Home > Crank, Design the Details, Editorial, Engineering Design > Garland Street Tunnel: Costs Begin To Rise (Already)

Garland Street Tunnel: Costs Begin To Rise (Already)

Garland Street Tunnel: Costs Begin To Rise (Already)

Crank it Anytime: The Rant Series

It’s not been a month since the Downtown Development Authority and the City Commission voted to move forward with building a pedestrian tunnel connecting Garland St. to bayfront parkland and the costs are already rising. According to an article in today’s Record Eagle (behind paywall), the cost of the utility relocation could add $400,000 to the overall cost, originally set at $1.1 million.

This was not unforeseeable; it was predictable. A full, transparent study needed to be part of the discussion when the DDA and the City Commission originally began to explore the concept. Instead, this 30-year-old idea, which has had proponents for that long or longer, was rushed to meet the timeframe of an adjacent development project. Blame for the oversight is shared among proponents, staff and those representing the public interest who voted to clear the $1.1 million in order to speed up the process and take advantage of the 2011 construction of the Hotel Indigo.

What’s really bothersome is that if they choose to go ahead, despite the extra cost, it will signal once again mis-guided priorities. Approval and locating the extra money to be certain the tunnel is built, no matter what, will signal the valuing of basic engineering over design: achieving results without attention to detail. Yet, to actually slow down and build a tunnel that will be an attraction and designed to the fit the challenged landscape was never a high priority. And, to be honest, not something that should be a priority anyway. The priority is continuing to focus on the over-all goal of putting the park back into the parkway, not burying people.

Despite the misunderstanding by some of the decision makers, the alternatives for intensive street-scaping and enhanced crosswalks (Plan for TC) is not simply a beautification project: it has real cognitive influence on driver behavior. Traffic calming on the edges of a roadway aren’t an over-all solution, but they are part of the mix and something the City can carry out quickly and robustly along the corridor. That $1.4 million (and climbing) would go a long way in improving the area in the DDA purview. (In fact, even if the tunnel remains popular, the construction of it needs to include surface level improvements in the construction zone.)

I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I simply don’t believe that the money is well spent on a mediocre tunnel that is 15 ft wide and 90 feet long, without the assistance of topography, location and more money. It is a difficult challenge to make a friendly tunnel and I think the pitch-job by proponents was overly optimistic. I fully suspect this to be the first increase in cost if it is to be built right. Of course, the process for designing the tunnel has also been set up to fail. They didn’t ask, “build us a tunnel that will attract people.” They simply asked, build us a tunnel for $1.1-million. Oh, wait, make that $1.4-million.

  1. JohnRobertWilliams
    March 10, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Well put Gary! 1200 feet to the east, one tunnel exists. However, it’s been locked since the 1970’s every night….blocking safe crossing under the Parkway, for morning commutes….why is it locked? Because of FEAR. Until the city takes down these gates and lets people flow to and from the bay AND promisses NOT to gate the proposed tunnel, it’s another fiasco. Let’s just put the gates up on the streets if gating is so important. I can hear the motorists wail now.

  2. chrisbzdok
    March 10, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Keep raising awareness Gary. Remember that the DDA vote was very close.

    Additional yes votes will be needed by both the DDA and City Commission to approve the tunnel expenditure and construction. We are not bound to go forward if the design is unacceptable to the DDA or the CC, or if the project cost is over $1.13MM. Public opinion could still play a crucial role.

  3. Brian H
    March 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I had a Transportation Planner (B.C.) describe to me the reasons for a tunnel in that location, and it made a lot of sense, but the process of making important decisions in this City seems to be nonexistent. I’m left wondering how the DDA/City Commission can allocate $1M with only part of the necessary information to make a responsible decision. Would this still have been approved at $1.4M or higher? Is there a point at which the City will pull the project? (Answered above in the Mayor’s comment)

    I see this same lack of process on other projects in the City (BLA?). Lack of clear design, unclear or conflicting stated outcomes, disregarding public and professional input — this all makes it harder to have a rational and open debate or to know what you’re arguing for or against.

  4. M. Hazard
    March 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Wheres the maintenance schedule for the 1.4 + million dollar rat trap connected to the futuristic park on the other end, and the upkeep of both is coming from what?

  5. March 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    M.H: I don’t think there is one for the tunnel. A maintenance estimate was asked for and, to my knowledge, requirements have yet to be detailed. This is likely because no one is certain if it will need to be drained on a regular basis. As for the “futuristic park” I’m not certain it will be that it will be all that “futuristic or that upkeep will be that much more than current costs (although an increase is expected where we improve the space and generate more activity in the park)-it is something that is being considered though and designs are yet to be finalized, so ideas are welcome. There is an opportunity Monday night in a joint meeting between parks and rec and the City Commission to make comments.

    The current parks and recreation commission (which I sit on) is committed to developing more sustainable landscape practices that should reduce upkeep costs. Of course, we need buy-in by the public and staff to achieve these goals.

  6. M. Hazard
    March 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Currently the buildings/tunnel already in Clinch park, have not been maintained evidenced in the skylights of the pavilion. No skylights? Yes there are..though these are from not having enough money to re-roof the structure and it’s falling apart..the fake rocks left overs from the zoo.. look fake and have needed a coat of paint. It just doesn’t make sense to have a grand vision like the one that is currently being planned, to the tune of 26 million..without the plans to keep it worth the money before hand.
    Without the help of Elmers this last years Cherry Festival could have destroyed the grass of the open space. The bigger the event gets the worse the damage load will be. I guess you could always tack on another million and put in artificial turf.
    The kicker is with gas prices going higher daily we may not see a tourist season and we will have to make do with a local economy, and the still uncertain fate of local waterways ie. Brown Bridge Dam, the aftermath of the settlement and reduction in Boardman lake may cause a major headache for a number of the plans already in play. I think it’s a mistake to spend all this money just because it’s there and without a plan of keeping the grand vision grand.

  7. Mike Powers
    March 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Gary, I wholeheartedly agree and am blown away by that the commission actually believes this is a priority! Isn’t 1.1 +4=1.5 million, see the number keeps going up!

  8. Bob Otwell
    March 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    The $1.5 million tunnel will do nothing to influence driver behavior on the Grand View Parkway. To me the number one priority on improving the whole beautiful 2 miles of public bayfront is to calm the parkway. Slowing motorized traffic will will reduce noise at the bayfront, and improve safety for all of the people that cross the parkway between M-72 West and the Holiday Inn. The Bayfront Plan includes some nice design features to do just that.

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