Our Urban Challenge: Barriers

Chestnut Expressway cuts east-west through the middle of Springfield’s urban core as I’m defining it. It is a 4-lane, 40-mph loop for I-44. It’s very well designed to move cars and trucks across Springfield giving these vehicles easy access to the urban core — especially downtown, OTC, MSU, and Drury. And that’s the problem with it. Chestnut Expressway is a barrier to walking in the urban core.

The picture below shows the intersection of Chestnut and N. Benton. Notice the rounded curb making it easier for cars to turn right onto Chestnut. Notice the lack of crosswalk markings. Notice the lack of a pedestrian crossing light.

This intersection is typical of Chestnut across the urban core. It effectively divides the core creating a barrier for pedestrians in an area with an abundance of walkable destinations. These intersections encourage citizens living near them to drive cars to destinations as close as a half mile from Chestnut Expressway.

Outside the core the future is largely set. Springfield’s suburbs are car centric now and will be car centric in the peak-oil future. Because these areas are typical suburban sprawl, there’s no choice. The best we can do for these folks is promote the 1-mile Solution for those who are not tucked too deeply into subdivisions. These folks will be driving cars for most of life’s chores long after it has become economically painful to do so. What I recommend: Move.

Springfield’s urban core, however, is different. The future here is not set. It is a compact, largely multi-use area roughly 8,500 acres — about 2.8 miles east to west and 4.75 miles north to south. It is an area small enough to create an effective multi-modal transportation plan, including cars and trucks, public transportation, and active transportation. It is an area large enough to accommodate — at a reasonable average density level of 7 units per acre (considered necessary for public transportation) — 60,000 housing units and still have plenty of room for parks, service businesses, entertainment, and industry.

I don’t think we have a chicken-and-egg question here. People come first. Before we can have a vibrant urban core we have to begin attracting people to live in the core. That means we have to build stuff first. But what do you build first? Entertainment? Services? Cultural interests?

I think we need to build transportation amenities and streetscape/complete street projects first. Let’s start encouraging people to walk. So one place to we might begin: Break down barriers to walking, e.g. redesign the Chestnut intersections so that pedestrians feel welcome to cross the street.

Our Urban Challenge Series:

UPDATE: New homes are cropping up in cities, not suburbs:

What’s more, the study finds, it’s not that regional policies are herding people back into urban neighborhoods. Personal preference seems to be driving much of the change. Turns out more people are deciding they want to live near walkable neighborhoods, transit lines, other urban stuff.

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Comments 12

  1. Keri wrote:

    Those high-speed corners have to go! All they do is encourage drivers to turn right on red without stopping.

    Posted 28 Mar 2010 at 2:42 pm
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Keri… Yep. Will have some video on this later this spring.

    Posted 28 Mar 2010 at 2:46 pm
  3. Tracy Wilkins wrote:

    Ahhh…one of my favorite intersections! I cross Chestnut there on my way home, and consider it one of the best places to cross from either direction. It seems like the light cycle is shorter there than on a lot of the smaller cross streets.

    I work north of Chestnut, and often cross it on foot to walk downtown at lunch. There are pedestrian crossing lights with buttons on the east side of all the streets, so that’s the side you need to be on if you want to push the button and cross on the “walk” signal.

    All of that infrastructure was being built 30 years ago. I was in college at SMS and working at Harry Cooper’s at the time Chestnut was expanded from a 2 lane street to the existing 4-lanes, and I don’t think much has been updated since then. It’s probably time!

    Here’s a question, though. Who’s jurisdiction would improvements to Chesnut fall under? Isn’t Chestnut a state road (Higway 266)? Would that be the state or the city?

    Not sure how that would work…..

    Posted 28 Mar 2010 at 6:50 pm
  4. Andy Cline wrote:

    Tracy… I’m not sure either, but I’ll bet it’s MoDOT.

    I didn’t check every corner, but I didn’t see any crossing buttons from the north. I checked everything between Fremont and Boonville.

    Crossing any of these by bicycle is really no problem for intermediates and above, IMO. I cross Chestnut at least twice per week, usually at Fremont or Boonville.

    Posted 28 Mar 2010 at 7:00 pm
  5. Steve A wrote:

    Even tougher than these around my neck of the woods are some of the Interstate Highways. I-30 isn’t bad, but I-20 is pretty intimidating to most people. I-820 is nearly as bad. I don’t have a lot of trouble, but I would if I were walking. It’s pretty tough to walk two miles to a place you can get across a freeway, and then two more miles to where you wanted to go immediately across from where you started.

    DFW has mostly good connectivity, but the Trinity River and some of the interstates create really nasty situations for pedestrians.

    I hope you’ll keep us up to speed on who/when steps up to correcting these Springfield problems.

    Posted 28 Mar 2010 at 8:02 pm
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Steve… I’m hoping to be part of the solution. This series springs from my participation on the transportation committee of the new city strategic plan. We have out first meeting tomorrow.

    Posted 28 Mar 2010 at 8:23 pm
  7. Steve A wrote:

    Please post on same, even if the first meeting is less than inspirational. Cycling is nice, but the tougher test is to get people comfy and wanting to walk.

    Posted 29 Mar 2010 at 5:21 am
  8. Steve A wrote:

    PS: Your spam filter seems to think my iPhone is OK again. Just don’t get carried away with selecting the TW “goofball” option.

    Posted 29 Mar 2010 at 5:23 am
  9. Mike B. wrote:

    Chestnut Expressway is a MoDOT road. The others are: Kansas Expressway, Glenstone, Kearney, Battlefield and Sunshine (but only east of Glenstone and west of Kansas).

    Posted 29 Mar 2010 at 4:19 pm
  10. Jason C wrote:

    Would it be counterproductive to just build a pedestrian bridge (or two) over Chestnut Expwy? The one over Kansas Expwy near Sunset St does a good job of carrying Greenways traffic safely (and stress-free) across a similarly busy road.

    A dedicated footbridge across Chestnut would send a strong signal that the community values pedestrian travel. It would aid in commuting and tie Drury and OTC more safely to downtown, MSU etc.

    Would such a project be costly? Yes, but so too would the redesigning of Chestnut’s intersections. Also, police could stand on the bridge and clock speeders and such a speed trap could raise municipal revenue and/or reduce excessive speeding.

    Posted 29 Mar 2010 at 9:59 pm
  11. Coy wrote:

    Pretty sure Trafficway is MoDOTs. I bitched when they redid the intersection at National with the huge radius corners, especially since it is also right there at Ozarks Technical Community College … might as well have been trying to have a discussion with a tree stump.

    I have been comfortable bicycling E – W on Trafficway from W of Glenstone to where Trafficway and College merge over on the west side. Much (but NOT all) of Kansas Expressway and West Bypass ain’t too bad either.

    Posted 30 Mar 2010 at 11:25 am
  12. Coy wrote:

    BTW, before the Battlefield Mall was built and the City of Springfield cut off the center city and the square with their “tuning fork” street design that put the nearest parking to the square about a block or more away (ain’t that a coincidence???) the city center was the core of retail. Heer’s was the biggest and best department store in town. Downtown was vibrant!!! Everyone complained when Sears moved to the building it built just east of the Shrine Mosque (is it the Convention Center now???) because it was so far away from the other downtown businesses.

    Posted 30 Mar 2010 at 11:55 am