The Planetizen News Brief - 12/17/09

A Harvard expansion stalls out, carpoolers get tolled in San Francisco, and Philadelphia has officially grown in population -- all on this week's Planetizen News Brief, produced for Smart City Radio.

Full Transcript (Audio available as .mp3 at Planetizen):

A long-planned $1 billion expansion of Harvard University’s science center has been officially put on hold. The 100,000 square foot expansion has been in the works for years, but opposition in the Allston neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, coupled with the downturn in the economy has gradually slowed down the university’s plans. According to a recent article from the Boston Herald, construction work has already begun on the science center, and the foundation of the complex is expected to finish construction by springtime. But with plans to complete the project on hold indefinitely, the university is looking to cut at least a few of its losses by upgrading and renting out some of the vacant properties it holds in Allston. The university is reportedly seeking leases on those properties of up to ten years, an ominous sign for the future of the expansion.

Meanwhile, in the San Francisco Bay Area, conscientious carpoolers may soon see their good deeds appreciated just a little less. The Bay Area Toll Authority has been advised to begin tolling carpools crossing the area’s seven bridges, according to a recent article from Toll Roads News. Carpoolers had previously enjoyed free passage over the Bay Area’s bridges, but the region’s Toll Authority is looking to increase revenue sources in the coming years as it pays for a broad program of bridge improvements. High on their list is earthquake proofing on the seven bridges, which have been hit hard by seismic activity in the past. And with the recent cracks and damages to the Bay Bridge experienced earlier this Fall, generating the money to ensure the stability of the region’s bridges is seen by both commuters and public officials as a high priority.

And finally, in demographic news, the city of Philadelphia has for the first time in nearly 60 years grown in population. But it didn’t come easy. The city’s population count is actually a revised figured released by the U.S. Census Bureau after Philadelphia officials challenged the Bureau’s 2007 count. Officials had suspected an undercount when the Census Bureau released its annual population estimates and issued a formal dispute of the figures. When the Census Bureau re-ran its figures, it found that the city had actually gained population in 2008. The city now has an additional 93,000 residents, according to the Bureau’s new 2008 estimate. The increase is relatively small overall, just 1.5% compared to the population recorded in the 2000 Census, but the slight increase is reason to celebrate for many in the city who can now argue that the city is not dying, but in fact is actually on it’s way back to life.