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News & Notes

kendall split

Kendall Square in Cambridge. Photo (cc) Lucy Orloski.

News & Notes MIT injecting life into Kendall Square [Boston.com]

For all of its success as a center of commerce, Kendall Square in Cambridge remains something of an urban desert, with unused spaces and buildings isolated by wide streets, exaggerating the sense of emptiness.

In discussing the so-called “Knowledge District” in Providence, I am all the time saying I don’t want to see us make the mistake of creating another Kendall Square.

“MIT’s proposed new development has the potential to transform Kendall Square into a vibrant dynamic place where the activity at the ground is as cutting-edge as the science above,” said Cambridge’s city manager, Robert Healy.

We have the opportunity to learn from Kendall Square and get the right mix from the get go, not have to fix it later.

See also: Harvard looks to private partners to jump start development in North Allston. A model for Providence? [GC:PVD]


Experts struggle to express direness of infrastructure problem to a wary public [The Washington Post]

Alaska’s bridge to nowhere is so seared in the minds of voters as the epitome of wasteful federal spending that experts say hardly anyone is willing to pay more to revitalize the nation’s aging highways, bridges and transit systems.

Despite dire warnings that a cancer is eating away the networks that carry people from place to place and goods to market, there is little urgency among the American people or political will in tight times on Capitol Hill to address the issue.


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RIDOT to Temporarily Close Portion of I-95 During Overnight Hours in Pawtucket

Pawtucket Route 95 closure and detour map
Click image to enlarge

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will be temporarily closing portions of I-95 in Pawtucket during the overnight hours. Work will begin Sunday, June 12, 2011 in order to dismantle the bridge beams from the George Street Bridge over I-95. RIDOT is replacing the George Street Bridge as part of the Pawtucket River Bridge Replacement Project.

“To ensure the safety of motorists as well as our construction crews, we need to close I-95 while we perform this operation,” said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. “We appreciate the continued patience of the motoring public as we work to complete this project.”

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News & Notes

Should high-speed rail focus on the northeast? [2nd Ave. Sagas]

During [New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's] testimony last week, the mayor criticized the government’s current investment plan. With projects in Florida, California and the Midwest garnering headlines, the Northeast Corridor has taken a backseat in Washington with only one percent of federal HSR funds coming our way. “That simply just doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “What we need is a new approach to spending transportation money — one that is not dictated by politics, but based on economics.”

This area is in fact the biggest economic hub in the country, and without a solution to the congestion and transportation crisis, the U.S. economy could begin to feel a strain. As Crain’s New York noted, “The northeast corridor is an ideal place to invest in high-speed rail because its 50 million residents produce 20% of the nation’s gross domestic product.”

Could Bess Eaton doughnuts be coming back? [The Day of New London]

The Canadian-based [Tim] Hortons closed the former Bess Eatons around here in November, and most of them remain shuttered, fanning rumors that a revival is brewing.

[Bess Eaton found Paul] Gencarelli [of Westerly] said he understands that a group of investors in town has purchased the rights to the Bess Eaton name, and all the proprietary formulas, etc., and is planning to re-open sometime soon.

Planetizen DVD, “The Story of Sprawl” [Planetizen]

This 2-disc set is an unprecedented visual document of how sprawl happened, told through a series of historic films ranging from 1939’s The City, created by famed planner Lewis Mumford, to No Time For Ugliness from 1965, produced by the American Institute of Architects.

How Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Interventions Can Catalyze City-Wide Renewal [Project for Public Spaces]

Place-by-place interventions are emerging as a powerful way to create new life for an entire district, especially in cities where great economic hardship encourages innovation and entrepreneurship.

Yes, we do need to build more…. [Cap'n Transit Rides Again]

Last week, the Urbanophile posted an article called “Yes, we Do Need to Build More Roads.” He expected that a lot of people wouldn’t like it, and that he would come under a hail of criticism. I didn’t really see this hail materialize, but hey, I didn’t like the piece, and I’m ready to add my criticism.

In sprawling suburb, car drive you [Greater Greater Washington]

While last Wednesday’s hyped “thundersnow” underdelivered on the snow, it certainly didn’t in the chaos department. Storms like these highlight the benefits of compact urban development while underscoring the weaknesses of sprawling suburbia.

Residents of Washington’s outer suburbs struggled Wednesday night with horrendous traffic on the city’s commuter routes. At the same time, many DC residents were enjoying happy hours, snowball fights and otherwise carrying on with their lives. By the time people in the central city were fast asleep, many suburbanites were still fighting to get home.

Shameless Plug: Please feel free to nominate us as Best Blog in the Phoenix’s Best of 2011. You could also ask your friends, your mom, and your cat to nominate us if you like.

