Wednesday, June 13, 2012

So you've heard..

Great mention for the traffic circle movement on Kurt Hochenauers Okie Funk blog (Kurt used to write for the Gazette, idk if he still does) today - really summarizing what a movement this has become, with MAPS3 transit subcommittee members lending their support and enthusiasm for this city, myself, former ODOT engineer and consultant Bob Kemper really leading the charge, Councilman Shadid getting behind the idea in a big way, OKC Talk is buzzing about the idea, and so many more people. This is truly evolving into an organic preemptive strike against a huge blunder that is about to be made.

What really needs to happen is ODOT needs to wash their hands of this project and just give the funding over to the city and let the city do whatever it wants. I don't think ODOT is actually on a mission to screw up downtown OKC - Bob thinks they are concerned about going over budget and the city not wanting to maintain something. The solution here is easy, there is significant extra funding that the city has from the 2007 GO Bond Issue, and ODOT can just give the $80 million for the boulevard to the city and not worry about any more cost overruns (although that clearly wasn't a problem for them with the new I-40, which ran 3 times over budget and still isn't a depressed roadbed, just as they knew it would all along). There is also an extra $30 million in MAPS3, in addition to contingency funding there (that will likely go to the convention center when it comes in way over budget).

Anyway, here's the latest illustration that I have come up with for how this roundabout could potentially fit into a grander scheme.

I'll just add that this is also a work in progress, and definitely stay tuned. There's something else that we're going to roll out here in a few days, and we're hoping that we have a proposal that the entire community can really get behind, regardless of whether you want a premier center city or not. I've always believed that OKC can so easily be a first-rate center city, the bones are there, it just takes everybody realizing it and getting on the same page - which unfortunately is so much easier said than done.

And yes, my "grand scheme" for a better boulevard definitely involves moving the convention center to a location that is better for everyone, but that's not what this is about. This is about the roundabout, I just happen to take a holistic approach involving the entire boulevard. What happens west of Lee Avenue, in my mind, affects everything to the east.

Let me close by saying that I absolutely believe that everything in my illustration above can be accomplished with funding already committed - including MAPS3 funding, including 2007 GO Bond funding, including ODOT's committed funding, and including private funds that people have proposed going toward cultural institutions and private development. For those who don't know, the Kirkpatrick Foundation is moving the City Arts Center downtown, just not anywhere near the Arts District which I think is an unfortunate oversight of synergy, which is so important for the arts - and Fred Hall among others did talk about a major private development replete with mixed-use and high-rise residential (possibly the largest mixed-use project in state history) on the site that is now taken by the convention center.

Why can't we piece these things together from the perspective of what creates the most impressive, healthiest boulevard corridor, rather than what creates the best convention center? There are more important things than just a convention center, in the grand scheme of city planning. This boulevard, if we do it right, has the potential to pay dividends for OKC in terms of postcards, private development opportunities, and civic pride. Let's do this the right way.


Anonymous said...

While I hate what ODOT is planning here, I don't like the idea of a traffic circle any better. Just eliminate the problem by returning what is the old crosstown footprint back to the established street grid, use the funds to make up funding shortfalls of Project 180 to make one of the existing streets serve the same purpose as the Boulevard. Even though Mr. Eric Wenger says it is too late to do any of that, the only time it is too late is after it gets built.

Anonymous said...

Any Federal (ODOT) money used must be for purposes spelled out In the EIS. The EIS process is lengthy, thoroughly vetted, publicly commented on, and legally binding, though in this case, a bit outdated. Anything that strays from this will need to be re-evaluated.