Sunday, March 05, 2006

Big Dig- Twin Cities

Either I might be watching too much science fiction, or I could be watching the Discovery Channel/History Channel in the wee hours of the night. After watching a documentary on Boston’s Big Dig of its Central Artery Highway, I got interested in mega engineering projects of private/public development. Maybe I am in the wrong major? For three years I have been participating in the Urban Studies Program pursuing a degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Recently I attended a Career Transportation Expo held at Coffman Union. At the Expo there were many firms that were looking for Civil Engineers, people who actually build things, and not urban/regional planners. This kind of had me worried.

But I digress. Lately I have been thinking is that Minneapolis and St. Paul should build “superhighways” underground. These underground highways would operate below existing highways that go right through the cities. The best examples for Minneapolis are I-94 and 35W. For St. Paul we have I-94. These sections of the highways would be “buried” underground, and the above ground land could be reused/rezoned for public parks, housing, commercial development, anything besides Highways. There would be some problems, such as engineering new on-off ramps, and dealing with emissions created by the cars in the underground highways.

I suggest putting the highways underground in sections for three reasons: 1) Cost, 2) Time, and 3) keeping the Highway ROW open for traffic. The Cost alone of putting all of I-94 and 35W underground makes the project impossible. However, I am only suggesting putting certain areas of I-94/35W that go through the dense urban areas and usable space of Minneapolis. In cities further out, the highways would still be above ground. The sections would have to be done either one after the other or all at once, and with the way we fund transportation projects I am going to say for Times sake that this will have to be done one at a time, to allow for necessary funding. Also, as the section is being put underground, the above ground section will remain open until the “superhighways” below are completed and the necessary access points are created.

Who knows?? This may happen in the near future, or it may not happen at all. It will depend upon crucial innovations in tunneling technology that reduces the cost and time requirements associated with modern tunneling. It will also depend upon travel trends in the world, the state, and the cities of Minnesota. As fossil fuels become scarcer, are we going to see a reduction in the number of cars people own/use? Further investment in zero emission vehicles using alternative fuel sources? The answer to many of these types of questions for some of us is “we hope so”. With the car so ingrained into our current society, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

Well, think it over, let me know what you think out there members of the blogosphere (or not, whatever people feel like). It’s about 1 AM, and I have things to do tomorrow, so I need a goodnight’s sleep.

Goodnight, but before I go, I encourage everyone to dream, and dream big. No small dreams have the power to stir men’s souls.


1 comment:

Kristen said...

I think it is amazing what Boston did with their big dig. I think people neglect to see how much hard work it actually does take to complete projects like that.