Thursday, July 17, 2014

Local transportation planner: Outerbelt warning was prescient

My posting Tuesday on the death of long-time Atlanta Regional Commission executive Harry West, "Atlanta's 'Mr. Region' (who warned against our outerbelt) has died" brought this memory from longtime local transportation planner Bill Coxe, Huntersville's transportation planner who previously the transportation planner for Mecklenburg County, back when there was enough unincorporated county land to make work for a county transportation planner.

Coxe wrote:

Saw your blog on Harry West’s passing. Had the following knee-jerk reaction:

As a transportation planner intimately involved with Charlotte's outerbelt since its original environmental study in 1979, I vividly remember Mr. West's comments at that conference. And time has proved him true. This billion-dollar infrastructure project causes the market to distribute land use in its wake. And since it turned land that had been used to row-crop food into land that is used to row-crop homes that are followed by row-cropped retail centers, it in turn demands more infrastructure investment. But the distances involved now make the cost of that provision daunting.

I also recall XX [Coxe named a local planner; I'm checking with that person to make sure Coxe's memory is accurate] making a presentation on his research that indicated outer loops did not bring more development to a metropolitan region, simply caused it to occur in a different fashion. Don’t know how you could ever prove or disprove this thesis.

Coincidentally, 1998 was also the year of the 2025 Transit/Land Use Plan, which recommended using rapid transit investment as a tool to engender a more compact and economically viable land use pattern.