Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Aetna Viaduct

I went to a meeting this morning sponsored by the HUB of Hartford about putting I-84 underground, far away, or into non-existence. The keynote speaker was the former Mayor of Milwaukee, John Norquist. I remarked to my Jordan if he was one of the Socialist Mayors mentioned by Alice Cooper in Wayne's World. We laughed, but then I checked his Wikipedia entry and it turned out that he is.

Anyway, Mayor Norquist showed some pictures of crappy cities with highways running through them and then he showed the ones that had fixed their problems with highways and how cool they looked now. They were usual suspects of cities that are cool: Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. One thing he stressed, and this was to a business crowd, was that since these highways are generally blocking water or some other point of interest that can increase real estate values, removing elevated highways can be a boon for the economy because of the increased opportunities for creating new & fancy real estate.

There was some talk about how ridding the country of congestion has led to the destruction of its cities and he did these comparisons of post-war American cities and post-war German & Czech cities -- showing that the loser of WWII had better cities now than the winner. There was a quote from the bible, too.

I'll admit that the talk was encouraging and I think it'd be a cool thing for Hartford to bury I-84 (and maybe even I-91), but there weren't enough specifics or $ amounts to see exactly how this would be executed. HUB of Hartford does have an RFP out to get someone to study the various ways to address the Aetna viaduct and perhaps that'll lead to something good.

Here's a picture of what I'm talking about:


chillwill said...

i went to the tue night meeting and felt as though this idea could happen. i am glad people are talking about it. i think rerouting it and turning the current road into a ground level boulevard with bike path is the best idea i can think of. Imagine a bike path from East Hartford, through the city, past Bushnell park, through the heart of West Hartford, past the west farms area and on into farmington and new britain! niiice! we need a good east/west corridor.

one thing i didn't like was all the talk about city roads with only two lanes and parking on both sides. there was no mention of bike lanes or how much of a waste of space a street parking spot can be. there's a mix of need of parking spaces (which serve only one car for hours at a time) versus a bike lane or widened sidewalk (which would serve dozens or hundreds of people every hour).

on a sadder note, the fox61 TV story sensationalizes it so much, they made it sound like a crackhead idea.

hmmm......has a critical mass ride ever taken over an interstate!?!?? (now, that's a crackhead idea)

Brendan said...

I gotta admit, his delivery was sort of, uh, relaxed. Hopefully what comes in through the RFP sounds more boring so that it's easier to take seriously.

None the less, I liked Norquist's unshaved/half asleep style. That's probably because I share the style.

Karma said...

I would love this issue to come to fruition but I fear the reality. The general public in this state is highly hostile towards public transportation and especially the process of funding it. Read the comments posted to any Courant article about Hartford and half the populace wants to bulldoze the city itself! I also worry about the willingness of white collar Hartford to take down the only barrier "protecting" them from the North End. Perez is no Progressive and would never let something like this fly, however I-84 through Hartford is a nightmare and the issue will have to be addressed in some capacity at some point. Lets hope open minds prevail and at least consider plans such as this.

On the issue of street design including one lane and a lane of traffic this is often the ideal. One lane of flow slows down traffic and the cars provide a barrier for cyclists. The key, however, is that there are separate bike lanes integrated on the sidewalk side separated from road traffic by the parked cars. A difficult prospect considering the street width that would be necessary, yet not impossible in some areas.

Brendan said...

he actually spoke about street parking and he favors it over surface parking lots. it slows traffic, which he sees as a good things, and gives the perception of a place being populated.

chillwill said...

brendan, yeah dude, i know he spoke about street parking, that was my point! i was just saying he didn't say anything about how those parking spaces can also be considered a poor use of the space. i disgree with him. he was all about cars, cars, cars!!!

i am more concerned with bikers being safe than the perception of the area being populated. he kinda lost my support on all that as he ignored bike lanes and a place for them. no metion at all if i remember right.

there's gotta be a way to slow traffic and not have a busy road set up to door and kill a cyclist.

and yeah, i liked the sleepy/half shaved look too! if only he had a cool 'stache!

Brendan said...

he said a little bit about multi-modal stuff, but leaving as just multi-modal suggests buses and trains, but probably not bikes.

I assume that those HUB of Hartford people are going to look at the inclusion of bicycles and pedestrians in any plan because Bob Painter is a big part of it.

Karma said...

Of course we would all prefer to have an Amsterdam-esque bike infrastructure but I think we have to keep in mind the fact that traffic flow (for cars) will be the priority for most any panel discussing this issue at a government level. Creating street parking in lieu of surface lots and creating a feeling of a 'lived in' city are two changes that Hartford desperately needs for many reasons. Its extremely important to have bike-specific travel lanes in these systems but first things first. If that is the central aspect of this type of plan it will lose the attention of most people. Push the plan and then make the inroads to include bikes. At the worst we end up with slower traffic in which bikers can filter into and take the lane. Beats the status quo.

chillwill said...

karma, i am not sure i think it beats the status quo. we already have lots of two traffic lane streets with parking on both sides and it ain't fun dodging doors to my right, moving cars to my left and an assortment of glass and rock under me! and i am talking about roads with bike lanes!

it would be better if we could have the Amsterdam-esque respect from drivers. did you read that article in Spokes about being over there? conversely, you got that idiot jeff H talking about running bikes off the road should they veer "to the left side of that white line".

how can we change that culture here? hatrford ain't that bad. its super hostile in NYC. in key west its all good, cars wait and respect bikers. same in quebec city.

hmmm...maybe its connected to the pace of life? and priorities of life? inwhich case, i don't see that changing too much around here.

Brendan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan said...

I agree with karma about the lived-on aspect, but for another reason, too.

there's not really any parking on farmington ave and as a resident of a west end, that erases a lot of parking for residents in the neighborhood. so, when people are at tisane or the half door, there's nowhere for the residents to park if they get home after 7. if you could park on farmington, that'd ease a lot of that. or, license & inspections could adequately enforce housing issues in the west end so that there aren't more people living in buildings/three families than there are parking spaces.