Video: Discussion with Mark Hackett and Wesley Johnston about the proposals for the York Street Interchange…

In our first Slugger podcast we talk with Architect and Urban Designer Mark Hackett about his alternative proposal for the York Street Interchange project in Belfast. Roads expert Wesley Johnston gives his view on Mark’s ideas. We also have a general discussion about the road network after Covid-19.

As Mark did a presentation to explain his ideas we have released this one as a video, but future episodes will likely to be audio.

The idea for the York St Interchange was first proposed over 50 years ago as part of the Belfast Urban Motorway in 1967, and the current plans have been around since 2006. The project is like Belfast rush hour traffic – very stop-start. It was hoped to go-ahead two years ago but there was a legal challenge from one of the companies who did not win the tender for the work. 100,000 cars use the interchange every day, so it is probably the most crucial section of our entire road network.

The cost of the project is put at £165 million, and like most infrastructure projects this cost will likely rise. In a post Covid-19 World where public money is likely to be tight the future of the project is in doubt. Luckily we have clever chaps like Mark Hackett around. Mark has put on his thinking cap and came up with a solution that is not only dramatically cheaper than the proposed project but also one that can be done in a shorter timescale and with less disruption to current traffic flow.

Mark’s plan also takes into account the urban environment of the project. As well as improving the traffic flow his plan also regenerates the area around York St and improving access to North Belfast. The concerns of residents were not given more thought back in the 1960s when the road scheme practically destroyed the historic neighbourhoods of Sailortown and Little Italy. And it seems the views of current residents are not getting being taken on board much either. Before watching our video it is worth watching this short video from the Ashton Centre that gives you a good background to the issues.

 

To make it easier to view the plans you can download Mark’s presentation here.

Even if you fully support the main proposal it could be 2030 before it is build, if at all. With more people working from home, as well as future technological advances like autonomous vehicles we have to question if such large projects are a good use of public funds? Mark’s suggestions seem a more pragmatic and realistic option.

Have a watch and let me know what you think in the comments. You can turn on subtitles on the video by clicking the CC icon.

I am looking for guests for future podcasts so if you have any suggestions do let me know.

The Slugger Podcast is sponsored by: Queen’s University.
Researchers at Queen’s are at the heart of supporting global efforts to understand the Coronavirus (COVID-19). To discover more about their research please visit http://www.qub.ac.uk/coronavirus