Highways for Habitats #10: Evergreen Way Revitalization

Evergreen BRTTransportation planning is tough.  Roads have to serve a number of (sometimes competing) purposes.  Roads whose primary purpose is moving people and goods quickly through a community often have a detrimental effect on the communities they bisect (see: the history of freeways in Detroit).  Take state trunk lines for example, which you can recognize because they’re usually twice as wide to cross as the other roads in a neighborhood, and, of course, highways and interstates.  We’re currently running a series of posts featuring creative solutions from around the globe to make these roads – roads that must run through communities – also work to serve those communities.  Check out more about our inspiration here.

Washington’s Evergreen Way connects downtown Everett with neighboring communities, functioning mainly as a regional transportation route.  Over time it has become a strip commercial development – parking lots separate the road from buildings – and it serves as a chief retail district.   When Swift Bus Rapid Transit came to Evergreen Way in 2009, the city launched an initiative to revitalize the corridor through maximizing the potential for transit based redevelopment created by the new bus service.

The city of Everett developed the Evergreen Way Corridor Revitalization Plan to guide the planning process.  For two years the city held public workshops and dispersed a survey to gather input from community members and businesses; the public was in strong support.  The goals of the plan are to strengthen the corridor as an economic hub, and to improve the livability, walkability and safety of the corridor and its neighborhoods.

Many strategies are detailed in the plan to achieve a healthier region.  The plan designates the project area a “mixed-use commercial multifamily corridor to be served by high quality transit”.  The approach is to create a linear community through development of mixed use “nodes” around Swift BRT stations.  The nodes will be surrounded by high-density growth and designed for multiple uses.

Using alternative transit as a base to build on will improve transit access and ridership.  This in turn will enhance the quality of surrounding residential areas, providing residents with improved walkability and better access to amenities, while decreasing vehicle miles traveled (and therefore carbon emissions).  Businesses will benefit from the more pedestrian friendly area, and this will help foster an environment that is supportive and welcoming to new businesses.

While this project is not yet completed, we are excited by its use of alternative transportation as the foundation of the plan.  The concentration of high-density redevelopment near transit facilities is a method we strongly agree with, and we look forward to seeing this project come to fruition.

Photo from Oran Viriyincy on flickr.com