Monday, November 23, 2009

Activism Steered to Maintain Wall of Elevated Freeway
for quickly building a planned enclave

NY I-87 Major Deegan Expressway Expansion,
Mott Haven, Bronx (waterfront south of Yankee Stadium)

Enlargened ramps would conflict with towers at center-right
(illustration above incorrectly shows I-87 passing over 138th Street)

NYSDOT plans would widen I-87/138th Street ramps, and widen I-87 northward to the McCombs Bridge with a single auxiliary lane per direction, infringing upon portions of adjacent industrial wastelands recently re-zoned for residential towers.

Project area in red

The reaction is to oppose expansion, per se, regardless of how needed, and to so harp upon capacity that they end up distracted, ignoring highway design, despite stated concerns regarding the waterfront development as well as local pedestrian access. From this appear two main points:

- Would conflict with planned waterfront development- councilperson -

"I feel it will deny the community the ability for the first time in our history to develop our waterfront," said Community Board 1 District Manager Cedric Loftin. "We're sick over it and opposed to it."

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined that opposition, saying: "It would preclude residential development with public esplanade access along the only location down by the Harlem River waterfront with sufficient land to do so.

see more-

- We do not need highways or highway expansion, even ramps; we need jobs-

"It benefits commuters headed from Westchester County to Manhattan, not residents of the south Bronx,"

Johnson said. Leila Lopez, a Monroe College student, agreed.

“What’s the point of a better commute when we don’t have jobs?” Lopez asked. “What’s the point of a highway when we don’t have cars? We don’t need a highway. We need jobs. Spend [the $250 million] to create jobs.”

Do either of these sentiments go deep enough to serve their interests more broadly, as if a
good highway system mattered little to the South Bronx's major employeement area of the Hunts Point District that helps feed the region, or rather more narrowly, via a beholden dogma strictly against any highway expansion, regardless of how well justified as well as designed?

Confining the highway will deny the ramp widening, maintaining and worsening traffic jams. It will also maintain the existing separation of the existing highway.

Getting rid of the highway as the college student might be implying – perhaps inspired by campaigns as this and this – is not going to help create jobs beyond the ‘construction’ phase of the removal and replacement with a boulevard and high priced housing: something which NYC is far more in abundance with then say interstate highways. I-87 is a vital interstate highway link, from its southern end at the approaches to the Triborogh/RFK Bridge northward, with that segment to I-95 – that segment including the Yankee Stadium area – serving as a valuable traffic route alternative to jammed CBE and the less utilized Sheridan Expressway. Beyond that created by construction projects – jobs by that definition temporary for that local – have people as that college student ever frequented places as Hunts Point, South Bronx’s major food terminal and distribution center, home of numerous scrap yards and observed that commercial area’s lifeline of trucks which use primarily – its your choice – the surface streets or the grade separated highways – aka the freeways. Cities don’t work like the movie The Day After Tomorrow where no one seems to go hungry in a Manhattan flooded and frozen over for months with nothing coming in. They have to be feed, with much of the food going through places as Hunts Point, something the elites behind such lock-step organizations as Straphanger’s Campaign, Transportation Alternatives and Tri State Transportation Campaign have a callous disregard.

They like to say either or – street grids not freeways as if the two were intrinsically incompatible- when that's not the case, but rather a cover for diverting traffic away from wealthier areas and through the less affluent ones.

A key consequence of this doctrinaire attitude against urban freeways is the distraction from imagining better designs, not only for the unbuilt links, but as well those built and decried by new urbanists and others- with examples of new urbanists calling for preserving elevated urban freeway segments. Some areas, particularly within and near Washington, D.C. are notoriously subversive of ideas to harmonize highways within the urban environment.

Better then maintaining an existing wall along what is planned to be built along the highway’s adjacent currently industrial properties between it and the Harlem River, what about effectively eliminating to better allow waterfront redevelopment via depressing and covering a portion of reconstructed I-87, with the ramp modifications needed to reconcile both commuter and more local concerns. Let us go beyond thinking about simply some lengthened ramps feeding into an additional highway lane upon the existing Robert Moses era highway configuration.

