My latest post is at Urban Indy. Though the focus is on case studies regarding road spurs in Indianapolis, the situation exists in cities across the country.
This seemingly unremarkable photo of traffic in downtown Indy shows the easternmost “spur” of Maryland Street, a primary downtown road that was converted to one-way eastbound in the early 1990s. In order to make it compatible with the adjacent Washington Street (which is now westbound), engineers designed this road spur so that the lanes would diverge and converge to form two complimentary one-ways, easing in the flow of traffic during peak hours. The map below provides better evidence.
Maryland Street, normally east-west, veers at a 45-degree angle to merge with Washington Street to the north. The result is that, for one block (the road spur), Maryland Street functions more as an exit ramp than a downtown arterial. As for the block that it bisects–
–virtually nothing but surface parking. The presence of this street engineered for unimpeded traffic not only creates an unappealing pedestrian environment, it precludes any further development by carving the parcels into trianguloid shapes that would be difficult to use.
This blog article focuses both on this and another road spur on the north side of downtown Indianapolis, offering considerable more photos and a speculation of what, if anything, could put these blocks back into marketable use as viable real estate. Neither are likely to happen, barring a major change to the design of the streets. But one can always hope! Over time, real estate pressures may persuade the city that high-speed traffic on oversized streets is less beneficial than a design that supports high-intensity office and/or residential use. I encourage readers to offer feedback, and perhaps to conceive of similar spur street segments in other cities, most of which inevitable yield similar results.
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