Archive for July, 2011

Local residents discuss transit plans with GDOT, GRTA, MARTA officials during community meeting

More than 200 people turned out July 12 for a community meeting, coordinated by Rep. Pat Gardner, the Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition and the Morningside Lenox Park Neighborhood Association to discuss the Clifton Corridor Connector designed to parallel the CSX line from Emory to the Lindbergh Station.

State Transportation Planner Todd Long outlined the process for selecting the final projects for the Transportation Investment tax to be voted on in either July or November of 2012.

Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Jannine Miller and her deputy outlined their roles in coordinating all of the transit in the Metro area.

MARTA planner Jason Morgan provided a comprehensive description of their decision making process and assured those gathered that all three options (HRT, LRT, and BRT) are still under consideration. Suggestions from the residential neighborhoods were welcomed and more open meetings are planned for August.

The planning process for the Clifton Corridor MARTA project is likely to be high on the transportation tax priority list. Transportation expert and neighbor Tom Weyant spoke on behalf of Mayor Kasim Reed and reported that the mayor believes this project to be an important piece in addressing our congestion problems.

Please make your recommendations known to MARTA or Mayor Reed’s office.

Click here for a list of upcoming meetings related to the Transportation Investment Act, the Regional Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) vote scheduled for next year and the Atlanta Roundtable for the
10-county metro region.

For additional information as to the proposals visit:

http://www.itsmarta.com/clifton-corr-maps.aspx

LLCC has taken an official position on the current proposals. To see the LLCC Position Paper, click HERE.

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July 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm Leave a comment

Cousins, Gables Start Construction on $250 Million Emory Point

ATLANTA
(July 19, 2011) – Cousins Properties and Gables Residential have started construction on the $250 million Emory Point mixed-used development on Clifton Road. The development will be the first new retail project built in the trade area in 20 years; the largest private development start inside the Perimeter in more than three years; and the first partnership between Cousins and Gables – two Atlanta-based development companies.

“We’re very excited about Emory Point and are glad to see a development of this magnitude move forward,” said Larry Gellerstedt, Cousins President and CEO.  “This project represents an incredible infill opportunity in a supply constrained
submarket with high demand.  We’re fortunate to have an exceptional partner in Gables and are grateful for our strong relationship with Emory University, which trusted us with leading this opportunity.”

Located in the Clifton Corridor, adjacent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in close proximity to Emory University and Emory Healthcare, Emory Point is a vertically integrated mixed-use development; Phase I will include more than 80,000 square feet of retail space and 443 luxury apartments.

Under the DeKalb County zoning plan for Emory Point, 25 acres of densely wooded land behind the development, approximately half of the site, will be protected as undevelopable under Emory’s land classification plan.  Prior to the rezoning, those woodlands were not protected. The development site is also registered for EarthCraft Communities certification, while the apartment component is registered for EarthCraft Multifamily certification. In addition, retail portions of the development have been designed to meet EarthCraft standards.

“Emory Point sets the new standard for the Emory community because it blends pedestrian-friendly retail with luxury apartment living, all while being an environmentally conscious development,” said David Fitch, Gables Residential President and CEO. “There is tremendous pent-up housing demand in this neighborhood, making Emory Point a bright spot in an otherwise challenging market.”

The $100+ million Phase I of the project began construction early this month and is expected to be complete by fall 2012. The second and third phases of the project will be developed according to market demand in an area. Emory University, which includes Emory Healthcare, is the largest employer in DeKalb County and the third largest employer in metro Atlanta.

“The proximity of Emory Point to our campus will enhance the social and intellectual vibrancy at Emory by providing housing, dining and retail venues for faculty, staff and students,” said Mike Mandl, Executive Vice President for Finance and
Administration, Emory University. “This type of mixed-use development was envisioned during the creation of the Clifton Community Partnership five years ago, and it is gratifying to see it coming to fruition.”

http://www.emory-point.com/

July 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways

from www.sustainablecitiescollective.com

//

England’s A3 tunnel will cost $402 million per mile, making it the most expensive project of its kind in the United Kingdom. Photo by Tom O’Donoghue

We recently wrote about Glasgow’s controversial and expensive road expansion—an elevated six-lane highway to complete Glasgow’s ring of motorways that will cost more than $200 million per mile. But despite the hefty price tag, the road is only the second most expensive project in the United Kingdom. This month the U.K. will witness a 1.2-mile tunnel project, the A3, in Surrey, a county in southeast England. The estimated cost of the project: $402 million per mile.

