News » Commentary

The road not taken



In contradistinction, the relegation of decision-making to a small number of policymakers with homogeneous thought processes and goals risks error.InI

The Ikea Effect in Business states that one who is responsible and emotionally invested in the creation of an idea will be more likely to resist the alteration or rejection of the idea even if evidence begins to accumulate supporting a divergent strategy. Just as the I.M. Pei-inspired Crosstown Expressway construction in the 1960s (along with Urban Renewal’s evisceration of a thousand downtown buildings) was ill-advised, the original boulevard concept, hatched in the late 1990s (when ideas like walkability, placemaking and transit-oriented development were foreign) was destined to adversely affect downtown’s urban fabric and economic development.

To truly feel the impact of the original plan, stand in the middle of the Skydance bridge and gaze at the enormity of, and noise produced by, the 10-lane superhighway which bisects our $120 million Central Park.

Now imagine a six-lane Northwest Expressway running through downtown, 2,000 feet away on the north side of the park.

The Oklahoma City Council will vote on a preferred alternative for the boulevard Tuesday after hiring a national transportation consultant, Stantec, to study options. I, and many others, favor studying Stantec’s early conceptualizations utilizing connections from highways on the east/west to the city’s existing grid network (which has enough overbuilt capacity to handle the traffic of a city several times larger than our own but has north/south traffic on E.K. Gaylord inexplicably traveling through Broadway to reach Interstate 235).

California or Reno on the west and S.W. Third or Reno on the east could still be grand streets connected to the highways, but without the curvilinear portion between Klein and Walker, which disrupts and is anathematic to our powerful (from a transportation planning, transit network and economic development perspective) street grid system. The optimization of north/south commutes such as the connection of E.K. Gaylord and I-235 needs to be studied and incorporated into a comprehensive solution.

Unfortunately, Stantec was restricted to studying options in which the boulevard traveled uninterrupted through the footprint of the old Interstate 40, stating the Federal Highway Administration required such a configuration (the FHWA has denied such a prerequisite exists), which — along with refusing to study computer traffic simulations of grid-based alternatives — has seemingly violated the National Environmental Policy Act’s prohibition on predetermining the outcome.

The empirically proven phenomenon of Induced Demand predicts that if we build a large-capacity expressway through downtown, it will attract the traffic it sets out to alleviate and impede economic development by diverting traffic from downtown streets — which need exposure to support commercial growth — toward an expressway whose most developable frontage will be occupied by the new convention center with additional frontage held for its future expansion.

To elevate fiscal conservatism to a prudent instrument of policymaking, not just political rhetoric, we should question decisions in which we engage in $100 million of elective deficit spending — especially when doing so fails to optimize commuting times and is to the detriment of economic development and placemaking.

Shadid represents Ward 2 on the Oklahoma City Council.

Speaking of...

Readers also liked…

Add a comment