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The Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Blog

CSI Helps City of Olympia Reimagine $14M Project

May 24th, 2017 · No Comments · --Integrated Systems--, Transportation

SophieBy Sophie Stimson, Senior Planner at the City of Olympia

The City of Olympia was facing a $14 million road project to widen Fones Road. Recently, members of the public started to question the scope of the project. While it included bike lanes and sidewalks, they viewed the road widening as inconsistent with the City’s land use and transportation vision.

CaptureFonesRD Staff wanted to explore whether we could re-envision a project that would cost less and better meet our community vision.  We requested help from the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure (CSI) to coordinate a ‘value planning’ exercise for the Fones Road corridor.

CSI convened a multi-discipline consultant team to complete the exercise. The team planned a field trip and charrette process to explore the Fones Road corridor.  City transportation planners brought in a range of other City staff – parks and land use planners, utility engineers, economic analysts, and more.

Capture2With data and maps in hand, this group of about two dozen fanned out to explore the area on foot, and responded to thought-provoking questions developed by the consulting team. While many people had travelled the corridor routinely, the experience on foot took people by surprise.

The full-day design charrette was structured to generate ideas. Teams of consultants and staff generated creative responses to the issues they’d identified along the street. A few key take-aways from the process include:

  • A greater understanding of the population the street serves. Multi-modal improvements to the street would serve a large, dense population of low-income residents who were currently underserved by the street unless they drove a car.
  • There were hidden assets along the corridor. A large wetland had the potential to serve as a park. A regional trail intersects Fones Road, and improved access meant residents could walk and bike more easily.
  • Changing land uses influence the street’s function, and land use and transportation decisions should be made together. While we focused on design solutions, zoning changes emerged as part of the solutions.
  • The potential for low-impact stormwater improvements could bring beauty to the street while serving a valuable infiltration function and improving the health of the nearby wetland.

The process was structured in a way that got people to think about problems and opportunities in more depth.  We were asked to look beyond the commonly-defined issues and typical responses.  The consultant team structured the process to build on the expertise in the room while promoting creative new ways of thinking about solutions. After nearly two days of work, participants were energized and inspired by the process.

The resulting ideas are being synthesized by the consultant team into proposals for improving the corridor.  Once complete, this value planning exercise will set the stage for more detailed transportation analysis and design of improvements. This was a great opportunity to learn about this planning tool and we hope to apply it to other areas of City work.

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