Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fast Lane: Every Place Counts Design Challenge Allows Us to Design a Better Future

Today, I traveled to Philadelphia and met Mayor Kenney on the plaza of the Vine Street Expressway. For Philadelphians, this roadway represented almost 30 years of planning and was intended to expedite commuting between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, ultimately decreasing half-hour trips to just a few minutes. However, that vision was never realized and three communities, including Chinatown and the Callowhill District bore the brunt of the damage as many homes, businesses, schools, places of worship, and other places of cultural and community significance were razed to make way for the expressway. Presently, the Vine City Expressway is a six-lane corridor not easily navigated on foot or in vehicle, and represents a very real, physical barrier for those that must traverse it daily.
Whether it’s North, South, East or West, infrastructure development and placement can have a profound impact on opportunities. Highways like the Vine City Expressway are not unique to Philadelphia or to large cities across the country – they are both urban and rural divisions. That’s why U.S. DOT is also proud to partner with Philadelphia, PA; Spokane, WA; Nashville, TN; and the Twin Cities, MN to offer technical assistance through the Every Place Counts Design Challenge to work to rectify these issues.

Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia
The Department will visit each of these cities for two-days of on-site technical assistance to engage in a robust dialogue about their current infrastructure impediments with a broad group of community stakeholders and elected officials. Through this Challenge, we have the ability to rethink some of our nation’s past transportation choices and join together to design a better future. I’m excited to work with these communities on creating inclusive and context-sensitive infrastructure solutions that reflect and incorporate the input of the people and communities they touch.
Philadelphia has proposed to engage the residents, business owners, and families of the Chinatown community in producing a roadmap and vision for this corridor over the two-day session. This is how inclusive transportation planning should be done. We’re also inviting transportation, urban planning, architecture, engineering, and design professionals to join us at each two-day workshop to reimagine the possibilities for highways like the Vine City Expressway in Philadelphia, the I-90 corridor in Spokane, I-90’s dissection of the Rondo neighborhood in the Twin Cities, MN and even along Nashville’s I-40.

Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia
I applaud all of the communities that applied for the Every Place Counts Design Challenge. As our transportation system ages, the time is ripe to consider the possibilities to reconnect communities and correct past wrongs with all the right partners at the table.


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