Sunday, June 16, 2019

Charles Simpson on What "Everybody Knows" About the Champlain Parkway Letter


Letter of South End Resident Charles Simpson of May 13, 2019  Representatives of the Pine Street Coalition spoke out at the CCRPC Board of Directors meeting May 15

The Champlain Parkway: To What End?

Dear Andy Montroll (Burlington representative to Chittenden County Regional Planning Board [CRPC]); Charlie Baker, CCRPC Executive Director; and Chapin Spencer, Director, Burlington Public Works:

To put it in a nutshell, the “purpose and need” justifying the construction of the Champlain Parkway is defunct. And the parkway planned to accomplish that “purpose and need” is obsolete. It’s “sell by” date is decades old. Structures from a previous era--the 19th century buildings that embellish our streetscapes--serve a purpose. They remind us of our history in an aesthetically impressive way. Utilitarian infrastructure planned in another era does not.

In the more than 20 years I’ve lived in Burlington, I’ve continually marveled at the C1 section of the Champlain Parkway [“Road to Nowhere” between Pine St. and Home Ave.], a relic of past-planning and past needs that social changes have obviated. The beltway concept that girdled so many cities with obstructions that decimated waterfront areas has been abandoned. Not just abandoned, but undone. Witness the $22 billion Boston spent on removing and replacing the elevated Southeast Expressway running through the heart of the city. Witness New Orleans’ brush with death when planners sought to level the French Quarter to make room for a beltway. Or Manhattan’s hallucinatory quest to scour out Chinatown-Little Italy, SoHo and Midtown to build elevated highways linking New Jersey with Long Island. In every case, the tunnel vision of highway planners made the same mistake: they reduced thriving communities to bits of expendable geography separating one place from another.

It appears that a new generation of highway planners here in Vermont has inherited the same set of blinders, the same narrow focus on transit rather than arrival, on locomotion rather than life-in-place.

In the words of Lenard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” the Champlain Parkway makes no sense. You know it, I’m sure. The public knows it. But for the record, let us count the ways. 1) Less rather than more traffic is what’s desired downtown, with private vehicles replaced with right-sized electric buses and bikes to the extent possible. The old suburb-to-center-city model of urban vitality is dead. 2) The South End has emerged as the city’s center of technological innovation, the arts, food entrepreneurship, and residence. It needs full-spectrum travel corridors that separate bikes. pedestrians, and cars on roadways and paths designed primarily for local use. The Champlain Parkway design throws walkers and bikers together on the same paths, puts bikers in the street in sections, and flouts the very notion of “connectivity” central to our planning mantra by severing the head off of Pine Street and separating it from So. Burlington. 3) If the challenge of our age is anything, it is about preservation of the environment. That means augmenting the drainage corridor of Englesby Brook as a natural setting able to absorb surface water rather than dump effluent into our lake. The CP [Champlain Parkway] would burry it in 200 feet of culvert, accelerating its flow, paving its banks. 4) The future accessibility of our city lies in park-and-ride infrastructure. We already recognize this with our van system to Hill institutions and private businesses. Yet the CP would carve a 150 foot swath through our enterprise zone without replacing parking there, waste up to 6 acres of what would otherwise be job-creating space, all to move cars from Home to Lakeside where it would then dump them as congestion in the center of the Enterprise Zone. Congestion and inadequate concern for safety, one might add due to a rigid fixation on signaled intersections rather than roundabouts. And at a time when the City has trouble maintaining the present street surfaces, it proposes to build two parallel roads, Briggs and the CP 2, mere yards apart and serving the same purpose.

Ah, proponents say, but this is a $43 million dollar [now $47.1 million] stimulus to the city’s construction industry, “free” federal money. Well, it’s not free if we waste 6 acres of our valuable and limited manufacturing area. It’s not free if the locality bares the cost of future maintenance and the promised “post-construction modifications” that the “limited access” design will require to be made. It’s not free if it doesn’t meet current safety standards. “Everybody knows” that Burlington shouldn’t be an adjunct to the construction or real estate industries. Shouldn’t be, but too often, is. Nor is our decision making a matter of febrile excitation, the need to just get something, anything, done. Yet, as we see with the downtown hole-in-the-mall, it often is.

Please, listen to public voices such as those of the Pine Street Coalition and reopen the planning for roads in the South End. The first step would be to delay moving ahead with CP until you have a current environmental impact statement. The second would be to open C1from Home to I-189 to serve the industrial area via a roundabout at Pine. Then rebuild Briggs to serve local needs. That’s it!

Very truly yours,
Charles Simpson, Burlington




No comments:

Post a Comment