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In the Inland Empire, Freeway Overpasses Can Win Urban Planning Awards

Such a beautiful site! This freeway interchange pays tribute to the nearby Air Force base. Image: Falcon Engineering Services
This freeway interchange offers eye candy for jet pilots using the nearby March Air Reserve base. Image: Falcon Engineering Services
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The American Planning Association advocates for excellence in planning. But to judge from the awards given by its Inland Empire chapter, sometimes the notion of "excellence" is in the eye of the local beholder. The chapter gave its 2015 Urban Design Award to a sprawling freeway interchange where Van Buren Boulevard crosses over I-215 in Riverside.

As Jason Arango points out on GJEL's blog, there are a lot absurdities about this award:

    1. It’s not urban--the overpass is located in the middle of a field.
    2. It ignores walking and biking. For pedestrians, there is one long 90-foot crosswalk. For bicyclists, there's a bike lane --in only one direction--that requires bike riders to cross two lanes of accelerating freeway onramp traffic.
    3. There is literally nothing special about it, says Arango. “Some airplane designs that are barely visible from the freeway pay tribute to the nearby Air Force base. But that’s it. . .If anything, it embodies and reinforces the status quo.”

Furthermore , writes Arango:

By giving this project a Best Urban Design Award, the APA Inland Empire Chapter is encouraging a precedent of dangerous, automobile-centric 1950s design that doesn’t meet the needs of 21st century cities. While the safety hazards of this design might not seem to matter that much, it’s going to last a long time. If the Inland Empire continues to develop in a sprawling, car-centric manner (like the APA Chapter seems to encourage), this interchange could ultimately serve as yet another barrier to active transportation.

Boo, Inland Empire APA. If your vision to be “leaders in initiatives regarding the economy, environment, and equity,” is truly “the measure by which we want to be judged,” as the APA website claims, then we're judging. And this award is a fail.

Note: GJEL are sponsors of Streetsblog San Francisco. We were first alerted to this story on Twitter.

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