A better approach- look at Manhattan’s Riverside South boulevard atop a box tunnel for the future Henry Hudson Parkway/Miller Highway relocation. As the article notes, the relocation is decades into the future, noting that the existing elevated highway segment was reconstructed around 1990. However, building portions of this future highway box tunnel now makes sense as being far easier and cheaper to construct before the area is initially constructed- synchronizing roadway and utilities constructions avoiding millions in wasteful demolition.

Since the area alongside the southbound I-87 Major Deegan Expressway lanes – IOW the area between the Deegan and the Harlem River – is now essentially wide open industrial waste, with the few industrial buildings envisioned to be removed by any planning – whether NYSDOT’s project here, or the ---- re-zoning, which envisions 10,000 new residents living in new relatively high rise buildings in this waterfront area northwards from 138th Street to 145th Street, plan it all together. Build a new box tunnel here alongside the existing Deegan for the southbound lanes, shift the traffic into the new tunnel, demolish the existing Deegan and build the northbound tunnel, with footings between each direction of tunnel to support new buildings alongside a new waterfront boulevard. This would be far easier to construct now then say in 50 years with the area built up as envisioned, while providing a far more pleasant local environment. Rather then along an elevated 6 lane I-87, imagine a covered 8 lane I-87, with ramps crossing beneath 138th Street hence removing a great deal of the vehicular traffic from pedestrian crosswalks, and with footings allowing even buildings directly atop the covered, encased freeway. With this coordination, there’s extra capacity for development, highway and local waterfront access.

In re-imaging portions of lower I-87 as cut and cover tunnels. the two most favorable candidates for consideration are:

Willis Street Plaza: new cover built atop existing depressed I-87 segment in vicinity of Willis Street and Triborogh/RFK Bridge approaches. As such it requires no change in the grade of the existing highway roadways, and hence is the least expensive segment of new underground I-87. 138th Street Plaza: new cut and cover underpass beneath and to the north of a 138th Street featuring a new plaza atop the covered highway segment with the ramps reconstructed largely underground, with a southbound ramp from I-87 to the southbound service road passing beneath 138th Street hence reducing vehicular-pedestrian conflict towards the waterfront. This replaces the existing I-87 configuration which quickly dips down to pass in a short underpass crossing beneath 138th Street from a viaduct to the north with short ramps that go to a traffic light intersection with 138th Street, with this underpass configuration extension northward, necessitating bringing down a portion of the elevated segment.

With the existing swath of industrial properties between this segment of I-87 and the Harlem River envisioned for clearing by both NYSDOT’s proposal as well as that for new waterfront development, it is practical to lay the foundation for a combined transit-highway-development and parkland planning with a new cut and cover tunnel Hypothetical options include:

Option A: Depress and cover to 144th Street- a minimum option facilitating development in the 138th-145 Street area

Option B: Depress and cover to 148th Street- an intermediate option facilitating development and waterfront access in the 138-148th Street area

Option C: Depress and cover to 155th Street- go for it, a “Yankee Village” waterfront development. This would be the most ambitious, yet still less expensive to build sooner then later particularly if new buildings are placed alongside in close proximity.

The above are the two likeliest areas as either existing depressed, or such with ample area to transition configuration.

The topography for undergrounding the entire segment between in the area near that punctuated by the Metro North RR and Grand Concourse roadways and extending towards the existing dressed segment near Willis Street would, in contrast, require far more earth removal, leading to consideration of reconstructing the elevated freeway with a friendlier streetscape, with a ramp from the Bruckner to the inbound Willis that passes beneath the service road, hence further reducing vehicular-pedestrian conflict towards the waterfront.

A covered upgraded I-87 would serve the most.

Covered it would not be seen, hear or smelt.

Covered, it would better allow development, as well as improve the quality of life for everyone else in the southern Bronx, as noise travels upward. Footings could allow new buildings to be built partially atop the new underground highway segment, offsetting the added width of the added capacity (which would also serve the added auto population of the not yet as of this writing built new developments.

Covered, its additional capacity would lack the adverse affects of the existing highway configuration in the denser urban environment, and serve to reconnect the area broadly.

