I Support Alternative D – My Comments to ODOT

The following text is what I submitted to ODOT et al (Mayor, Councilman, FHWA). I didn’t spent as much time on the comments as I would have liked, but hopefully my points get through.

Thank you for accepting my comments regarding the proposed Crosstown Boulevard. I fully support Alternate D, as I believe it will most adequately support future development in downtown Oklahoma City. Alternate C is a minimally acceptable option, but in its current form is extremely limiting in its development potential and in promoting or encouraging multi-modal use. Alternatives A and B should not receive any consideration from ODOT, The City of Oklahoma City or FHWA as they do not promote development or multi-modal use.

I have the following comments about the process and the methods by which ODOT appears to support Alternative C:

First, the public comment period for this Alternative analysis is too short. Two weeks is too short to garner appropriate input on such an important piece of Oklahoma City’s future.

Second, the only public meeting for the Alternative analysis was ill-timed during a Wednesday evening on which many people attend churches and the Thunder were having a playoff game. Additionally, this meeting was held as an open house, with no information provided prior to the meeting for people to become educated to ask questions.

Third, no information was provided publicly regarding traffic studies and other engineering and planning input into the final four Alternatives. People that were able to attend the open house (see point above) were able to ask such questions, but those who could not attend were not able to. The only information I’ve seen was provided via The Oklahoman.

I have the following comments about the ranking system and choice of preferred Alternative:

First, the scoring asserts that Alternative D does not meet local planning preferences but that Alternative C does fully. This is a false assumption that should have been vetted through Oklahoma City’s Planning Department and possibly the Planning Commission and City Council. The Core to Shore plan is a guiding document and is not intended to be set in stone, so to speak. It contains conceptual renderings that are intended to show the spirit of the City’s goals. Furthermore, one of the goals of the plan was to increase development potential in this area once I-40 was moved. Alternatives A, B and C do NOT meet this goal. The only Alternative that fully meets this is Alternative D, because it leaves the most developable land free.

Second, the traffic counts, provided only through the media, indicate that initially ODOT projected 58,000 vehicles per day the day it would open, and then 94,000 vehicles per day by 2040. The Oklahoman reports that ODOT now suggests 13,000 vehicles per day the day it would open and then 27,850 vehicles per day in 2040? If these lower projections are accurate, it fully reinforces that the existing grid pattern can easily handle the vehicle load. Per FHWA and other studies, an appropriately designed three lane (1 lane of travel each direction with center turn lane) can handle upwards of 20,000 vehicles per day (some even reporting 24,000 vehicles per day works efficiently). The area around the old Crosstown (the proposed Crosstown Boulevard area) can easily absorb these vehicle counts.

Third, the assumption that Oklahoma City needs a through-boulevard is an incorrect assumption even from a traffic engineering standpoint. The point of this boulevard (Alternative D, the grid) should be the delivery of people to and from downtown, rather than that of creating a thoroughfare. Oklahoma City does not need an I-40 bypass through downtown/Core to Shore; if necessary, the grid could easily supply this need.

Finally, given whatever Alternative is chosen, it should be designed to the standards of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), not to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards (aka the Green Book). NACTO’s standards, known as the Urban Street Design Guide, have been adopted by numerous city, county and even state bodies across the United States and are the most appropriate standards for street design in an urban area.

In summary, I believe Alternative D will provide the City and State with the largest return on its investment in the long term. Alternative D will leave the most developable land and allow the streets to be built, or rebuilt, to much more multi-modal standards. The southern downtown/Core to Shore area needs to be walkable, bike-able and transit-friendly, on top of allowing vehicular access.

Thank you for taking the time to accept my public comments.

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OKC’s Architecture Community

I’d like to ask a serious question of anyone and everyone involved in development in OKC, especially related to all of the great things happening in the urban core.

Why do many of the developers end up choosing out-of-town architects for their developments? I pose the same question for interior design projects, especially restaurants, and for landscape architecture.

I hear that East Bricktown and the Maywood Apartments both are using GTF (Gailer : Tolson : French) from Bedford, Texas. The Level (and other potential projects) was done by a firm AHMM in London (granted, the architect is originally from OKC). The Hill at Bricktown was originally done by a Texas architect, if I recall correctly. Yes, I know that some work has been done locally, mainly by TAP or Brian Fitzsimmons, but that belies the fact that many of the larger recent developments have used out-of-town firms.

So, with that, I leave this poll. Please pass it take it, comment, and forward around! Feel free to tell me I’m grasping at straws, too, if you think that.

NOTE: The poll allows multiple answers (updated post – 13 June 2103).

Planning, Engineering and IQC’s Placemaking Conference

I am sad to be missing the 2013 Placemaking Conference hosted by the OU Institute for Quality Communities. Not only are the speakers a hit list of big-name placemaking voices, but it also would have been a great opportunity to see friends and acquaintances that are all interested in this area. Sadly, other work calls and I cannot be there.

I actually feel more unfortunate about missing friends and acquaintances than I do missing the speakers. I’ve been studying and living this information for more than 10 years. It started in 2001 when I went to the Netherlands with my main civil engineer professor and geography professor. They still do this, by the way. I continued right after undergrad at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. I studied for 2 years under some fantastic minds in the realm of urban theory, planning theory and history, and environmental planning. The things people are listening to today were already coming to the surface in 2003-2005. And, since I’m so inherently interested in these topics, I’ve tried to stay as up-to-date as possible with them. Therefore, I think today is more important for other people than it is for me. Kudos to Blair and others for putting this together. I hope people realize how good they’ve got it today.

When I moved to Oklahoma City in 2005, the lack of knowledge about placemaking was astonishing. Some planners knew about it, but I probably couldn’t name a single engineer that knew about it. Unfortunately, I would be hard pressed to mention an engineer yet today that knew how he or she impacts placemaking. I wonder if any local engineers are in attendance today… Engineers are the people that currently drive much of placemaking in Oklahoma City today, whether they know it or not. They design the streets, neighborhoods, and developments that shape the way people live. They need to be in tune with what people want.

I hope today’s conference energizes people to get more involved. I really hope it moves people to get involved in backing planokc, the process for a new comprehensive plan for Oklahoma City. If you want change, you have to be the change. This plan will shape the next 20 to 30 years for Oklahoma City. Who will it be designed for? You have a say.