Moving traffic, big-city style. Chicago, for example. | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Moving traffic, big-city style. Chicago, for example.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 10:10 AM

click to enlarge MOVING TRAFFIC DOWNTOWN: Chicage used broad thoroughfares, with good crosswalks for pedstrians and bikes, not a giant concrete structure that would impede movement.
  • MOVING TRAFFIC DOWNTOWN: Chicage used broad thoroughfares, with good crosswalks for pedstrians and bikes, not a giant concrete structure that would impede movement.

More than ever, I think all the noise about the Highway Department plan to expand Interstate 30 to 10 lanes will be wasted effort. Any changes will be at the margins. There's little evidence of a willingness of planners to turn the Rubik's cube over and re-examine the whole idea of moving traffic through and around Little Rock except through the heart of town.

Some comments on the blog last night DID make me more receptive to the city's push to close the LaHarpe/Clinton Avenue intersection and find a different link between Interstate 30 and Highway 10, though not Second Street. Indeed: What if we made the main downtown Interstate gateway 6th or 9th Street, not 2nd? Or Chester from I-630? And what if we then funneled that traffic west to Chester and then to Highway 10 ?. Then we could close La Harpe all the way from Clinton Avenue to State Street and turn that now grim passageway into an expanded park and open the backs of all the public buildings to the river, as many great cities have done (and we're doing with Robinson Center.)

Well, never mind that daydream.

The photo above, from UALR engineering prof Nickolas Jovanovic is a striking illustration of how one great city, Chicago, moves vast amounts of traffic through downtown — and through  some gorgeous park and cultural facilities — by means other than freeway. He writes:

Here's a great photo of downtown Chicago's Grant Park. At the left edge of the park is Michigan Avenue. At the right edge is Lake Shore Drive. In the middle is Columbus Drive. These streets, especially, Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, carry large daily traffic volumes. However, they also have stop lights and pedestrian/bicycle crosswalks. For example, pedestrians and bicycles can cross Lake Shore Drive at Buckingham Fountain and many other crosswalks to get to Lake Michigan and the pedestrian/bicycle trails that parallel the lake.

This is how great cities move large amounts of traffic while balancing the needs of business, pedestrians, bicyclists, commuters, city residents, tourists, etc. Lake Shore Drive is Illinois State Highway 41, not an Interstate highway. Can I-440 be redesignated I-30 and the current I-30 be redesignated as Arkansas State Highway 65? Then state highway 65 could go through downtown LR and NLR like Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, at grade, with stop lights and crosswalks.

BTW, I have lived across from the southwest corner of Grant Park and I have lived across from the north edge of Grant Park. So, I've spent a lot of time walking around in downtown Chicago. This kind of streetscape would make much more sense for downtown Little Rock than an Interstate highway. Boulevards (i.e., streets with wider-than-normal center medians) would be even nicer.

Also BTW, for two summers, I commuted from downtown Chicago to Argonne National Laboratory, which is 25 miles southwest of downtown. I did a "reverse commute" by living in downtown, so that I was driving out when the morning rush hour was heading in, and I was driving in when the evening rush hour was heading out. So, I've also had plenty of experience driving in downtown Chicago. However, I had no need for a car after work or on weekends because I could get wherever I wanted via foot, bus, El, subway, or commuter rail. It was very enjoyable.

Using Lake Shore Drive in Chicago as a model could also solve the LaHarpe problem because there would no longer be a high-speed freeway offramp dumping directly into a single downtown intersection. Instead, many intersections would split the traffic and diffuse it into different areas of downtown, just like the cross streets in Grant Park that lead to the Loop, the central financial district in downtown Chicago

Jovanovic is among many who've emerged with alternate viewpoints and different ideas in the suddenly lively debate about moving traffic and the impact of freeways on cities (nearly all bad). The Highway Department (I no longer include transportation from its official name because it evinces little interest in other forms of transportation) seems unlikely to be moved much. But the conversation  is important. Perhaps I'll be surprised.

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