What's the next big thing in Raleigh? Try this: We put together the Dan Douglas plan for an urban (even European) Capital Boulevard with TTA light-rail and one of the hybrid routes for the DOT's Southeast High-Speed Rail project, then add the plan so many have talked about for a greenway "riverwalk" on the it-doesn't-have-to-be-fetid Pigeon House Branch creek north of downtown.
It all adds up to City Councilor Thomas Crowder's proposal yesterday to "think big" about high-speed rail and the possibilities for Raleigh if we get it right and, first things first, don't get it wrong. Here's what Crowder said: SEHSR_Corrdor_Proposal.pdf
His takeaway message:
Therefore, I request the Council propose this partnership fund, carefully study and seriously consider extending the downtown road grid network north along the Capital Boulevard Valley to the intersection of US #1 and Wake Forest Road, aligning the SEHSR Corridor from this intersection south to West Street via an elevated viaduct shared with Triangle Transit lines over a rehabilitated and potentially realigned Pigeon House Branch watercourse integrated into a heavily landscaped urban greenway and a stormwater control system below it, creating the multi-modal transportation infrastructure needed for an urban scale mixed-use, mixed-income expansion of downtown.
The city already has a Capital Boulevard corridor study underway. The first meeting was in June. The next one is the last weekend in October. (Update: It's set for Saturday, October 30. 9-5 at the Carolina Trust Building, 230 Fayetteville Street — thanks, Trisha Hasch.)
The good news from DOT on the SEHSR project so far: They want to work with Raleigh to get this right. Or so they say.
The bad news: Raleigh doesn't have a plan for getting it right. Until citizens ginned up the hybrid routes, city officials were married to the NC3 alternative, which is better than the NC1/NC2 options, but not by a lot.
Whether the kind of ambitious, grand scheme Crowder has in mind is possible, who knows? He's imagining a sustained effort using federal, state and city funds from so many different sources (HUD, EPA, federal and state DOTs, etc.) that it sounds far-fetched. On the other hand, there was a report on NPR this morning from a reporter returning to duty in Shanghai, China after five years in Europe. When he left Shanghai, he said, the city had two subway lines. Five years later, it has 13.
To pull this kind of effort together, the first thing required is the vision. Well, as all those links I put up at the top of this post should demonstrate, lots of people in Raleigh have the vision. We have the planning expertise as well. What we need now is the leadership.