Overhead Wire

National Links: CA High Speed Rail Scaled Back and Stick Built Mid-Rises

Every day at The Overhead Wire we collect news about cities and send the links to our email list.  At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to streets.mn that focuses on urban issues in the DC region.  They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Green New Deal for Trains: One of the proposed Green New Deal’s most ambitious transportation goals is to “build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary.” As planes, cars, and shipping are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, many find the goal sensible. Opponents see it as a far-fetched fantasy, though proponents look to Japan and Europe as successful case studies. And China, with its high-speed rail system being the world’s largest, showcases how even large countries can build out an efficient system. (Umair Irfan | Vox)

America’s Forgettable Mid-Rises: Blocky apartment buildings are emerging in “one of the most dramatic changes to the country’s built environment in decades.” The seemingly uniform look stems from stick framing, the familiar method of construction of nailing together frames of softwood two-by-fours. This method is cheaper and easier to construct, and strict building and zoning codes leave little room for deviation. Also, all the wood framing is highly flammable, particularly during construction. (Justin Fox | Bloomberg)

Swiss Voters Accept Sprawl: On February 10th, Switzerland rejected a referendum to limit sprawl by freezing the size of construction zones, thereby protecting open spaces from development. A new building zone would only have been allowed if another area of at least the same size was no longer set aside for construction. The Swiss government and parliament opposed the plan, positing that it ignores regional differences and may worsen the nation’s housing crisis. (Michael Shields | Reuters)

CA Bullet Train Scaled Back: Governor Newsom announced this week that he was pulling back on plans to construct the California High-Speed Rail, promising to complete the initial phase from Merced to Bakersfield. Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation lists 7 “Worst Practices” that led to this failure, including spending federal funding first and relying on hypothetical funding sources for capital costs. Melanie Curry at Streetsblog points out, however, that completing the entire system at once was never the plan, and that Newsom was not abandoning the project. Rather, the governor plans to hold contractors and consultants more accountable and transparent in handling taxpayer funds as plans for the whole system move forward. (Jeff Davis | Eno Center) (Melanie Curry | Streetsblog CA)

Atlanta to “Stitch” Together Its Core: A plan to cover the I-75/85 connector in Downtown Atlanta will soon be unveiled. On March 1st, the Urban Land Institute will release its feasibility analyses to develop atop a half-mile stretch of a 14-lane-wide highway. To be potentially done in phases, the hope is to construct the development without shutting down traffic. Though it may take “a decade or two” to complete, the project is expected to be an incredible boon to the local economy. (Sean Keenan | Curbed Atlanta)

Quote of the Week

“Most married couples will continue to nest alone or only with family members, but it is clear that roommates often allow married couples to better manage the vagaries of the housing market.”

Cheryl Young in the Denver Post discussing how married couples are taking on roommates to reduce housing costs.

This week on the podcast, Ryan Westrom from Ford Smart Mobility and Greenfield Labs joins us at the Brooklyn Podcast Festival

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer