Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

London Mayor proposes roadway tunnels to divert surface motor vehicle traffic and congestion

Central Artery before and after, Boston.  

According to the Guardian ("Boris Johnson unveils road tunnel plans to ease London congestion"). From the article:
“Around eight of every 10 journeys in London are made using our roads – whether by car, taxi, motorbike, bus, cycle, foot or freight – which is why it is vital that we think big. We must deliver long-term solutions that will not just make the most of the space we have for road users but bring environmental and amenity improvemhistents to local areas.” ...

He added: “By pushing forward strategic initiatives we are outlining today, we will lay the foundation for the next wave of improvements to everyone’s experience of the road network across the city.”

The major road tunnels are based on the strategies pursued in Stockholm and Boston, although the latter’s “Big Dig” proved difficult, costly and controversial. The success of flyunders in transforming parts of cities such as Madrid, where its inner ring road was partially buried, may make the smaller projects more viable. TfL believes a 1.3km tunnel at Barking could create a new neighbourhood of 5,000 homes in a blighted area, and that either tolls or the housing could make the project pay for itself.
Who knew that there is the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association?

-- "Urban Road Tunnels," ITA

I mention this because I have suggested this in the North Capitol-Blair Road corridor in DC, and support it for through traffic on New York Avenue (the equivalent of a connection between I-95 through DC to Virginia)--this is not my idea originally, it was suggested in the New York Avenue Transportation Study about ten years ago. 16th Street NW would be another corridor where this is worth considering.

The justification is that the negative impacts on abutting neighborhoods are significant and worthy of mitigation.  The underground trip would be faster and therefore should be worthwhile for users, thereby justifying toll charges for the privilege.  See "Tunnelized road projects for DC and the Carmel Tunnel, Haifa, Israel example--tolls."

I didn't know about the Madrid example. Marseille removed a highway along the waterfront by shifting it to an underused rail tunnel. Thessaloniki built a tunnel around its historic waterfront to divert surface/through traffic and create a more pedestrian-centric environment along the waterfront.

In Long Beach, an undergrounded rail tunnel, the Alameda Corridor, was built to facilitate freight movement between the port and the freight railway system.

It could have been interesting to have also built a tunnel for truck traffic between the port and the highway system, since the road system is inundated with truck traffic generated by the port.

Miami is creating such a facility, the N.W. 25th Street Viaduct Project, between the Miami Airport's cargo hub and the local freeway system (pictured at left).*

Of course, Boston's "Big Dig" or Central Artery Freeway is another example ("10 years later, did the Big Dig deliver?," Boston Globe) although it is not tolled.

Note that the tunnel underpasses in various places in the city, such as at Massachusetts Avenue and Thomas Circle for the roadway system and on North Capitol Street between M Street and Rhode Island Avenue, were early attempts to facilitate traffic movement but without providing simultaneous improvements in conditions for neighborhoods and the urban street fabric.

Capitol Crossing, before.  

The Capitol Crossing development, which will deck over of the I-395 freeway between Masachusetts Avenue and D Street NE is an example of decking over an existing facility, without creating a new tunnel.

Reknitting the street grid in Washington by decking over more of I-395.


* Separately, I wonder if the Long Bridge reconstruction project--the bridge carries passenger railroad, freight railroad, and subway trains over the Potomac River between Southwest DC and Arlington County--should add lanes for a bi-directional dedicated busway.

It could serve National Airport when the subway is closed as well as tour bus traffic and other bus traffic to and from DC.

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At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you are going to have freeways for cars in a large city this is the way to go- but my beef with the Big Dig is that they put too many monster roads up on top instead of what is being done here in DC which is to actually rebuild the city that had been taken out in the first place. Boston is a world better than before the BD but they could have done an even better job using the new freed up space.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Take advantage of the opportunity to bury existing railway corridor, bring log covered waterways back to the surface and create vast new park corridors, as I have long suggested via my Grand Arc proposal for Washington, D.C.

Do be sure to write out about misplaced real estate development placed too close to such corridors in in other wrong places as "The Hampshires" townhouses that are essentially demolition specials, as well as poorly designed projects as the Capitol Cross project that combines the righteous idea of covering the Center Leg with the foolishness of wasting up to 50% of its capacity, thus necessitating a new pair of parallel cut and cover tunnelways.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Also, any tunneled extension from the northern end of the Center Leg should arc beneath the intersection of New Jersey Ave and N Street rather than the 1990s-early 200s plan instead under 4th and New York Avenue. The former would take advantage of the space beneath the recreation field of Dunbar HS and be easier to construct, and provide far superior geometry for the transition to the northeast.

Thankfully the more recent Dunbar HS building replacement does not conflict with doing that.

Such could then continue as a duel stacked tunnel beneath O Street before turning to join the railroad corridors.

A tunnel beneath New York Avenue would be better for a continuation of a cross-town I-66 Tunnel that from Mt Vernon Square to Washington Circle run beneath K Street- the idea favored by opponents to the 1950s plan for a new swath along Florida Avenue and U Street.

To the east of the railroad, the cut and cover tunnel should then run alongside New York Avenue with a box containing highway and a new WMATA rail subway, beneath a linear park and new development with a deck atop the rail chasm.

The authorities subverted the idea of extending the tunnel east by only considering the pricier, more disruptive and less profitable idea of placing it directly beneath New York Avenue.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

the problem with tunneling the Metropolitan Branch is that it isn't particularly wide. So the amount of land generated would be minimal. As a park or bike trail, it wouldn't be worth the expense.

cf. the width of the High Line.

However, it could be worth doing it it were possible to double but probably triple stack tunnels for railroad and subway transit.

But it would cost many billions, and the benefit would likely not be greater than the cost.

Selective tunnels for roads could have much greater social and economic benefit.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

tunneling New York Avenue is a different issue. Normally, I'd say not to do it with transit, since there is no compelling need to move the existing trackage just for the hell of it.

I don't know exactly how the track is threaded, but it seems that from New Carrollton you can figure out how to get to Annapolis, and from New Carrollton to DC there is no need to tunnel.

Just do a London Overground in terms of organizing the service, as I outline in past posts.

2. The I-66 idea is interesting but I don't think serves much purpose. But you could build it in conjunction with the proposed separated blue/silver line that I have written about in the past. Dumping traffic on city streets isn't something that makes sense.

3. But in conjunction with I-66, I've suggested a cut and cover tunnel for an RER type line out of Union Station (a continuation of Penn Line) which would be electrified.

4. I don't know enough about electrification technology to figure out how to make an Annapolis to DC rail line electrified rather than diesel. Maybe it's just as easy to put it underground to be able to electrify it.

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

When i was going to Madrid the construction for the tunnel was just starting. A real mess, and it made getting to the in laws hard.

Probably the best analogy in the various plans in DC to bridge/tunnel over E st and the area around 66 and the Kennedy Center.

(Again, we have the tunnel machines but the shadow government only wants to use them for sewage, not for transportation. Different funding buckets)

Or to blow the willinger's mind, build a tunnel under K, run it under georgetown (and take down whitehurst), go under the potomac and then up Spout run).

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

The B&O Metro Branch corridor would be simultaneously widened, to the degree that it would still fit, in Brookland between the mainline of CUA buildings, and the Turkey Thicket neighborhood. That would likewise avoid Brooks Mansion, and would displace relatively few dwellings, less than the 34 of the cir 1970 version of the 1996 North Central Freeway. However my version would pace southbound tunnel box carriageways stacked, immediately west of the RR, directly beneath John McCormack Drive, and unstacking to the south in the lightly developed industrial area along 8th Street NE, with a southbound portal immediately past Franklin Street thus affording THE best vista perhaps anywhere along the Interstate Highway System.

The displacement besides the 34 or so targeted by the 1966-70 plan would be confined to the foolishly misplaced new buildings such as the 2 Arts Space buildings nearest to the RR.

To the north, recently recklessly located buildings as the Elevation 314 project would be demolished, as they should as safety hazards as residential wood framed buildings within a footprint of a potential freight rail derailment from a set of ELEVATED tracks, as would the Cedar Crossing and a corner of the adjacent project. The late 1990s Takoma Co-Housing project is thankfully just outside the footprint. To the north, the historic Cady Lee mansion and the row of houses along Takoma Avenue would all be avoided; however the foolishly placed mid 1960s Montgomery Gardens apartment complex would be at least partially demolished.

For the connection to the PEPCO corridor, a depressed, part or all covered link along the north side of New Hampshire Avenue would displace 27 1940s houses just inside D.C., strip retail just inside Maryland, and of course a good chunk of that recent demo special of "The Hampshires" which was a completely irresponsible development, before swinging across New Hampshire Avenue to run via the PEPCO corridor to the I-95 stubbs at the Capital Beltway. To address the challenging topography, I would have NH Avenue upon a new bridge with I-95 passing through its southern abutment.

New retail and housing could then be constructed in a lid atop the NHA I-95 segment, rather than keeping it as an open trench. I would do the same in spots to the north along the PEPCO corridor, including a lid with such at University Avenue.

The benefits would be immense. Not simply for achieving a full northern I-95 link plus one towards I-270 and a cut and cover tunnel beneath Georgia Avenue as an alternative to the old Northern Parkway proposal. But as well with the creation of a vast new northern radial park - a northern Mall in essence - for Washington D.C. extending down to the rear of Union Station- already the existing end-cap. And furthermore, as I see it, with a resurfacing of the long buried Tiber Creek.

