There is a real opportunity to plan a more prosperous future for the Claiborne Avenue corridor by rebuilding a business boulevard.

Here is a post by Tyler Faulk about the list on Smart Planet, Top 12 urban highway removal projects.

Continued Awakening – Toronto questions continuing to invest in Inner City Expressways

I continue to receive stories of communities joining the trend of questioning the value to the public of continuing to invest public dollars in maintaining, repairing, planning or building inner-city expressways. Here is a Toronto story, sent by Ed Morrison, that is a thestar.com post on December 18, 2012, Gardiner Expressway: Chief Planner wants to resurrect cost/benefit study. In Toronto, as chunks of concrete fall on a regular basis, a multi-billion dollar discussion is ongoing about continuing to invest in a crumbling elevated inner-city expressway system. This is likely to be a battle with interests that are for continued highway welfare. Here is an excerpt from the article that reveals a courageous planner taking on political interests.

Keesmaat, who has been in the job less than six months, said she wants to immediately resume an environmental assessment that was quietly shelved after Mayor Rob Ford’s election. That study was supposed to provide a cost-benefit analysis of tearing down versus maintaining the structure.

The Gardiner Expressway is downtown Toronto's main commuter artery, cutting an elevated swath through the core. But large sections of its deck are considered to be in need of complete replacement within the next six years.

The assumed public value promoted by highway special interests do not exist. The truth revealed is that many of the problems cities face can be directly linked to decisions to run the interstate system through, rather than around, our cities. We have changed the scale and context of city to an unsustainable footprint.We have taken for granted the relational foundation that underpins the value of communities and it is collapsing [CRI theory of change]. In Stacey Mitchell’s book, The Big Box Swindle, she describes part of the problem: “Sprawl severs the relationship between a business and the community it serves and creates”. The issue is complex as are the problems our nation and its local communities face. Opportunities will be found in change and attempting to answer the right questions.

Public Process? or Public Assisted Neighborhood Suicide?

This past week NLCOG (North Louisiana Council of Governments) held three public meetings in stage 1 of the highway planning process for their proposed I-49 Inner-City Connector, a redundant 3.6 mile $500 million limited access expressway. The first two meetings were in the Allendale neighborhood, December 11th at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament and on December 12th at Mount Canaan Baptist Church.

A member of the neighborhood “Loop-It”group attended an organizing pre-meeting of neighborhood preachers where NLCOG promoted attendance for the three public meetings.NLCOG stated that the meetings were not for public discussion and were for residents to drop by and vote on their preferred build route. The “Loop-It” representative raised objection resulting in the “no build” option being on the ballot for the meetings. However,NLCOG then created a rule that any voting for no-build must also include a vote for one of the four build options. This tactic requires those voting to cast a ballot against what they desire. Further, when the vote is tallied NLCOG can then show residents where they voted to run over themselves. Maybe this NLCOG method of public particpation should be labeled the “Public Manipulation Process for Assisted Neighborhood Suicide.”

The neighborhood “Loop-It” group saw through this manipulation and cast write-in ballots for the solution they desire which is supported by current best pracitice knowledge in transportation planning to produce positive impacts for communities. Loop-It Group’s preference is to separate through traffic from local business traffic in order to increase local business activity. The following document is their write-in ballot. the ballot places checks on the desired option and an “x” on the NLCOG route (all 4 build options are essentially the same) that is wasteful spending to achieve poor results. NLCOG representatives told members of the LOOP-IT group that their write-in ballots would not be counted nor represented in their report as only those that followed [fell for] NLCOG rules would be counted (handout version 7-1.2.13).

The following paragraphs and links are the news stories on the series of public meetings held by NLCOG December 11, 12 and 13, 2012.

Here is a story on KTBS in Shreveport, Public meetings on Potential I-49 Connector, by reporter Sara Machi that shares the views of the community and the supporters of the inner-city expressway. The supporters present mis-infromation that cannot be substaniated in what appears an attempt to confuse and sway the public to get on board as they drive the community into the past. We deserve better than a glimpse of the futurein the rear view mirror.

Here is a story that ran on KTAL just prior to the first public meeting at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament, I-49 could impact Churches and Neighborhoods. The reporter, Marquel Sennet, at the end of her report describes the abusive public process that requires citizens who vote for using the loop (“No-build”) to also vote for one of the 4 build options that will run over the neighborhood. With this rule for their public process NLCOG gets what it wants, the people who will be hurt voting to run over their neighbors.

Here is a story that ran on KTAL after the first public meeting at Out Lady of Blessed Sacrament on December 11, 2012, Residents Sound Off on Proposed I-49 Inner City Connector. The neighborhood group referred to as “loop-It” turned out in Civil Disobedience to make their favored option a write-in ballot. Approximately 200 write-in ballots that are for the “Loop-It” proposal:

  1. For through traffic using the existing loop; and 
  2. For new investment in a business route, a ground level boulevard achieved by reinvesting in an existing federal highway through the city (see handout / ballot above). A much less expensive solution with significantly greater outcomes than the options proposed by NLCOG.

The NLCOG said they will not count the write-in ballots and are only acknowledging input that surrenders to their manipulative public process.

At the second meeting at Mount Canaan Church in Allendale the “Loop-It” neighborhood group was run off by the NLCOG team and not allowed their freedom to assemble and express their opposition, even though they had secured permission from the church. Unfortunately, the media did not cover this event.

