After attending one of these meetings, I thought to myself: "What if we applied the level of scrutiny that we do to new projects to the arterial roads we currently have?"
|University Boulevard Easy in front of St. B's. Photo by the author.|
If you live in Four Corners, chances are you use Colesville Road or University Boulevard on a daily basis. We use these roads everyday, and don't think much of them. They're just there, and they've been around for a long time.
Here's an existential question: Why are these roads the way they are?
Here are a few other questions to ponder: Why are they 6 lanes wide? Why are the sidewalks right next to the curb? Why is the speed limit 40 MPH? Why are the travel lanes 11' and 12' wide? How much public involvement was there in the design process? What year were these roads widened? Was this even a good idea?
Because of today's standards of public involvement and thorough planning, it's easy to assume that our existing built environment (roads, land use patterns, etc.) was well thought-out and given careful consideration before it was constructed. Here's an alarming fact: it wasn't.
The roads we use everyday were never studied when they were originally widened in the 1950's. There were only rudimentary traffic projections carried out, but nothing backed up by hard data. There were no Environmental Impact Statements performed to determine the impact of these widenings on nearby creeks and streams.
Perhaps most ridiculous of all: there was no community input whatsoever.
|Four Corners shortly after University Boulevard and Colesville Road were widened. 1959 image from the Sunday Star via Ken Hawkins|
Here is the key takeaway from this: The design of our arterial roads is just one big experiment, and we are the test subjects.
For decades, the SHA and its predecessors have foolishly thought that widening these roads would reduce congestion. It can't and it hasn't, and our community has been negatively impacted by this failed experiment.
We need a more walkable and bikeable Four Corners that is served by rapid transit, and we've needed it for some time now.
No matter what qualms one may have with bus rapid transit plans, we can all agree that the situation we have now is unacceptable, and we need to think critically about correcting it.
In what is to become a recurring theme on this blog, I will delve into the history of our arterial highways and how they affect Four Corners as a whole. I'll explain in much more detail how our existing roads are a serious threat to the livability and economic vitality of our community, and what I think we should be doing to correct these past errors. Through a firm understanding of the past, we can shape a better future.
So next time you use University Boulevard or Colesville Road, whether by car, bike, or on foot; scrutinize it and ask "Why?"