The new Texas approach to road planning: include urban design | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The new Texas approach to road planning: include urban design

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge This map, which is interactive on the Dallas Morning News website, shows several CityMAP points of discussion: Can the Woodall Rodgers Freeway's elevated connections to other highways (north of Klyde Warren Park) could lowered? Can Interstate 345 be replaced with a tunneled freeway or boulevard to reconnect Deep Ellup with Downtown Dallas? What about a deck park over the Canyon? What about a high-speed train station to connect Dallas and Houston?
  • This map, which is interactive on the Dallas Morning News website, shows several CityMAP points of discussion: Can the Woodall Rodgers Freeway's elevated connections to other highways (north of Klyde Warren Park) could lowered? Can Interstate 345 be replaced with a tunneled freeway or boulevard to reconnect Deep Ellup with Downtown Dallas? What about a deck park over the Canyon? What about a high-speed train station to connect Dallas and Houston?


Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Director Scott Bennett was not available for an interview this week. (Funny, he was available for Max. Maybe it's because Max has a deeper voice.) So what I did not get to ask him was what he thought of the Texas Department of Transportation's CityMAP project "to develop a set of transportation, urban design, and potential economic development scenarios at locations along the major urban interstate corridors."

Maybe the Texas DOT is just blowing smoke, but CityMAP (the "map" stands for master assessment process), unlike the AHTD's  analysis to improve Interstate 30, "isn't just considering road capacity, population growth and traffic estimates," according to the Dallas Morning News.

Several government officials, civic leaders, urban planners and local developers have been meeting behind closed doors for months on a project called CityMAP. The study is focused on the future of the aging highways that surround downtown. Most of them were built in the post-World War II era of massive freeway construction, dividing long-established neighborhoods and fueling suburban sprawl, white flight and urban decline.

The goal isn’t just to create more deck parks, though more could be in store. There are deeper hopes that updating major infrastructure in the urban core will restitch neighborhoods, spur developments with a dense mix of residences and job centers and give thousands of people the option to ditch their cars altogether.


Here is what the Texas DOT says CityMAP will do:

Improve Regional Mobility and Safety
Include Multi-modal Solutions
Reconnect Urban Form
Connect Neighborhoods
Enhance Economic Development
Establish Pedestrian Connections
Provide Greenspace
Incorporate Sustainability
Create Sense of Place
Promote Quality of Life
Make Policy Recommendations
Deliver Implementation Guidance

Maybe it's all for show. But maybe it's not. The success of Klyde Warren Park, built atop a highway to reconnect Dallas neighborhoods, is influencing CityMAP planning, the Dallas Morning News says, as are plans for a second Dallas Area Rapid Transit route through downtown and planned Dallas-Houston bullet train. 

“Urban design has never been more relevant in this town, as a unifier across the disciplines,” said Brent Brown, design director of the Dallas CityDesign Studio. “We’ve got to make sure we focus on the other components of city building and not just transportation.”

CityMAP is being spearheaded by Texas Transportation Commission Director Victor Vandergriff, who is quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying the plan is putting "more emphasis on how does this work to build a vibrant downtown economic base and lifestyle."

Vandergriff said the civic conversation about Dallas highways is no longer just about getting suburban residents into and out of downtown for work. Downtown itself has become a burgeoning residential neighborhood. And growing choruses have begun asking for job centers closer to the urban core, protected bike lanes and viable sidewalk connectivity.

Wonder if any of AHTD commissioners would be so forward as to take a leadership position in the upcoming Connecting Arkansas Program taxpayer-financed projects and say let's take into account sustainability and quality of life when we plan our roadways?

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