George O’Brien wrote an article for the June 12 issue of BusinessWest about developments along Springfield’s State Street corridor. The story is that rare breed of news article that takes a close look at the design considerations, with a nod to the process that the commissioned engineering firm, VHB, has been undergoing for months now. From the article:
"Our basic goal is to improve travel for pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles alike," said [VHB’s John] Bechard. "We’ve received a lot of feedback from people, and while not everyone is happy with all the changes, we feel we have a plan that will make the road safer and provide better traffic flow."
Bechard told BusinessWest that the project has been in the planning stages for more than two years. The process of finalizing specific improvements and the designs for each has involved everything from pedestrian and traffic counts (roughly 17,000 to 25,000 cars per day) to a series of neighborhood meetings, at which project coordinators have sought to identify both "opportunities and constraints."
In a July 30 article in the Republican, by Mike Plaisance, city officials acknowledged that there are a lot of things coming together right now for Springfield, including a zoning ordinance revision, a new federal courthouse on State Street, and the recently-completed Urban Land Institute visit. (The ULI’s final presentation (PDF) is available for perusal.)
How all these might impact the changes planned for the critical State Street corridorwhich include "improving the roadway, installing granite curbing, redoing sidewalks that at some points will include brick inlay, improving traffic signals, and landscaping that includes planting trees, bushes and flowers," according to Plaisance’s articleremains roughly unknown.
What we do know, now that the ULI panel has strongly recommended improving that street as a component of its recommendations for downtown, is that it’s likely worth doing; to what degree perhaps remains to be resolved. The Springfield City Council‘s attempts to hear more public input, as reported in an August 7 Republican article also by Plaisance, are commendable.
The changes, and talk of the use of eminent domain, is causing some business owners to grumble. At the same time, not all the small business owners who could be attending these planning meetings have bothered to show up. The city appears very interested in working with those who will step to the table, which business owners should be cheering right now.