So this is it. I’ve dedicated an entire week to one topic. I know not all of you are into this one judging from the lack of comments. But it’s important.
Behind the scenes, downtown leaders are deciding where to invest their future energies. They’ve concluded Automobile Alley will be downtown’s primary retail corridor with some tourist and speciality retail popping up in Bricktown.
I’m not judging them for such decisions. You can’t do everything, so you have to stake your claim, make your bets and hope for the best.
But this one intersection, as shown in photos earlier this week, acts as a barrier between Automobile and the rest of downtown. If downtown is to be more walkable, if we really care about that, how does it make sense to cut off pedestrians from your main retail drag?
And so I ask questions. To quote one city official who spoke to my good friend Jack Money last week, “Lackmeyer is driving us crazy.”
Jack’s response? “Well, Lackmeyer wouldn’t be Lackmeyer if he wasn’t doing that, now would he?”
Yeah, OK, I drive some folks crazy. But I’ve got a reporter’s heart, and I care about my community. I’m loathe to believe the experts, and I don’t trust consultants.
And that brings us to the dance.
It’s an old routine, really. Take last month’s State of Bricktown press conference where I asked Mayor Mick Cornett whether he thinks property owners should take better care of their old buildings. Cornett talked about the prospect of free parking, the needs to let the market work, but he didn’t answer my question.
The mayor basically answered a question I wasn’t asking, and didn’t answer the one I did ask.
So that brings us to an inquiry by the chanber, and a proposal by Blair Humphreys and Hans Butzer, to change the street grid at NW 4, Broadway and E.K. Gaylord.
Their proposal looked like this:
Now, I’m not saying this is the right or wrong way to go here. But I can recognize a City Hall side step when I see one.
The city responded to all this by hiring URS, a consulting firm from Denver. I’ve been told by Blair neither he or Hans were approached by URS.
And I’m very confused by the URS study, which dismisses the proposal by the chamber, Humphreys and Butzer on the basis that having E.K. Gaylord dead-end at NW 4 would have motorists drive through a bad underpass at NW 4.
Now say what? Go back and look at the proposal in the graphic above. It, and not what is shown in the URS study, shows the intent of the proposal submitted to the city. And it doesn’t involve NW 4.
I’m even more confused after I got the following email from City Public Works Director Dennis Clowers answering questions about whether the study’s authors consulted Humphreys and Butzer and whether their proposal was really analyzed:
I have no idea if URS contacted Mr. Humphreys or not. You are welcome to ask them. Yes, I believe Gaylord was to end at Dean McGee. Of course the current situation does not favor pedestrians as well as motorists. It is six lanes wide.
We are going to, over the next few years make significant changes to many downtown streets through the streetscapes projects funded by the GO Bond Issue and the Devon TIF. Gaylord may be included. However, it still currently carries 13,500 vpd. We do not have models regarding traffic after I-40 moves yet. We will through the downtown study TEC is currently doing. My assumption is that with a connection to I-40 that does not exist now, traffic is sure to increase.
Now let’s go back to the URS study. It doesn’t jive with what Humphreys and Butzer were proposing, and it doesn’t match what Clowers says above either. It presumes Gaylord going to NW 4. And I’m more confused by the above comments when it’s compared to an an email I’ve obtained that was sent by Clowers to URS suggesting the report take into account that traffic counts through the intersection will rise once the new I-40 is open with the Shields exit.
“Assumption.” That’s the word that Clowers used above. But common sense tells me something isn’t right with this “assumption.” Think about who is traveling through the intersection: people commuting between the Santa Fe/Broadway-Kerr garages and north Oklahoma City, and those traveling to and from Automobile Alley.
With the relocation of Devon Energy employees to the City Center garage, wouldn’t it be correct to assume the traffic load might drop?
As for the new I-40, are we thinking there is going to be a dramatic increase in people traveling from I-40 to and from Automobile Alley?
This all reminds me of when city engineers predicted chaos would ensue if NW 5 were closed for creation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. No such chaos has emerged to date.
Here’s the kicker to end this whole discussion – for now. If this were a situation where the city staff had no intentions of steering the outcome, why do we see these comments in a June 6, 2007 email from City Public Works director Dennis Clowers to Amy Lewin with URS?
The conclusion and recommendation section doesn’t appear to make any recommendation. Please include a recommendation to the effect that this proposal is not a good idea. Thanks.
I asked about this as well. Here’s Clowers’ response:
As for my “isn’t a good idea” quote, the final draft of the study talked around it not being a good idea, and really didn’t make a definite recommendation. I simply asked them, if the intent of the recommendation is negative, just say so.
I’ve never known Dennis Clowers to be anything but a dedicated civil servant who cares about his community and wants to see it thrive. But I leave it to you, the readers, as to whether or not this proposal was given serious consideration, whether the consultants did their job, and whether this issue should be reopened.