Design Changes Proposed for Downtown Boulevard
The comment period appears to be over on the four potential designs for the downtown boulevard, but have no doubt, this discussion is down to just two options.
Option D, scored lowest by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, looks at a proposal to not build the boulevard at all between Western and Walker Avenues, and instead suggests a return to the street grid that existed before construction of the old Interstate 40. This option is supported by Better Block OKC and, according to a statement released on Twitter, fits with the principles of the local Urban Land Institute Chapter.
Option C, scored highest in a review by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, eliminates much of the elevated span that was going to be built between Western and Walker Avenues and instead has a bridge over a merged Classen Boulevard and Western Avenue. This option is favored, without any changes, by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. Friends for a Better Boulevard, which successfully led the charge against the original elevated structure, is supporting Option C – but with changes as we will see below.
The first proposed change echoes those suggested by area developers, property owners and Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer – a full intersection at Lee Avenue.
The ODOT Option C is shown in this rendering:
Option C modifications proposed by Friends by a Better Boulevard are shown in this rendering:
Friends for a Better Boulevard also caught some potential complications I didn’t notice at first glance. Remember, much of the street grid in the area still consists of one-way streets – an anachronism left over from the 1960s that never really made sense. In its plan, the Department of Transportation proposes rebuilding SW 3 between Lee and Walker Avenues as a one-way street lined with parallel parking spaces. The street then dead-ends at Walker Avenue, creating two intersections to be crossed by pedestrians – especially families who might walk from their homes in Hispanic Riverside to the new John W. Rex Elementary School at Walker and California Avenues. Friends for a Better Boulevard suggest removing the block-long stretch of SW 3 and dead-ending it at Lee Avenue.
Friends for a Better Boulevard also discovered, by blowing up the digital maps created by ODOT, that the road between the future convention center and the new park is to be a seven-lane wide stretch of concrete. The group suggests some changes to this section as well, but I’ll add that it’s my understanding that much of this section is far from being a done deal anyway as it is being examined by park, convention center and Core to Shore designers and consultants employed by the city.
Friends for a Better Boulevard suggests removing the curbside parking around the park, adding a median and a crosswalk along what is now Harvey Avenue: