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August 09, 2007



I didn't attend the charettes, but I thought the SDAT presentation hit some major issues that came from earlier brainstorming sessions.

I'm not sure what more you can want from such a presentation. You can't drill down into detail about rapid transit, multimodal transit, RFPs and streetscape modifications without having in depth knowledge of the law and policy.

For example, Western and Madison Avenues are also US Highways -- there may be complex considerations in state/federal transportation law that would limit the changes that you could make. The SDAT people aren't in a position to know that.

Also, some things the people seemed to want are wishful thinking. Parking structures are ugly, but CSEA & PEF will fight to the death over a reduction in state employee parking without major concessions. Concessions are expensive, and ripping out parking after spending millions on building it is unlikely to be popular with the state.

Same thing with 787. Yes, it's ugly, but it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to remove it and replace the river crossings that it's going to serve. Also, any 787 replacement would no longer be an interstate, which means that the city, county or state would need to maintain it. We're probably going to be living with 787 for 30-50 years. (If they said that to the crowd in that room, people would have flipped out and shut out everything else)

They touched upon many issues in a productive way that could set a tone for the whole process -- particularly the parts about establishing partnerships with state and institutional stakeholders.

Miriam Axel-Lute

Yes, certainly they couldn't give a detailed blueprint in an hour and a half. I just wanted a little more detail, as was given for other items, enough to really envision what they meant. But I realize I'm holding them to very high standards. I agree that overall they were productive and set a good tone.


A quick comment about 787.
Yes, it would cost hundreds of millions to replace it and the river crossings that connect to it. That said, it WILL cost huge sums to maintain it as is and both crossings will need major updating, perhaps replacement in the coming decades. (I seem to recall an article in the TU within the last year or so talking about DOT's long range plan for the Patroon Island bridge that included possible replacement.) Add to that the fact that the MN bridge that collapsed was of a similar design and that could add impetus to doing something major with the PI Bridge. If either or both of the bridges will need major updating in the next couple of decades and we don't take the opportunity to rethink the whole thing, we will have missed our one chance in a hundred years.
It also points out how vitally important it is to really do some hard thinking and serious planning when building infrastructure or major public projects. These investments are with us for generations and shape the destiny of our built environment.
Maybe instead of simple saying "let's get rid of 787, we should start to brainstorm about what we'd replace it with. I'll start by saying we should NOT bury it and make a park! It could and should be a broad boulevard with grade level crossings, bike and pedestrian access and some really great appartments and condos. It should have space for the streetcar system...oh wait, we don't have a streetcar system...

Miriam Axel-Lute


On 787: I completely agree on all points.

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