When it comes to Route 1 development, our neighborhood is going through some pretty tough challenges. If Park and Planning’s initial plan is approved, it may bring far reaching, mostly irreversible effect the way our neighborhood will look in the foreseeable future.
One conclusion everyone draws about the plan is this – the plan is faulty and has several holes that need to be fixed before it goes for full implementation.
Before we talk about the drawbacks, let’s take a look at the potential positive sides about the plan. The plan looks to bring walkable nodes, allowing our neighbors and families walk to shops and catch public transportation. There will also be undergrounding of electrical cables, thus giving the central corridor of our neighborhood a better, safer and modern look.
Special cares need to be taken in designing shops and businesses, since such development can be a major source of the city’s business tax revenue – which in turn can potentially reduce the taxes that our residents currently pay. One of the major concerns I’ve heard from the campaign field is that our taxes are pretty hefty, especially in this hard economic time – any help in reducing tax should be considered carefully.
New businesses should also be family friendly and should meet the needs of the local residences. Local businesses need to be incentivized to encourage more local economic growth.
Business development unfortunately poses other serious challenges, the most notably the issue of transportation – something the current plan does not address adequately. More businesses mean more traffic to the area – this will potentially aggravate the current congestion problem we all are facing on Route 1. Unfortunately, the plan is not based on serious and comprehensive long term traffic studies and is thus very incomplete. Once the shops are built, it will be very difficult or near impossible to improve the road – thus any development before the transportation fix is like putting the cart before the horse.
The plan should also look into ways to reduce the local and the external traffic on the Route 1. More frequent and smarter shuttle services should be introduced, preferably between the area and the metro stations. To reduce the university traffic through the portion of Route 1 in our district, more students housing should be built near the campus. Alternate routes such as Kenilworth Avenue should also be improved to take away the traffic load from the Route 1. Other local governments and administrations such as the State and Highway Administration (SHA) should be brought closely during the design and implementation phase of the plan.
Unlike many think, we’re just seeing the beginning of the Route 1 sector plan development – the full implementation will take some time, depending on the funds available. It’s important that we all stay informed and get engaged as our central corridor takes shape in future.