Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cutting Costs on Riga Northern Transport Corridor

Riga Northern Transport Corridor is the most ambitious and most car-centered project in Riga ever seen ( The aim is to build a 27-30 km urban highway and a high bridge (or a tunnel) across river Daugava. Meanwhile the main goal is to provide better truck connections to the port. I propose to abandon the any plans for elaborating the car traffic within Northern Transport Corridor because:
1. Cutting travel times on car will encourage suburban sprawl thus damaging natural environment, making car-dependant communities and putting tax flow away from Riga;
2. The new development sites – with are patronized by the planners – will be car- not mass transit- based so encouraging even more sprawl and damaging current CBD (with needs activities to be added not to cut);
3. The traffic shifted to the Northern Transport Corridor will not lower the flow on existing streets and bridges because the spare capacity will be used by people now using public transport. The centre by-pass may be developed from the Southern and Salu bridges by further upgrading their access roads;
4. There will be small benefits from the project unless it is fully realized;
5. Sky-high expanses (no matter private of public funding) for massive construction and vast properties needed;
6. Damaged urban environment by noise and fragmentation.

I propose building a brand-new Truck-Only System (TOS) so boosting manufacturing and freight transit. TOS would consist of two lane road – fully or partially separated from city streets with off- and on- ramps near industrial activities and port facilities, other main streets. These roads would not have junctions with roads to or in residential areas. 

TOS have several pros over urban highway:
1. 2 (or - if reasonable - 1) lanes unlike 6 in highway, so less need for extra properties. See stage 4 – in the base variant it is located on unused railroad branches, even using the existing bridge over river Jugla;
2. Smaller speeds thus smaller radius thus higher use of existing public land and higher integration in the landscape;
3. Less traffic over river Daugava so ferry line, moveable bridge or transporter bridge would be enough;
4. Smaller junctions;
5. May be used for public transport and emergency vehicles;
6. Good usability if just few sections are built (see picture – stages in prioritized order)
7. Very easy pedestrian crossings – just zebra crossing or no marking at all.

By such a system the main goal – making truck traffic to port easier – will be reached and will have spare capacity for decades. The saved resources must be invested in public transport.

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