Tuesday, September 02, 2003


Back in July, the Commercial Appeal ran a story announcing that Walter Kulash had been selected by the Friends of Shelby Farms as a consultant to the stalled highway project in Shelby Farms. The initial story was pretty positive, citing Kulash favorably as a consultant and results-getter.
He's a traffic engineer with a national reputation for designing roads that are smaller and slower, and thus kinder and gentler to neighborhoods, parks and business districts....

Kulash, a 61-year-old native of North Carolina, also carries some credibility with transportation officials and developers because of his engineering background.

"I would consider him a solid professional," said Bob Dunphy of the Urban Land Institute, a 20,000-member organization of people in the development industry.
The story also went into some length about a charette, a do-or-die type of brainstorming session intended to produce results under deadline that Kulash is famous for using in difficult negotiations, which the Shelby Farms highway project most certainly is. [Note: Yours truly is a supporter of Friends of Shelby Farms and a supporter of the No Way to The Highway campaign.]

The CA followed up with an editorial three days later that played up the positive notes in the earlier story. The editorial seems to have been written by the squishy Dave Kushma, as it is full of weasely wiggly words: considerable merit, considerable care, credible case, modest new route. You get the idea.

Today's CA reports that Kulash has come back with six proposals, two of which seem quite viable and one of them is the variant of the "Alternative F" idea which drew wide support. The link to the story also leads to a map showing what's being discussed. But the story, by the same writer as the first article, is a bit less gushing:
Walter Kulash, a Florida-based traffic engineer with a national reputation, champions smaller roads that blend better with parks, neighborhoods and businesses.
Still, the story seems to make clear that some good ideas, palatable to most, are now on the table.

The only killer in this is the developers. Mostly, they want big wide highways with lots of intersections to develop, feeding lots of folks to the newest subdivisions out east. There are also some who want to clip and nip at the edges of Shelby Farms to use the land for their own agendas. The new Memphis Animal Shelter is one such. Others are now jumping on this first example to make claims for their own projects. It's the ol' slippery slope.

I'm opposed to anything that makes precedent of carving at Shelby Farms. The 4500 acres need to be kept as sacrosanct and whole as possible. Huge highways funneling the mindless hordes from the suburbs this way and that need to be shunted around the park. I have no sympathy whatsoever for them. The roads were small and bad when they moved out there, and were only going to get worse as the crowds milled out their way. There is no right to have a straight, smooth, minimum-time commute to any corner of the county for those folks. Hard cheese to them, I say.

So, it's good to see some plans making forward progress with sympathy and respect from the TDOT and from local government. Hopefully, we'll see real results soon. But the slightly shifted tone of the CA's reporting probably portends that they haven't heard from the developers yet and are awaiting their verdict before locking down their own opinion. I'll be keeping an eye on this.

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