Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bridging the Divides in Richardson

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
A week or so ago, the City of Richardson announced they had bought the old Continental Inn and had begun demolition of it in anticipation (I presume) of reselling it to a private party for redevelopment. This week, the Richardson City Council reviewed plans for rehabilitation of West Spring Valley Rd, including designs for bridge renovations. This is all good news. After years of talk, this long-neglected part of our city is finally making visible progress towards redevelopment.

A back story to the bridge renovations also contains good news. The city appears to have engaged the neighborhood in the process. The result is a design that's modern and, more important, popular with nearby residents. The process for coming up with that bridge design highlighted a divide between city planners and local residents, a divide that's been bridged (pun fully intended).

After the jump, some of the divides that remain.

A literal divide is Cottonwood Creek itself. How often do you drive over bridges without even being aware that there's a creek down there? Wouldn't it be great if our bridge designs could accentuate the creek itself? Imagine if there were a small park down by the stream bed, with stairways leading down at the ends of the bridge? A small oasis in a busy city. If you think of great cities around the world, there's bound to be such a site used for postcards or movie scenes. I'm dreaming, I know. (By the way, did you know that, just a mile or so south of West Spring Valley Rd, at the intersection of IH 635 and US 75, what's called the High Five freeway interchange, there is such an oasis?)

There's another divide in Richardson, as everywhere else, between drivers and pedestrians. Bridges are often where that divide becomes most apparent, as the roadway often narrows over rivers and creeks. Almost always, it's the sidewalk that gets squeezed. The standard reason given is that it would cost too much money to widen the bridge to accommodate pedestrians. The assumption behind that is that cars cannot be inconvenienced. That may be the popular choice, but it's important to keep in mind that it is a choice, not a necessity.

Another type of divide is farther east on Spring Valley Rd, created by that torrent of traffic called US 75. It's a shame that the city is apparently talking with a developer about building a restaurant row on the site of the old Continental Inn. That's a design out of the 1980s that fails to exploit in any way the DART station that exists just across US 75. City planners really need to put their thinking caps on and come up with creative ways to bridge that divide between west and east Richardson and exploit the potential of the Spring Valley DART station for the benefit of the West Spring Valley corridor.

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