Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Are Roads For?

What are roads for? The Dallas Morning News's Michael Lindenberger prompts that question in a Transportation blog item that should be required reading for every urban planner in Richardson. (Is there such a job?)

Lindenberger's subject is the plan to tear down the S.M. Wright freeway in southern Dallas and build a six-lane parkway in its place. Some local residents want the city to go even further and narrow that road to four lanes. That would enable wonderful things:
Use the left over land to provide incentives to small business, community non-profits, shops and more to be built along the new road.
The movement is part of a bigger trend, and one that has taken hold in some corners of Dallas too. The idea challenges the prevailing wisdom in Dallas -- readily apparent in this project -- that traffic relief is the first and best reason for building roads. Slow the traffic down, some argue, and you give the neighborhood a chance to breathe.
After the jump, what neighborhood in Richardson needs that "chance to breathe?"

Should we tear out Central Expressway and replace it with a grand boulevard, too? That's just a quixotic dream of mine. Fun to dream about maybe, but way too ambitious to be practical.

But Main Street through old downtown is a whole different story. Richardson is planning for redevelopment of Main Street / Central Expressway Corridor. What we do with Main Street is the most important decision in that plan. The answer will determine if Richardson is serious about resuscitating the heart of our city. Rebuild Main Street in a way that's welcoming to diners and shoppers and strollers and you'll breathe life back into downtown. Rebuild Main Street to move more vehicles through that downtown choke point and you'll suck the life out of downtown. You can't have it both ways. (Spoiler alert: I'm not in favor of sucking the life out of anywhere.)

It all comes down to Lindenberger's question. What's a road for?
Do you build a road to help resurrect a neighborhood? Or to make it easier for people who live elsewhere to get from one place to another?
If you care about Richardson's old downtown, read Lindenberger's article. It just might cause you to think of road projects in a new light.

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