Once completed, the expensive yet short tunnel road will become the longest of its kind in the U.K. Although most people reading the prices of these projects may still be in sticker shock, Geoff French, the vice president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, does not find it surprising at all. “There’s a huge cost penalty when you put a road up in the sky or down in the ground,” he says.

According to Transport Scotland, the cost for a new three-lane highway on average is $47 million per mile. Based on these calculations, the 1.2-mile tunnel in Surrey will be 10 times the average cost of a new highway. Part of the reason for the high cost, at least in the case of Glasgow’s M74 extension, is that the construction project requires the compulsory purchasing of property. With the addition of the cost of planning consultation and public inquiries, the cost goes up—and that’s for an elevated road. “An underground road costs even more—roughly twice that of an elevated one,” BBC reports.

Going Underground

The higher cost makes sense. In addition to difficulties of actual construction, underground projects must deal with geology. The presence of rock, for example, is recorded as an ideal opportunity for underground space development, according to Australasian Tunnelling Society. Digging through soil is even better. However, running into granite during the construction process can become time-consuming and more expensive because it’s more difficult to blast and dig through.

Besides geological obstructions, a tunnel construction project must consider the excavated soil and rock: what to do with it, where to get rid of it and how to take it there. Another factor to consider is support for the dug up tunnel. The machine responsible for digging the tunnel is considerably smaller than the tunnel itself. Once the machine goes deeper in the path, the dug up tunnel must be supported with precast circular segments, to avoid the collapse of the earth. All of these details considerably add to the price of a tunnel project.

“But sometimes there is no alternative to going underground,” reports the BBC. “[The A3 tunnel] allows the road to expand to four lanes by digging up to 195ft (60m) under Hindhead Commons.” And according to Rob Fairbanks, director of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, “Building a dual carriageway on the surface would have caused great damage,” perhaps because the surface has significant landscape value.

Sir Peter Hall, a Barlett professor of planning at the University College London, explains that spending on such projects will be a rare occurrence in the future. “Indeed, road projects like the M74 extension and A3 tunnel may never be repeated,”  the BBC reports. “Nowadays, most city councils subscribe to the view that urban motorways fracture communities rather than aid economic development.”

Demolition work on Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct started in February 2011, relieving the city from maintenance costs. Photo by Cliff.

Knocking Down Freeways

In the U.S., cities are tearing down freeways to avoid maintenance and replacement. Just this past March, NPR ran a story on freeway removal that highlights a contradictory trend to Europe’s expensive new roads. The freeways built in the ’50s and ’60s are deteriorating to a condition where they are no longer safe to use, so cities are choosing to dismantle them instead of repair them. “Milwaukee removed a freeway spur for $30 million,” according to NPR. “Officials estimated it would have cost between $50 million and $80 million to fix that roadway.”

Money is a big motivator for such a decision and it is by no means a localized issue. Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, with the wear-and-tear of the years and the damage of a 2001 earthquake, was demolished in February 2011, making way for an underground tunnel in the region. But money is not the only motivator. Portland’s four-lane freeway, Harbor Drive, was shut down in the ’70s in a beautification effort of the west bank of the Wilamette River. The space is now occupied by a greenway and the current success of Portland’s downtown is credited mostly to the demolition of Harbor Drive.

San Francisco went through a similar transformation with its Embarcadero Freeway. Although the freeway’s actual demolition didn’t come to fruition until damage from a 1989 earthquake, the road was believed to be “the city’s worst planning mistake” and “denounced as an eyesore” that blocked the waterfront early in its lifetime, according to a New York Times article from 1990.

Today, a handful of U.S. cities are joining the movement. New Haven, for example, has been debating whether to convert a one-mile expressway corridor into a network of city streets. The Board of Alderman decided in December 2010 that it would accept a federal grant and pursue the demolition.

But perhaps the trend hasn’t gone national quite yet. Similar to Glasgow’s M74 or Surrey A3, Boston completed a $20-billion, 3.35-mile tunnel project that re-routes the city’s main highway. In early June, we reported on a new study by Smart Growth America that said, between 2004 and 2008, states spent $37.9 billion annually on repair and expansion projects for their roads and highways.