New high speed tolling would make this only even more practical.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

"Or to blow the willinger's mind, build a tunnel under K, run it under georgetown (and take down whitehurst), go under the potomac and then up Spout run)."

Something akin to that was briefly proposed by the Committee of 100 cir 1968.

A variant of that would be to build a 3 Sisters Bridge, but rather than the mess of spaghetti for its approaches, do those via a tunnel that makes the elevation change arcing beneath the recreation field of Georgetown University.

The existing I-66 terminus near the Watergate ought to be reconstructed as an underground semi-Orb beneath a new pedestrian park overlook.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

The New York Avenue corridor to the east of the B&O RR is a fantastic canvas for redevelopment extending to and past Montana Avenue, with downtown DC-Paris scaled buildings along its northern side with the new freeway and WMATA line in tunnel box. there is a great deal of space that could be worked with by digging out the space immediately north of the Avenue, and then extending a deck atop the RR chasm.

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

" I have suggested this in the North Capitol-Blair Road corridor in DC, and support it for through traffic on New York Avenue (the equivalent of a connection between I-95 through DC to Virginia)--this is not my idea originally, it was suggested in the New York Avenue Transportation Study about ten years ago."

That study only addressed a tunnel beneath New York Avenue extending from existing I-395 Center Leg; it said nothing about the northern part of North Capital Street, nor Blair Road, etc.

What would be the locations of your proposal's southern and northern portals? Presumably you would have it start on NCS in the vicinity of New Hampshire Avenue, but how far would it go? Georgia Avenue? 16th Street? The Capital Beltway? Would not a portion of it run along the B&O, and how would you thread it through Takoma DC and SS MD?

Should not any coverage of real estate development in say the Takoma Station area address the need to preserve a clear path for such a tunnel?

You ought to study this more and present a drawing.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I can't draw.

But my general idea for it would be that the southern portal would be Downtown, and the northern portal would be Georgia Ave. but with some entry and exit points here and there. But maybe it could make sense for it to continue beyond Georgia Ave. although not at DC's expense.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Where downtown?

Would it be directly connected to the Center Leg?

If so, would it first run beneath NYA?

Or would it go in a larger arc beneath the intersection of NJA and N Street to a tunnel beneath O Street?

Would it then turn north via North Capital Street, with a curved transition that would ...?

Or would it instead go up the B&O?

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Rather than drawing lines on a map, answering these questions requires research.

The basic question has to do with "interdicting" motor vehicle traffic that has deleterious impact on the adjoining neighborhoods, creating tunnels to divert the traffic, although there would still be surface streets, they wouldn't be removed.

So to divert the traffic best you need to know where it comes from. I'd recommend doing traffic studies, LPR to determine where the traffic comes from and goes to.

And make the determinations thusly. E.g., maybe it's not either/or.

But yes, all the way from the city/MD line on NY Ave. to the Center Leg towards Virginia.

I've mentioned 16th St. and Blair Road/North Capitol as also needing such treatments.

WRT New Hampshire Ave., instead of a tunnel I recommend a green line spur from Fort Totten. (Which presupposes a separated yellow line up Georgia Ave.)

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I hadn't thought of these as "Big Dig" like initiatives, but I guess they would be.

At the very least NY Ave. + North Capitol/Blair.

2. I wonder what would have been the reaction if the original highway program was less ambitious e.g., the various beltways within the city, and focused not on surface freeways but tunnels?

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

The response to the idea of a B&O Route was relatively non controversial when announced in late 1962 and was the result of talks over the preceding two years. The subsequent 1964 bastardized planning with the severe route deviations in Brookland and Takoma Park is what generated the controversy.

The proposed planning during the JFK Administration was more geared to tunnels, and the subsequent K Street Tunnel plan was what was promoted by opponents to the earlier planning seen in the 1955 Inner Loop report.

A curved tunnel transition from NYA to NCS would cut into that interesting corner of Victorian townhouses to the northwest of that intersection, hence I favor the O Street option via a tunnel arcing under the Dunbar field, then turning northerly along the B&O. Also that would allow a serious cut and cover reconstruction of that corridor for a new linear park.

O Street option:

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Regarding North Capitol Street, I recall a Truxton Circle plan via DDOT to create a continuous box tunnel freeway essentially connecting the underpass segments at New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue. It lacked any direct connection into I-395, but would have some local utility nonetheless.

I have contemplated my O Street Tunnel passing a level below to accommodate such a local traffic tunnel.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Please see this link, to see some of the ideas for a promenade covered box tunnel for a portion of the Inner Belt in JFK's hometown area of Boston.

I suspect he was thinking along these lines, and may have been involved with something as this for the B&O along the CUA-Brookland area for a report that was supposed to be released in 1963 but which was never released.

The 1964 North Central Freeway report was a travesty that I suspect was planning done during the late 1950s for the conventional style of urban freeway planning that almost no one wanted.


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