With the extra capacity, taking it from 3 to 4 lanes per direction, providing for an even 2+2+4 lane match at the approaches, plus a merge lane between I-95 and the Triborogh/RFK Bridge, the new lower I-87 would better serve as a bypass for the Cross Bronx Expressway, for the industrial areas as Hunts Point, and beyond into Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island, and for accommodating the new residences, starting with those envisioned by the new waterfront planning.

Now it would be most cost effective, while we have the existing industrial swath to work with, facilitating and easing construction as a foundation for the new real estate development to come alongside and even in places atop. Let’s not create another waterfront enclave, something less an extension of the street grid and more of a cul de sac thing, with a chocked current design Major Deegan Expressway remaining as a barrier.

Alas, the imagination-less with regard to highway design lock-step groups are set out to steer the 'debate' by actually keeping a wall along the southwestern Bronx Waterfront- all for the sake of a more quickly developed enclave:

Don't Waste Money On Expanding the Major Deegan

The New York State Department of Transportation wants to widen a section of the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx, a project they estimate could cost up to $343 million by the time construction is complete. This will cut off access to the waterfront for Bronx residents and jam more traffic through the area.

Money for the Deegan could be used within the Bronx in ways that will improve quality of life. The State DOT is considering removing the nearby Sheridan Expressway and replacing it with affordable housing and mixed-use development. But the Sheridan project, which could dramatically improve the quality of life in Bronx neighborhoods pummeled by truck traffic, is only getting $2 million over the next five years.

The Deegan does need to be rehabilitated. But wider ramps and new highway lanes aren't part of that. A true rehabilitation would save the state millions of dollars that could be used for worthier causes.

A State DOT spokesperson has said “We won’t do it [the Deegan] if we hear from the community and elected officials. We’ll take the money elsewhere.” Send this letter and tell State DOT Commissioner Stan Gee and the Deegan project team that this is exactly what they should do.

Interesting how they tie it to the removal of the Sheridan Expressway - a parallel yet far shorter freeway to the east that in conjunction with the highly congested western portion of the Cross Bronx Expressway, serves as a major truck route to Hunts Point.

Given how jammed the western portion of the CBE is, why have not they even studied diverting some of that traffic — paticularly the thousands of Hunts Point bound trucks along an expanded I-87 that would be largely buried in such box tunnels where the traffic emissions would be trapped and filtrated, as done overseas to reduce local air pollution (but somehow never even mentioned by within the U.S. critics of urban highways, nor by any if those citing asthma in the Bronx).

And from a comments board:

· Michael Bongiovi

November 23rd, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Dear Sir or Madame,

Please do not expand the MDE… at this time the Bronx needs the money for other uses (such as improved public transit); and local residents need to be able to reach the renewable waterfront. Please help our Bronx community – not motorists speeding by.
Sincerely, Michael Bongiovi

[Address removed -- Michael, we'll forward this message on to State DOT. -Steven Higashide]

A click on the link for Michael Bongiovi goes to Fordham University "The Jesuit University of New York".

Jesuit Fordham has long been active in the sort of dogmatic anti freeway agitating, as so with their Georgetown University Law Center, and such long allies as the "Committee of 100 on the federal City" and the powerful Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling, with prominent Jesuits as California's Jerry Brown long adhering to 'guilting' people over the widespread ownership and use of automobiles.

And from another comments board:


9:13:50 AM
Nov 9, 2009

The state's 50-year-long effort to destroy the city and have everyone move out to the suburbs continues. No surprises there. What's surprising is that Ruben Diaz, who generally likes the astronomical pollution, congestion, and asthma levels of his district- he vehemently opposed congestion pricing- all of the sudden sides with the residents. Did some real estate developer pay him off as soon as the city rezoned the land for development?

Read more:

In this instance as with others, such was within Washington, D.C., there is some key property with an interest by some politically powerful entity, here with the new developement, perhaps the area around the ramps in question, as opposing ramps is a more extreme position then opposing adding continious freeway capacity.

The area in question has undoubtedly attracted higher up attention recently, as evidiced by this design competition.

Winners of design competition (specific link)
with hand pointing to the I-87/138th Street interchange

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