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REBOOT: Olneyville Square

reboot-olneyville

Click image to enlarge

REBOOT is an occasional series of posts on GC:PVD where we identify areas of the city that display poor urbanism and propose ways to improve them. Our interventions may be simple and quite easily realized, or they may at times be grand and possibly take years or decades to complete. Either way, we hope they generate interest and discussion.

As the Iway project winds down, one of the next big planned highway projects in Providence is the Route 6/10 interchange in Olneyville.

Much like the Route 195 relocation, the Olneyville project is necessary due to the age of the structure. The bridges and viaducts have reached the end of their useful lives and need to be replaced. Also, RIDOT seeks to complete the missing connection from Route 10 north to Route 6 west.

Unfortunately, the website RIDOT had set up to explain the different alternatives for this project is no longer active. The basic plan would be to move Route 6 slightly south onto the National Lumber and First Student Bus Properties (which they were not happy about). This would allow the existing viaduct to be torn down and provide room to make that missing north/west connection.

The REBOOT proposed here is more to do with reconnecting Olneyville Square to Federal Hill and the West End, and focuses less on Route 6/10 (though they get extreme makeovers in this plan too). My plan does not create the missing north/west connection, but with some more noodling of the plans, I’m sure it could.

The key to this REBOOT, is closing down Olneyville Square to traffic, and turning it into a pedestrian and transit mall, with some substantial rerouting of area streets to move cars about the area, without moving them through the square. Of course anyone familiar with Olneyville Square will know, currently traffic doesn’t really move through the square very well. I think the technical term is clusterf*ck.

So let’s work through some of the pieces of this plan.

Olneyville Square

As stated, the square proper is closed to traffic, allowing only buses (and eventually streetcars), pedestrians, and bicycles. Some of you old timers may be remembering the pedestrian mall on Westminster Street and will blanche at such an idea. The pedestrianization of Westminster Street didn’t work. Correct, it didn’t, but it may have been an idea before it’s time, and the pressures of suburbanization that were emptying Downcity were just too strong. Olneyville is a different beast though.

As of the 2000 Census, over 40% of the households in Olneyville did not own an automobile. Also, only 3.4% of the people living in Olneyville, work in Olneyville. So these carless people who work outside the neighborhood are much heavier transit users than the city as a whole.

TriMet: MAX and Bus on Portland Mall

Portland, Oregon Transit Mall. Photo (cc) TriMet

Currently the buses get stuck in the same horrendous traffic that everyone else gets stuck in. Removing cars from the square allows the buses to move through the area fast to better service that 40% of households that lack access to a car.

Pedestrianizing the square creates more space for retailers to sell their wares on the sidewalk and creates a much more user friendly business district in the square. The fast and frequent bus service will potentially attract people from other parts of the city allowing Olneyville Square to again become the western retail and business anchor for the city.

The Route 6 Tunnel and the Southern Bypass

seattle-freeway-park

Seattle’s Freeway Park, built on a deck over Interstate 5. Photo from the City of Seattle.

In this plan, Route 10 from the south would rise up to the level of Broadway and Westminster and become a surface street. Ramps would allow it to connect to/from Route 6, which would go in a cut below street level which could potentially be covered and developed. This would close the wound that the highway currently creates separating Olneyville Square from the West End.

The existing section of Westminster Street from around about where the Skurvy Dog is to where it currently intersects Broadway would be closed and reserved for bus/bike/ped traffic only. Westminster would be re-routed to a new southerly location and connect to Dike Street, creating a southern bypass of the square to Plainfield Street. A small realignment of Hartford Avenue would allow traffic on this southern bypass to flow directly onto Hartford Avenue, and eventually onto Route 6. All without the current traffic congestion in the square. The realignment of Hartford Avenue requires the taking of a gas station currently at the corner of Hartford and Plainfield.

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News & Notes

Mass. Senate approves bill licensing 3 casinos [ProJo]
The bill includes an ammendment allowing Fall River to develop a casino on 300 acres of land at the northern edge of the city. Here in Rhode Island, Gordon Fox is making noise about calling back the Assembly to override the Governor’s veto of a casino ballot question.

Ximedica to expand HQ by 23,000 sq. ft. [PBN]

US Bicycle Route System begins connecting America [USDOT FastLane Blog]

Watery Future for the City of Light [New York Times]
French President and Paris Mayor at odds over closing 1.2 miles of expressway along the banks of the River Seine.

Readying Streetcar Plans, Cincinnati Considers Reducing Parking Requirements [The TransportPolitic]
“Cincinnati is thinking seriously about how to make its proposed streetcar system a vital element of a growing downtown, not simply a trophy piece to parade around in demonstration of its progress. The city’s Planning Commission has taken a major step in that direction by signaling its support last week to significantly reducing parking requirements in areas within two blocks of future streetcar stops.”

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