By the same token, “Anyone who follows infrastructure maintenance can tell you that this country has not been doing it’s job when it comes to maintaining roads,” as blogger James Sinclair wrote for Stop and Move, saying we face a potential future of “crumbling” highways and “structurally unsound” overpasses. It looks like we have a long way to go.

Outside of the U.S., cities have gained international recognition for tearing down unnecessary concrete. One recent high-profile example is Seoul, where city planners helped to restore the Cheonggyecheon river by removing three miles of elevated highway, which help cut air pollution and reduce air temperatures.

According to Patrick Condon, Vancouver owes its livability to its lack of freeways. Photo by Evan Leeson.

Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways

Early this year, Vancouver was named the world’s most liveable city for the fifth consecutive time. Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver received high scores in terms of stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure—or the lack thereof. According to Patrick Condon, a visiting professor of livable environments at the University of British Columbia, the main reason behind Vancouver’s prestigious title is the city’s “determination in the 1970s and ‘80s to resist the lure of freeways as an easy answer to traffic problems.”

Instead of building freeways, Vancouver’s local councils gathered to draft a long-term plan for the city’s growth. “Central to the plan was investment in public transport, cycling and pedestrian measures—not freeways,” explains the Age. “The theory was that congestion, and the desire to avoid it, would drive commuters to alternatives: moving closer to their work and using the trains and bus system.” No freeways, no way to run off to the suburbs.

Interestingly enough, a study by Brown University found that a city’s population can decrease 18 percent because of the building of a major highway. In an interview with Planetizen, Nathaniel Baum-Snow, the economist behind the study, explains the reasoning:

“If suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to affect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to affect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.”

July 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm 1 comment

Residents Spar With MARTA Over Clifton Corridor Improvements

MARTA officials said they’re working to decide whether they should build new railway or tunnel underground.

By Ben Shnider

Area residents packed a community meeting hosted by the Lindbergh Lavista Corridor Coalition and state Rep. Pat Gardner regarding MARTA’s Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative Tuesday night.

The gathering was part of MARTA’s effort to solicit input surrounding the community’s preferred method of transit for the proposed corridor, which would connect the Centers for Disease Control, Emory University and DeKalb Medical to Atlanta’s regional mass transit system.

At the meeting, tensions arose between MARTA representatives and community members concerning whether the proposed transit-way should be built underground or aboveground.

MARTA Project Manager Jason Morgan said that the project’s transportation options have been narrowed to bus rapid transit, light rail or heavy rail, any of which would travel through the existing CSX right of way.

MARTA is unable to use CSX’s actual railways, Morgan said. If light rail is selected, MARTA could either expand the right of way by 70 feet to lay down additional tracks or elevate the light rail tracks above the right of way, he said. If heavy rail is selected, MARTA would chose between expanding the right of way and tunneling the new transit-way under Lenox Road.

Grady Smith, the consultant project manager for the initiative, said the tunnel alternative would least impact surrounding communities.

“The alternative to minimize impacts is the tunnel option,” he said. “The impact at the street level would be fairly minimal.”

Smith said that the tunneling would be accomplished through the process of boring, which he said is less disruptive than blasting. Blasting requires the use of explosives, while boring does not.

But not all community members in attendance bought Smith’s analysis.

“Tunneling would eliminate access to… businesses,” said Louis Myer, a Woodland Hills Neighborhood Association board member. “I want you to understand that we don’t necessarily want to follow the path that you want to take us down.”

Morgan insisted that MARTA had not settled on a course of action but reiterated that tunneling would have a minimal impact on surrounding communities.

“We haven’t chosen an option,” he said. “We’re trying to make it clear that there are trade-offs. Anything that operates at grade is going to have impacts.”

Jean Jordan, a Morningside resident, expressed concerns about these impacts following the meeting. Jordan’s property borders the CSX right of way, and she said she was wary of efforts to widen it.

“Our backyard is on this railroad,” she said. “Therefore it’s going to ruin our property if they build the light rail or heavy rail at grade.”

MARTA plans to hold another informational meeting later in the summer regarding Clifton Corridor station area planning. A subsequent meeting will be organized in mid- to late-August to announce the final proposed route and method of transportation for the transit-way.

The project will then be subject to approval by local elected officials before it can be submitted to a public referendum on levying a regional sales tax to fund select public transportation projects.

And even if all of these steps go as planned, it could be more than ten years before any sort of construction takes place.

For more information, click here to visit the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative’s website.

 

July 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment


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