The MPO and consultants presented four alternative versions for the Vision 2070 Plan. Participants voted with their cell phones on components of the plan.
The plans were well developed with excellent presentations. The plans noted that transportation, land use, and economic development all needed to be coordinated.
The region is growing by 10,000 people each year and that growth is projected to continue. The MPO has about 800,000 people now with 500,000 more people projected by 2070. If that rate continues the metro population will double to 1,600,000 by 2100.
1. Add a north south road. The plan as shown does not add a major north south road during the next 50 years. This means that future growth must be accommodated by the existing Rt 41, Rt 301, and I-75. This would result in very bad congestion.
The plan should include a new major north south road east of I-75. The right of way should be identified and slowly acquired. The road right of way should be very wide - enough to permit a major road with substantial natural landscaped side and center medians. It should have room for possible rail and utilities including power lines, sewer, water, and gas. The road right of way should also be wide enough to provide substanail open space and environmental corridors, connecting to our major natural areas.
This effort should be a Statewide effort, essentially planning for a major corridor paralleling and to the east of I-75. The lowest cost and least politically difficult time to plan for and acquire the right of way when the land is distant from sewer and water and is still valued as farmland. It is much more expensive if we wait until development requires the acquistion and development of the new road and it has to be acquired close to developed areas.
2. Add a road connecting the islands to the mainland. Congestion on the three roads connecting the barrier islands to the mainland is increasing. The MPO should study a potential fourth connection on the University Parkway alignment. This connects the barrier islands to a major road with connections to the Airport and I-75. The road should be a parkway with wetland and park space on both sides of the road connection, providing a beautiful waterfront drive connecting our most important amenity to the rest of the region.
3. Develop a grid road extension plan. The plan does not identify section line roads to be connected, extended and realigned. This is critical. The MPO, the Counties, and the municipalities should work together to create a detailed map showing all proposed new completions of the grid and all realignments.
The connections do not have to be built until they are needed but they should be incorporated into all municipal and county comprehensive plan maps so that they can be created when the area is developed. And of course putting them on transportation and land use maps help ensure that developers understand what is planned and helps local governments to not forget to get the right of way when the area is developed.
Having grown up in the midwest I am a grid guy. There is nothing wrong with some curvilinear streets and cul de sacs to give our urban landscape a little diversity. But they should connect back into a logical grid and not just meander aimlessly. And good planning demands that cities and counties examine their grids, and prepare a plan that proposes to connect and realign roads to complete a logical grid.
The effort above should be made by the Sarasota Manatee MPO with the two County and municipal goverments. The plans should be incorporated into Land Use and Transportation Plans
The maps show planned connections to improve the grid in eastern Will County south of Chicago. As the area urbanizes the "Kinks" in the grid should be "worked out", with logical connections made.
It is remarkable how little planning effort is made to improve the base road grid of a community. A little thinking and planning can make the grid much better. There will always be some misalignment of roads and some roads that do not connect. A good plan should make sure that logical connections are planned and that they are developed before or when new development occurs. Part of the reason that we do little of this is that most of us focus on our community only, with minimal thought about connections to other communities. Or we may come up with a good connection but it fails at the next town. Transportation planning is often focused on major road development, or on programming of funds for improvements. There is seldom anyone looking at the overall grid of a large area and coming up with logical plans for improvements over time. The road realignment plan should be integrated with the land use plan. And realignments at County and State lines should have special interest since their is no single entity paying much attention to these important connections. The map below shows road realignments with the land use plan for eastern Will County with the proposed third airport for Chicago.
The map below shows the plan for connecting local roads between Illinois and Indiana south of Chicago.
Of course one of the concerns is that it will take many years for this area to develop. Will the local planners consider this when they approve a land use decision? Often they will not and we are then left with irritating dog legs in our grid.
It is much better to build an additional freeway further away then to create this mess. All over America we are widening the pavement on our high capacity roads. Freeways that once had landscaped center and side medians now become a concrete jungle.
Future freeway corridors should be wide, with permanent safe attractive landscaped medians. Not This!
The I-10 freeway which runs from Florida to South California is the widest freeway in the USA in the section running from Katy, TX (a Houston suburb) to downtown Houston, TX, a distance of around 22 miles.
The freeway averages 22 lanes, and in some sections (Intersection of BW8 loop with I-10) it has 26 lanes total including 6 feeder and 4 HOV lanes. In spite of this, during morning commute hours it takes an hour and a half to get from Katy, TX to downtown Houston.
The Green Spine is a proposal for a new transportation and environmental corridor. The spine would connect the major natural areas of the State and provide a transportation corridor for the future. The corridor would be east of I-75. The corridor would be 1,320 feet wide with 400 feet for a future high tech interstate highway. The wide right of way would ensure that the interstate could have wide safe shoulders and a green center median. This wide right of way would ensure that the road would always be able to have natural landscaping on both sides of the road and in the median. The Green Spine would also preserve 100 feet width for high speed rail, and 200 feet for utility corridors - gas, electric, oil, cable. The balance of the right of way would be natural environment. Summary - right of way
Interstate Highways in major urban areas are widened until they are ugly and unsafe. And it appears that the United States will continue to grow in population and we will continue to
widen our interstates.
What once was an attractive safe road with wide natural landscapes on both the side and center medians become the photos above and below.