In their most recent stimulus certification (PDF), the DOT of the little-but great state of Delaware expressed a little lonely sadness in a project description for their famous toll plaza in Newark:
I-95 Newark Toll Plaza (25-090-02)
Justification: This toll plaza experiences high levels of congestion due to the current plaza configuration. As approximately 55 percent of travelers through the plaza utilize E-ZPass, congestion would be drastically reduced with high-speed lanes. This plaza is a regular complaint of motorists traveling through this state, and leaves travelers with a negative impression – in many cases their only impression — of Delaware, impacting reputation, business, tourism and economic development.
I don’t know whether they were playing for some Charlie Brown sympathy, but they might give off a better impression if they got some FRA money for the Wilmington Rail Station, or even fixed their graphs. Don’t worry, we’ll come visit soon!
Unless they are receiving unemployment benefits, the stimulus package is not something that will benefit most architects in any direct way. Mostly consisting of spending for non-physical programs, the ≈$94,000,000,000 that is there for infrastructure and construction is not going to any public projects that conventionally get the high-end architecture treatment. Yet if governments and agencies receive grants for utilities or other community assets and approach these structures with an eye to aesthetics, there is the potential for incredible additions to the fabric of our of towns and cities.
If the average architect wants to get design into these buildings, they’re going to have to look to practice architecture differently than they currently do. Firstly, they need to embrace building information modeling. Secondly, they need to emphasize designing details rather than looking at sophisticated conceptual schemes as justifications for form. Thirdly, architects need to look for different opportunities than what they have conventionally seen as prestige architecture projects.
After Delaware’s hilarious failure at conveying information, this actually useful Google map from Colorado is refreshing. Since it contains costs, descriptions, ARRA funding, award dates, and completion estimates in a handy visual shell, this has to be the best stimulus site I’ve seen.
It’s still a lot of semi-imaginary cash thrown at highway construction, which isn’t a good long term allocation for several reasons, but at least they tell us where it’s going with maps…