Friday, April 13, 2012

Return of the Dead: Trinity Tollway Edition

Dead development projects have a way of coming back to life and haunting their cities forevermore. Last week, it was a plan for a self-service warehouse on Arapaho Rd in Richardson that the city council dragged out of its grave and plopped down in the middle of a commercial and residential neighborhood just down the street from city hall, where it will haunt Richardson for twenty years.

But the mother of all living dead projects has to be Dallas's plan to lay a freeway down inside the levees of the Trinity River. No matter how many studies reveal that to be a disaster waiting to happen, the powers that be in Dallas keep finding a way to keep breathing life into that zombie development project.

After the jump, a dream that won't die, a dream to counter these nightmares.

Once more, it's Jim Schutze of The Dallas Observer who not only has the story, but puts the right spin on it. Somehow, the Dallas City Council, which just can't let that Trinity River Tollway die, let down its watch long enough to allow a proponent of linear river parks get a spot on the agenda of a city council meeting. Guillermo Penalosa is a highly regarded urban planner and strong proponent of livable, walkable cities. Penalosa favors such things as physically-protected bike grids, not just striped lanes; 20 mph speed limits on neighborhood streets; elimination of right turns on red lights; and redesigned arterials and intersections to make them pedestrian-friendly. Sure enough, Penalosa gave Dallas the hard truth:

Penalosa told our council members, getting rid of cars is the sole solution [to gridlock]: "There is no city in the world the size of Dallas that has solved the issue of mobility through the private car," he said.
Source: Unfair Park.
Obviously, Dallas isn't going to listen to Penalosa. They have too much riding on that zombie roaming the banks of the Trinity.

So, where's the dream I mentioned, the dream to counter the nightmares? Well, Schutze tells us that Penalosa talked about Seoul, Korea and its Cheonggyecheon project, in which a double-decker freeway through downtown Seoul was removed.

Mayor Lee Myung-bak led a successful campaign to have the whole thing torn down and the river restored as a lovely linear park, now a jewel of the city and an engine of redevelopment along its banks.
Source: Unfair Park.
So, even if Dallas turns a deaf ear to livable, walkable cities, Penalosa shows that it can be done, and has been done, elsewhere. My dream of tearing out Central Expressway through Richardson is still alive. Just like the undead zombies of self-service warehouses and Trinity River tollways can't be killed, neither can my dream of a grand central boulevard for Richardson. Oh, I know it's only a dream. But I need dreams to counter the zombie nightmares my sleep is disturbed by otherwise.

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