ODOT Seeks Feedback on Downtown Bridge and Street Designs

Walker Evans Walker Evans ODOT Seeks Feedback on Downtown Bridge and Street Designs
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The Ohio Department of Transportation held a public meeting on January 19th to solicit feedback on the designs for Phases 2 and 3 of of the Downtown highway split fix. While the build out of these phases was recently pushed back due to funding, the design work is still being completed, and feed back is due by Monday, February 6th. You can submit your feedback directly via mail to [email protected].

Your input on this project is very important, and these phases will have a large impact on how residents commute throughout this area, and how visitors will be welcomed into our city. Below are some the renderings and images presented by ODOT, along with a few comments worthy of note. You can view the entire presentation in PDF format, HERE.

Let’s start with the design of Fulton Avenue, which is being reconfigured as a one-way “urban avenue” that will service east-bound traffic getting on and off I-70. Below is a rendering that was presented by ODOT several years ago. Notice the large green dividers between the roadway and the highway, creating a nice visual and audial buffer between the city street and the highway trench. Also, notice the inclusion of crosswalk bump outs and on-street parking spaces on both sides of the street:

Below is an updated design that ODOT is currently proposing. The street trees have been moved to the building-side of the street, and the buffer between the highway and Fulton has been reduced to a very narrow grass strip. Half of the on-street parking has been removed, as well as the sidewalk access on the highway-side of the street. Additionally, the decorative bricked-crosswalks end on the street and will not carry over to the bridge deck, making for a disruptive visual look. The same type of treatment is being proposed for Elijah Pierce Avenue and most of Lester Drive:

Next, we move to the new Broad Street bridge, which overall looks fairly nice. This is being treated as a “signature” bridge, with plenty of street trees, flower planters, a solid decorative fence that will mask the highway trench and cut down on wind and noise, as well as unique decorative lighting and wide sidewalks for pedestrians:

Next, we have the Town Street Bridge, which connects from Bryden Road in Olde Towne East. Some of the decorative elements have been removed, such as the street trees and unique lighting. Some planters remain, but have been scaled down. The solid fencing also remains:

Further down the rung is the proposed design for the Oak Street Bridge. This bridge includes no greenery at all, as trees and planters have all been removed, even though in July 2010, ODOT gave a presentation to Columbus City Council that included landscaped medians on Broad, Oak and Parsons (all three are gone)). The sidewalks here are narrower, and the solid surface fencing has been replaced with “iron gate” type fencing that will not mask highway noise or wind:

The 18th Street Bridge is getting a similar bare-bones concrete treatment with no greenscaping, narrow sidewalks and fencing that allows wind and noise to make for an unpleasant pedestrian experience:

Grant Avenue is nearly identical to 18th Street, but contains more car travel lanes. This street is a vital connection between Downtown and German Village, and could serve as a gateway connector between residential neighborhoods to the south, and the collection of colleges to the north. This proposal contains few design elements that go beyond basic functionality. An additional element proposed to Columbus City Council in 2010 was that all bridges would have curb bump-outs, which has been removed on Grant Avenue in favor of a wide-angle continuous turn curb cut that is less safe for pedestrians:

Main Street is another signature street in Columbus, and one that is heavily utilized between neighborhoods on the East Side and Downtown. Similar to Broad, the Main Street Bridge contains street trees and planters, but remains a very wide road to service nearby highway onramps and offramps:

The new highway configuration means that Parsons Avenue will now pass underneath Interstate 70, rather than have a bridge going over it. The bridge deck looks somewhat similar to the treatment giving to Neil Avenue as it passes under I-670 between Victorian Village and The Arena District. The underpass for pedestrians looks quite dark in this rendering, and decorative/functional lighting should be a must. Street trees are minimal (and many have been removed from the design on Parsons north of Main Street) while medians will receive no landscaping at all, as previously presented. The “Parsons Avenue” signage looks incredibly generic, and more like a functional street sign rather than a gateway entry, or a point of pride. Also, note the lack of curb bump-outs for pedestrian crossings, replaced by the more car-centric wide-angle turn radius that encourages a steady flow of “right on red” traffic:

Overall, many of the design elements proposed in the past by ODOT are gone. Corners are being cut on design to keep the overall price tag down on this project, but many of these design elements are relatively cheap when compared to the overall scope and size of the project. So my questions to you are:

  1. Do these renderings satisfy your expectations of what 21st century infrastructure should look like?
  2. Do these bridges look like gateway entrances into our historic urban neighborhoods?
  3. Do these bridges and streets look like gateway entrances into Downtown Columbus for visitors?
  4. Does this infrastructure improve all forms of transportation for all types of commuters?
  5. Do all of these streets fit the criteria of “Complete Streets” designation, as adopted by Columbus City Council?

Again, you can voice your opinions to ODOT directly be emailing [email protected]. Comments are due on Monday, February 6th, but continued submission of comments beyond that due date are still encouraged.

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