Atlantic Cities
The Big Fix

After Demolishing a Highway, How Should a City Rebuild?

After Demolishing a Highway, How Should a City Rebuild?
Reuters

In this week's The Big Fix, columnist Anthony Flint looked at what happens after and urban freeway is demolished or moved. He writes:

Dismantling urban freeways—replacing elevated viaducts of steel and concrete with parks and boulevards—is happening in so many places, it’s like an unspoken national urban policy. We've reached a unique point in city-building when the destruction of a public works project has all the glamour and buzz of breaking ground on a new one ...  But if all those projects are blockbuster movies, some cities are now moving on to the sequels. It’s time for the Son of the Sheridan, and Alaskan Way II.

Here's a round-up of some of the best thoughts from our commenters. Jon Harris highlights the downside of highway removal:

While there may be some worthy highway removal projects, taking a chunk out of I-95 is counter productive in this minimally expresswayed city. Philly suffered when it was bypassed through NJ in the sixties, something unknown to, or ignored by some of the current generation of planners. This removal is an ego driven, transitory utopian idea without practical value.

ManAboutTown nominates Rochester as the best highway removal in the country:

The best urban highway removal being planned in America today is the one the national media hasn't picked up on: Rochester's Inner Loop East project. For more, visit: www.cityofrochester.gov/innerl.... You'll be happy you did.

Dubnation argues that honor belongs to Texas:

In Texas it's hard to "remove" a freeway, but in Fort Worth one was relocated to aid in the redevelopment of the Lancaster corridor as grand boulevard. http://fortworthtexas.gov/uplo...

Somervillen looks ahead and imagines a New Urbanist transformation for former highway spaces:

The old three highways in the Boston area that are being discussed (Ruth Ave, Casey, McGrath) were built before the interstate system was fully developed. Now that the interstate is developed, and fully and exclusively devoted to automobile use, the old highways like Rutherford, Casey and McGrath are rightly considered redundant, overbuilt and outdated intrusions on the neighborhoods in which they sit. I hope they are all rebuilt as ground-level city streets that balance automobile, bicycle and pedestrian needs.

Andre Meyer highlights an unsuccessful development project in Boston's downtown:

Another ongoing highway redevelopment issue in Boston is Cambridge Street, which was widened at the dawn of the automobile age to improve access to the downtown -- and has never worked since in terms of either urban design or traffic flow. This is an interesting case because it's not a freeway at all.

And the last word, from Nikki_P:

While I approve of the sentiment and movement, I have to point out that almost all freeway removals are currently in the proposal stage and not in the planning or actual removal stage. This could be called an 'unspoken national movement' but by no means a policy as of yet.

Amanda Erickson is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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