Friday, March 23, 2007

The North-South Depressway . . .

Consultants have decided that lowering the next-generation North-South Arterial to pass beneath some local streets is the best option to lessen congestion and improve safety in Utica.

A reader wrote in and called this an example of "bait-and switch" pointing out that the arterial will be elevated at Court Street (which will pass underneath much like Columbia Street already does). "Call it what it is---- an ELEVATED, WALLED, alternative." The reader also noted that the view of the Boilermaker Finish Line Arch looking down Court Street will be cut off, and fears that it would harm growth in the Varick Street area. I have to agree.

Funny, in the pretty pictures presented of what the neighborhoods might look like with the "depressed" highway option, the consultants did not publish a picture of what Court Street would look like. Maybe THAT would be too "depressing." Frankly, looking at where they want to put the bike way, I could not imagine biking along the edge of and looking down at a depressed highway to be a pleasant ride. Can't you just see all the trash and litter that will blow in there?

My reader suggests that this might be "bait-and-switch" in another sense: that the elevated highway over Court Street was always NYSDOT's plan from the very beginning (i.e., the 60s) which West Uticans thwarted, and that they will now build this portion and conveniently run out of money and never do the rest. . . . With the way government runs around here, it sure sounds plausible, doesn't it?

Another option that was considered is the multi-way boulevard which would have a traffic circle at Court Street that would break the speed of vehicles coming from the north into a stretch of grade-level crossings.

I like this option as depicted on the website with "option 2" for the Court St. intersection (though the "option 1" conventional intersection with wide park-like median is nice too). First, it gives Utica the opportunity of turning Court Street back into a first class boulevard. Second, with the landscaping proposed, it could spur the beautification and eventual restoration of West Utica -- at least this blighted part of it. Third, it would be consistent with what other cities are now doing: abandoning elevated highways in favor of boulevards. (San Francisco got rid of its Embarcadero Fwy., NYC got rid of the West Side Hwy, Washington DC abandoned plans for a thru city highway and routed I-95 around the city, Buffalo is planning on eliminating its Skyway . . . Even Syracuse is contemplating eliminating the Rt 81 wall through downtown. We don't have to be 50 years behind the times.) Fourth, it is a less costly alternative and might even be easier to maintain. And Fifth, Utica would stop being treated as a conduit to New Hartford.

If the planners want to avoid Utica traffic, let them build a beltway through the suburbs.

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