Tunnel Vision: Is The Garland St. Tunnel A Priority?
*Updated 12:50pm for basic grammar/spelling.
*Updated 6:00pm with my first EVENING EXTRA –scroll to bottom.
I’ve already written my concerns about the Garland St. – Hotel Indigo Pedestrian Underpass. It’s not so much that I’m opposed to it, it’s simply, to borrow a phrase I overheard a while back, “I just think it is a stupid idea.”
Today Mayor Chris Bzdok, who sits on the Downtown Development Authority board, wrote his position on the up to, perhaps beyond, $1-million price for the tunnel. At the last meeting where the tunnel was discussed, the Mayor raised a series of questions about the need, cost and priority of the tunnel. I’m not sure if he convinced the other DDA members, but he certainly raised some eyebrows with questions that they hadn’t to that point raised. He is asking TC residents to send in their comments to the DDA board today or come to the 8AM meeting tomorrow morning to learn more and make comment. (It’s early, but they do serve coffee.)
I’m short on time this morning and I will try to re-visit, add-to or clean-up this post this afternoon. There are certainly some other concerns to be raised. However, a few basic concerns of mine are:
- The topography is not ideal (it’s flat), to solve that problem we will need to spend a large sum of money to make the 10-ft tall, 12-16-ft wide and almost 90-feet long tunnel inviting. The dimensions just don’t seem promising.
- The money to build, design and maintain the tunnel could better allocated into the over-all goal of a calmer corridor.
- Time, it’s too rushed. Let’s say we do want a tunnel, well, let’s do it right. We aren’t allowing enough time explore design and implementation options that might be more strategic and valuable. For example, in places where they’ve used tunnels successfully, they have done things like raise the roadway to open-up the tunnel and at the same time calm traffic slightly. There are other measures that could be considered with Grandview Parkway with a tunnel scheme, but if the City is rushed into the project they will lose those opportunities.
- Underpasses are a last resort measure in areas that are flat and not something to simply construct because the opportunity presents.
Again, my original post has more detail and I will share my letter to the DDA once I have a chance to write it.
A Tunnel That Works?
- A successful case study by Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) is in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Note, it cost $4-million dollars!
- Safe Routes to School has a helpful fact sheet on the use of pedestrian tunnels. It’s written in the context of kids walking to school, but it’s still helpful. It isn’t for or against them, just raises the prospects to be considered. Below is a screen-grab of their key’s to success.
To be fair, this tunnel is part of a larger long-term project connecting West Front to Garland St. District via a pedestrian bridge over the Boardman River in what would be a continuous line.
How I understand it, the tunnel isn’t planned to provide crossing for people who park or otherwise find themselves at the Farmer’s Market parking lot or even Union St./Grandview. It’s to provide a separated access to the bay for people on Garland St., which will in large part be hotel patrons and me stumbling out of Right Brain, and for the “future” development that is either 2 years, 10-yrs, or 20 yrs. away. In the meantime, we could choose to spend that money elsewhere.
At the last meeting, the Garland St. engineer brought-up what I thought I was a valid point about development around the BATA station on Hall St. With a well designed, properly thought-out tunnel/underpass, and excellent way-finding, it could help move people. However, an at grade crossing, with an extended median west of Hall St. could also provide access. Yes, not as 100% safe as total separation, but we also aren’t a major city with a constant onslaught of motorized traffic. For all of our Grandview Parkway issues, it isn’t Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive. With some improved facilities and a calmer corridor, providing for people at grade, above ground, can be greatly improved.
It remains to be seen. Come join me in the audience at tomorrow morning’s DDA meeting. We can drink their coffee and heckle from the back-row. (8AM • Gov. Center)
Basic questions: is the underpass going to be a place-making feature, or just something to go through? Again, what’s our priority?
Here is a the only conceptual I’ve seen for the Garland St. tunnel. It’s a screengrab of Bayfront presentation video.
Here is an example of one of the best tunnels I’ve seen. It’s in Phoenix, AZ.
And, this one in Vancouver is really special.