Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pushing Problems Elsewhere

Apparently the big dig is a pusher.
A Globe analysis of state highway data documents what many motorists have come to realize since the new Central Artery tunnels were completed: While the Big Dig achieved its goal of freeing up highway traffic downtown, the bottlenecks were only pushed outward, as more drivers jockey for the limited space on the major commuting routes.
Let's keep building more freeways in urban centers. They seem to work so well.

9 comments:

Thelonious_Nick said...

I don't know, if highways must go through urban centers, Big Dig-style is definitely the way to go. Who cares if the bottlenecks are pushed out to the suburbs? All the really critical parts of the city now have free-flowing traffic, and putting the highway underground removes a major eyesore and barrier to pedestrian and local vehicular traffic on the surface.

Considering the highways will never actually be removed, I'd love to see a Big Dig for, say, the Cross-Bronx Expressway, or I-395 in DC, or I-276 in downtown Philly. Time to knit back together those communities that were split asunder in the 1960s.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I agree that it's good to knit together our urban centers, but only in a few cases are big dig like projects the way to go. I think that surface boulevards should have a huge presence in the next few decades. Look at what San Francisco did with the Embarcadero. If people are looking to go through cities, there are always alternate freeway routes outside of them.

arcady said...

Yeah, look at the Embarcadero. It's basically a very nice looking traffic sewer. Sure, it's better than the elevated highway that was there before, but it's still generally one huge traffic jam from 4th/king all the way to Fisherman's Wharf, and not by any means a pleasant experience. Plus, the 4th/King intersection is quite possibly the biggest cause of delays on the T line.

The thing is, removing a given bottleneck will simply cause some other piece of the network to become the bottleneck. In cities, I think the policy should be to move the bottleneck away from the city, to keep city streets relatively free of automotive space pollution. In the case of the Embarcadero, if I were Mayor, I'd cut back the 280 to Army St, thus getting the traffic jams off the Embarcadero and 6th St, and at the same time remove the freeway support colums that preclude Caltrain's expansion to four tracks.

Josh B said...

I'd vote for arcady for mayor :-D

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Why they built 280 back is beyond me.

njh said...

You just need another earthquake!

jon said...

the park over the central artery is a terrible public space. the central artery parkland is way too open and is not the place where people want to hang out. then there are many blocks that are almost entirely devoted to massive freeway ramps and are downright unpleasant to be near. i say they should have sold most of the land over the tunnel to be developed and kept only a couple of park squares along the route instead of an entire greenway.

i think the way to go is something like what is proposed in seattle for the alaskan way viaduct... a slow speed, traffic calmed, pedestrian-friendly surface road that carries a rather high volume of traffic. SF's new octavia blvd is another example.

theres been talk for awhile in portland of either removing or burying I-5 through the inner east side of portland, where it currently occupies prime riverfront land on the other side of the riverbank from downtown portland...
http://www.riverfrontforpeople.org/

arcady said...

The problem with the Central Artery is that it forms a key link in the regional highway network and you really have to keep it as some kind of grade-separated freeway or else the city becomes the bottleneck. In the case of SF, for example, you really want to keep the connection between the Bay Bridge and the Bayshore Freeway. In fact, it might even make sense to build a new tunnel across the west side of the city to link the Golden Gate Bridge to the Peninsula, and reclaim the space on the surface used by 19th Ave.

In the case of Portland, I-205 can generally take over the functions of I-5, but it's further out in the suburbs, so it's not quite as bad. I'd be all for removing I-5 and I-405 entirely, and tying the fabric of the city back together. But unfortunately, the interstate highways tend to be owned by the state, and there's little the city can do about them.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I've always wondered if there was a will to dig under 19th and turn the surface street into a transit boulevard. I imagine no but you never know.