Monday, June 19, 2017

Tear Down this Interstate!

Tearing down the interstate, or "urban freeway removal", as it's proponents call it, is a rallying cry from the Stop TBXers. 

Removing parts of I-275 is regularly raised at the FDOT Tampa Bay Next and other outreach meetings.

From the Tampa Bay Times:
If some Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights residents had their druthers, the state would simply demolish Interstate 275, which now severs their neighborhoods. 
Loud, sustained applause and shouts of "Yeah," from nearly 100 people greeted just such a proposal Tuesday. 
"Tear it down!" said Joshua Frank, an urban planner who wrote his Master's degree thesis on an alternative to the controversial highway expansion program called TBX (short for Tampa Bay Expressway).
... 
His presentation, "Bifurcation to Boulevard", showed how transforming the Interstate into a wide, landscaped boulevard, featuring bike and pedestrian paths and even light commuter rail, would transform the area north of Tampa's downtown core.
Similarly, WTSP reported on it:
The highway has wreaked havoc on neighborhoods, Frank said. He pointed to air pollution, noise levels and lower property values, the Times reports. He called for “reintegrating” six neighborhoods split by 275. That would improve residents’ quality of life and promote economic activity, he argued.
...

A neighborhood group held a meeting Tuesday and asked FDOT to consider Frank’s proposal, the Times reports. "They had at least 10 people here," said Kimberly Overman, president of the Heights Urban Core Chamber. "They are very interested. What boulevards do is open up opportunities."
Likewise, tearing down the interstate was highlighted in the May 24 Tampa Bay Next working group [PDF], where it was met with loud applause:

Screen capture from TB Next Community Working Group, May 24, page 18
When we spoke to FDOT about the possibility of the interstate removal, while skeptical, they stated they would have to study it, as if it is something "the community" wants to consider. Especially given FDOT's new kinder, gentler community outreach program.

Just how feasible is removing I-275? It is a rather highly utilized stretch of road in Hillsborough county.

Let's look at some data, and apply some 4th Grade Math.

Start with some 2015 (most recent) traffic counts:

Hillsborough County Traffic Counts Map

Road Segment AADT
I-275: FLORIBRASKA AVE - to - M L KING BLVD 143,500
I-275: ASHLEY ST - to - JEFFERSON ST NB 189,500
I-275: ARMENIA AVE - to - ASHLEY ST 203,000

Over 200,000 vehicles per day drive in some segments of I-275 today. FDOT expects substantial increase in traffic on I-275 by 2040, to nearly 300,000 vehicles per day:

FDOT Forecasted I-275 Traffic Increases
Which begs the question, How many lanes of a tree-lined boulevard will be needed to handle 300,000 vehicles per day?

For that, again, we can use traffic counts and the 2014 (latest) Level of Service [PDF] report, which also identifies the number of lanes and the the Level of Service, where A is good, and F is a failed road. We can check against some other Hillsborough County's busy roads.


Road Segment Lanes AADT LOS
DALE MABRY HWY: (LINEBAUGH AVE -to-EHRLICH RD)
6 69,227 F
HILLSBOROUGH AVE: (VETERAN'S EXPWY -to-DALE MABRY  
6 64,515 F
SR 60 / BRANDON BLVD: (FALKENBURG RD -to-PAULS DR)
8 82,403 F
FLETCHER AVE: (NEBRASKA AVE -to-30TH ST)
4 37,626 C
WATERS AVE: (VETERANS EXPY -to-DALE MABRY HWY) 
6 49,000 C
Total 30 302,771

Taking a look at some of our busier road segments in Hillsborough County, and maintaining some semblance of the lanes required to maintain the current Level of Service, which is poor at best for the roads selected above, we can conclude that replacing I-275 with a tree lined boulevard will require 30 lanes of traffic.

That's right. 30 lanes of traffic.

Why is that? These "tree lined boulevards" also have traffic lights. Vehicles will stop. And wait. Stop. And wait. The vehicles will need lots of room to stop and maintain some decent traffic flow.

Replacing 12 - 14 lanes of the interstate with 30 lanes of of surface street traffic hardly seems like a neighborhood improvement program.

Destroying neighborhoods? Check.

Bulldozing more neighborhoods than Tampa Bay Next? Check.

Noisier surface streets? Check.

Cars mixing with pedestrians and children? Check.

Views blocked by semis and trucks? Check.

Massive congestion? Check.

Consuming more gas, cars and trucks idling away?

Spewing more pollution into nearby homes? Check.

When the traffic jams up, on the tree line boulevard, what will happen?

Drivers will find a way. They will use Google Maps or Waze and divert around the traffic. Into the neighborhood streets. Not just Florida Ave or Nebraska Ave, but onto the residential streets. Google Maps often navigates off the interstate during rush hour today.

That will not be a safety improvement for those neighborhoods where drivers are cutting through. Trust me, I know, as drivers used to regularly cut through our neighborhood when traffic backed up nearby. When our neighborhood approached the county, they were not moved. They had no reported incidents. I guess one of our kids needed to get hit or something. Our neighborhood was able to resolve the situation. We took control and closed off one end of the road cutting through our neighborhood. We paid for it, and it took 15 years.

Recall that FDOT stated they have to study removing the interstate in all the glory that it requires. That will include alternative analysis, environmental impacts, initial designs, feasibility assessments, surveys, etc.

Recall, as we reported, FDOT has made a unique outreach to those transit advocates that the rest of us were not afforded. They are not representing the rest of us.

In other words, a big waste of money. Your money.

When the urban extremists, a vocal minority enamored with all things urban, are trying to dominate the discussion around Tampa Bay Next. Shouting "tear down the interstate", they can't be taken seriously. They don't represent the nearly half a million of us in Tampa Bay that regularly use the interstates nearly every day.

1 comment:

  1. I would support the "boulevard" concept, on Florida Ave or Nebraska Av. If it works there, then we could consider it on Armenia and Dale Mabry. ;-)

    ReplyDelete