Henry’s Lament

Last week’s meeting of the Burnside Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) was interesting from a number of points of view.

First, the couplet continues to score best on virtually all the criteria. The ‘new’ news at this meeting was that it wins on travel time and on the urban design criteria.

Last week’s meeting of the Burnside Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC) was interesting from a number of points of view.

First, the couplet continues to score best on virtually all the criteria. The ‘new’ news at this meeting was that it wins on travel time and on the urban design criteria.

Second, the possibility of reducing to three lanes west of I-405 is very real. My hope is that Sam will recommend the couplet option east of I-405 and give the neighborhoods an opportunity to flesh out the 3 lane design and see what they think about the trade-offs (reduced to it’s simplest level: a much more humane street on Burnside versus accepting a little bit more traffic on neighborhood collector streets).

But perhaps the most intriguing element was the position of the Henry condo association. You’ll recall that the folks at the Henry (and their developer, Gerding/Edlen), with some support from the Bureau of Planning, were strongly against the couplet, on the basis that it would ruin the the unique pedestrian environment on Couch through the Brewery Blocks.

The Henry, on the strength of a traffic analysis commissioned by Gerding/Edlen, is supporting the “truncated couplet” approach. This is much like the original couplet, except that it would return the westbound traffic to Burnside at 8th, rather than at 15th. This has several impacts:

  • May require shaving the corner off the building at 8th and Couch
  • Requires that at least two elm trees be removed from the North Park Blocks
  • Pretty much drives a stake through the heart of attempts to unify the North and South Park Blocks through the “Park Avenue Vision”

Urban Designer Lloyd Lindley called it a “non-starter from an urban design point of view.”

The Henry’s reaction? “We’re sorry about the elm trees.”

But more to the point, the design advocated by Gerding/Edlen’s traffic engineer still calls for making Couch one-way westbound (as does the couplet design) and still calls for signalizing the intersections at Couch and 10th and 11th. Additionally, compared to the current several hundred cars per hour, the truncated couplet will deliver 800 cars per hour through the brewery blocks during the evening peak (the full couplet will deliver 1200).

In essence the Henry folks are trying to convince us to sacrifice 7 blocks of Burnside and the unification of the Park Blocks to avoid 400 cars going past their building. Hmmm…

By the way, the Bureau of Planning was very quiet at the meeting. Their representative delivered a very neutral assessment of the options. I think the Henry has lost one ally.

It’s also worth noting that all the major land holders other then Gerding have recommended the couplet to Commissioner Adams.

Handicapping this bet, I’d say put your money on the couplet, but still expect the well-connected Henry folks to fight the battle again at the funding stage.

This morning’s Trib has a related article.

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