TIFFS: Judge denies suit to keep Fresno’s Fulton Mall closed to vehicle traffic

Number 12 in the Transport in a Fine Fix Series.

Motor vehicles traveling north and south on Fulton Street through the historic Fresno Fulton Mall are to return. A Fresno judge blocked a local advocacy group’s attempt to keep cars and trucks and what-not from transiting through on the portion of the pedestrian promenade that presently traverses the mall. (See story and details here). It makes no sense that allowed on and through the iconic (symbolic) mall that Fulton is, would be motorized traffic, which the venue is currently cut off from.

I first brought the information to bear here in Sept. 2013 in: “Fulton Mall to get polluting cars; what is Fresno, fed thinking?!

Highlights:

  • On Friday, Sept. 6th, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx pays Fresno and the Mall a visit, presenting the city a federal check for almost $16 million.
  • Money will be put toward $20 million Fulton Street do-over on the Mall’s six blocks between Inyo and Tuolumne streets.

A vision of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is to open the mall to traffic; part of the plan to revitalize Fulton Mall and downtown.

Fulton Mall, when finished in 1964, ushered in the era of American outdoor pedestrian malls.

In that Sept. 6, 2013 post, meanwhile, I offered: “In its current form, the six-block-long mall is a pedestrian-and-bicycle-only venue and first opened in the mid-1960s. However, subsequent to the mall’s completion, area developers turned their attention northward and with that a mall left bereft of sufficient patronage, resulting in the venue falling on economic hard times and it has been that way since.”

But, I also argued: “When it comes to transportation in Fresno, the car is king, obviously. So, quite honestly, it comes as no surprise really that in an attempt to cure the Fulton Mall of its modern-day affliction, adding the motor vehicle element as catalyst to try to boost mall business and patronage and in the process alter its pedestrian-and-bicycle-only orientation, is what is presently being pursued and hence the federal cash contribution.”

As it relates and as long as the automobile continues to be promoted at the expense of more environmentally sensible means of mobility and travel, especially in an area with some of the country’s worst air pollution, how is the community and region ever going to comply with San Joaquin Valley, California and federal ozone and fine particulate matter standards mandates? My thought: It won’t.

So, what would prove to be a more environmentally sound resolution?

Right off the bat I can think of several.

Adding a substantial downtown residential component will enable a sizable amount of area sidewalk foot traffic, though, please note, this type of inner-city development has been very slow-going.

Next, with presumably hordes of pedestrians pounding downtown pavements, new entertainment, office, professional and retail venues to name a few, most likely would follow.

Finally, updated, accessible, affordable, safe, efficient, frequent, high-quality if not high-capacity public transit having an extensive reach will not just go far to provide downtown residents with a viable means with which to frequent venues beyond the downtown periphery, but such as well would do much to give area suburbanites more flexibility when it comes to moving about the entire city, and that includes the central business district, thus allowing for a greater coalescing of two parts of the community that, right now, seem as disparate as disparate can be.

In rounding out the discussion I’ll repeat what I earlier wrote in “Fulton Mall to get polluting cars; what is Fresno, fed thinking?!” because I believe it is still fitting: “Cars on the Mall: Is there something I’m missing here?”

1 thought on “TIFFS: Judge denies suit to keep Fresno’s Fulton Mall closed to vehicle traffic

  1. Now some people reading this may be thinking: “What’s the big deal?!” and that I’m making much ado about nothing.

    Truth is this is either going to go one of two ways: The Fulton Mall/Fulton Street reconstruction project is either going to be a resounding success, that, or a disappointing and dismal failure.

    Should the result be the latter, that means the nearly $16 million granted by the fed will have been unwisely spent. Maybe that money could have been better used elsewhere on a project that would result in improved traffic flow such as in putting in an underpass at like, say, for example, the Ventura Avenue crossing of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line located just south of the downtown Fresno Amtrak station at Tulare and Santa Fe streets, the Ventura crossing – currently an at-grade or grade-level crossing – itself being very busy with numerous trains per day coursing through that intersection tying up significant amounts of motor vehicle traffic.

    On the other hand, if it turns out the outcome is the former – a resounding success – I have to ask what impact motorized traffic on the air and area will be once the pedestrian-promenade-to-roadway conversion with parking (angled-in parking or otherwise) through what will ultimately be a newly revamped Fulton Mall, is completed.

    If the project turns out to be a dud, failing to effectively rejuvenate shopping and patronage activity on the mall and therefore resuscitate what is now in my view an at best very poorly patronized center having seen far better days, and a shopping, eating and business district that is dare I say derelict at worst, then the result of the spent funds will be good money thrown after bad.

    But, then again, should the opposite be the case, and the Fulton Mall once again becomes the beehive of activity that it was in its former glory days, then what I envision is busy, busy streets, and that means more traffic, more traffic snarling (less free-flowing traffic movement, in other words), and therefore compounding and adding negatively to the unhealthy and dirty air Fresno already deals with in essence worsening conditions.

    Either way, emissions produced by construction and related equipment during the reconstruction part of the project certainly won’t do a thing to help matters in this regard either.

    A lose-lose-lose proposition? Time will tell.

    All of which could have implications for other communities wishing to do likewise.

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