Here is another short report from KTAL, I-49 discussions continue, that features State Representative Roy Burrel, the chief proponenet for restudying the inner city connector after two previous times the project was killed in favor of the more practical approach of using the existing loop. Roy describes economic impacts that have no basis in reality and appear to be his wishful thinking or his misunderstnding of the economic realities that are well documented (some of the documentation is posted on this blog in other I-49 related stories). Roy somehow reasons that approximately “600 million new dollars of economic development will pass through Shreveport each year as a result of this project”. If he literally means “passing through” that is not economic development for Shreveport. I take from his comments that he must believe that if it passes through some of it may stick to Shreveport. It also means that he proposes to mix through traffic (Mostly 18 wheelers) with local traffic, a failed formula that actually reduces economic activity in the local economy due to “induced demand” congestion. I hope Roy will do some reading on this blog where he can learn from other communities and transportation planning groups. I hope Roy can see that he is promoting a project that will only make Shreveport less desirable and easier to leave.

Here is a brief story on KTAL that describes the final public meeting at the Chamber of Commerce where the report documents how a local resident who is opposed to the inner city connector fell victum to the NLCOG team tactics and also voted for one of the 4 build options through the Allendale neighborhood. Here is a report from KTBS, I-49 Connector Meeting

The Future is NOT the same as the Past – Americans are Driving Less

Eric Sunquist with The State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) posted information from two articles,one in Business Insider and the other in Esquire. Both articles illustrate the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) began a steady and rapid decline beginning in 2005. This trend goes beyond the recession is more indicative of a change that deserves a better approach to highway planning and reinforces the need to undo inner city expressways such as the one being pushed by the NLCOG for inner city Shreveport that will, if implemented, run over a low income African American neighborhood and then over a wetland area. Here is a new chart that shows that the demand for additional traffic and interstate improvements is changing as Americans are now driving less.

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Articles that reflect a trend of the end to destructive inner city expressways

The current system of funding highway projects does not keep pace with funding requests for new projects and the country falls further and further behind in ability to maintain what we have built. It is time to look more seriously at the strategies we use in planning highway projects. There is a new understanding of changes needed. For instance, studies show that building inner city expressways creates what is called induced demand. In other words, people choose to take the expressway because they feel they can save a few minutes getting to their destination. When enough people choose this option a false congestion is created. The normal less expensive to build and maintain ground level street grid goes underutilized. What happens? Building to satisfy artificially induced congestion with inner city expressway construction is a money pit that is not filled until so much of a community is concrete that no one wants to live there. Want evidence? Look at Detroit that built its way out of congestion with so many inner city expressways cutting up that once beautiful city that half of the population left. Congestion is no longer a problem for Detroit. One bright spot in their search for hope is the move to use vacant land for Detroit Urban Agriculture.

Cities across the country are figuring out that roadways cannot improve the economy at off ramps of super expensive inner city expressways. We can no longer afford pretzel logic to somehow attempt to continue a failed strategy. We need productive investments for public dollars that will truley and sustainably improve local economies. The inner city expressways are by far the most expensive part of the interstate system we can’t afford. The proposals by MPO’s to continue to build these city eating monsters are meeting resistance. A growing number of communities are demolishing these elevated expressways and replacing them with ground level business boulevards. These much less expensive solutions begin to level the playing field creating local opportunity for smaller entrepreneurs instead of transportation subsidies for formula box busineses that bleed dollars our of local economies. Here is a list of articles that begin to tell the story of this gowing trend for the 21st century. We can’t keep doing what has not been working and we can’t trust organizations that keep promoting expensive solutions that just make things worse, that don’t deal with complexities and no longer make sense. loop it support articles against inner city i49

The neighbors in the inner city neighborhood of Allendale in Shreveport are facing the threat of one of these inner city expressways.They want an alternative that is being shared in the following handout.The MPO is promoting 4 options [any of which could cost $500 million] that will run over this neighborhood and a wetlands area along a bayou when a loop already exists.

Here is a story on KTBS in Shreveport, Public meetings on Potential I-49 Connector, by reporter Sara Machi that shares the views of the community and the supporters of the inner-city expressway. The supporters present mis-infromation that cannot be substaniated in an attempt to sway the public to get on board as they drive the community into the past. We deserve a better   than a glimpse of the futurein the rear view mirror.

New Orleans Considers Demolition of Elevated I-10 over Claiborne Avenue

New Orleans is holding a series of public meetings to discuss the future of a 2.2 mile elevated stretch of I-10 over Claiborne Avenue. This elevated expressway is credited with the demise of neighborhoods on both sides of I-10. A local group has proposed demolition and replacement with an at ground level boulevard as shown in this illustration published in a November 28, 2012 Times-Picayune article, New Oleans community meetings will consider future of Claiborne Avenue corridor, elevated expressway.

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Here is an excerpt from the article followed by a report of local activists and planners that recommend demolition of the existing elevated expressway.

A group of local civic activists and planners released a report in July 2010 that called for removing the elevated expressway over Claiborne and turning the 2.2-mile stretch between Elysian Fields Avenue and the Pontchartrain Expressway near the Superdome into a surface-level boulevard. Three months later, New Orleans was awarded a $2 million federal grant to finance most of a study of ways to revitalize the corridor.

Wading into the Complexities of Comparing Power Generation Costs

In a november 27th post, Going Local Gives More Value to Solar Power, John Farrell of ILSR summarizes an essay by a Canadian utility executive, Gary Holden, that describes a method of cutting through all the subsidies and inefficiencies of coal fired central power plants to fairly compare costs to distributed local solar power. His results show that solar power is cheaper than coal. Here is an excerpt from the article.

So the time-of-day value of solar, the avoided transmission costs, and the regulatory advantage of financing centralized coal plants combine, and solar at 13¢ is more competitive than coal at 14¢.

So a fair accounting of solar and coal shows solar has a lower cost at a time of day when we need energy. 

Here is the Gary Holden essay.