Posts tagged with "highway removal":

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As crucial vote looms, Toronto’s leadership divided over downtown elevated highway removal

The Toronto City Council will vote on June 21 on whether to remove a one-mile elevated section of the prominent but crumbling Gardiner East Expressway in the city’s downtown. Mayor John Tory wants to rebuild the road, but his staff, including chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, are advocating for removing the highway and replacing it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. It is unclear what the 45-member council will do. The mayor is advocating what he somewhat dubiously calls a “hybrid plan,” which would rebuild the road with some modifications to its ramps and structure. He told the Toronto Star that "I didn’t get elected to make traffic worse. And let’s be clear, removing that piece of the Gardiner will almost certainly make traffic worse.” Proponents of the teardown want to build a widened road along the city’s waterfront. They say that the mayor is wrong about traffic, as evidenced by Toronto’s successful removal of another section and put in a similar at-grade road. It would compliment the recent plans for the nearby Harbour Landing waterfront, designed by West 8. “It’s very clear removing is in the best interest of... [the] long-term vision, as articulated in our official plan,” Keesmaat told a group of landscape architects. “This is an opportunity for us to create a grand boulevard that weaves together the waterfront with the rest of the city, and opens up new development parcels, allowing us to create complete communities within walking distance of the downtown core.” According to polls, 45 percent of residents want to tear down the road, while 33 want to save it. Advocates of the at-grade option say that it will be 96 million dollars cheaper to build, and will save $458 million over the course of 100 years to lower maintenance costs. For the hybrid option, upwards of $100 million would need to be raised just to complete the project. Advocates of removal say that the impacts of their plan are being overhyped. According to experts, only 3 percent of commuters into the core of Toronto use the road. They say that the hybrid proposal would have similar effects on traffic as removal, because in both cases people would find other ways to go, travel at different times, or just avoid the area altogether. Construction on the project would start in 2018.
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Paris pushes for car-free River Seine quayside park as anti-pollution measures tighten

In keeping with Paris’ mounting aversion to automobiles, Mayor Anne Hidalgo recently announced plans to bar motorists from the banks of the River Seine by summer 2016. This latest blow to motorists occurs in tandem with the all-or-nothing anti-pollution target Hidalgo set last year of banning all non-electric or hybrid vehicles from Paris’ most polluted streets by 2020. Renderings for the futuristic River Seine project a motor-free parkland consisting of a tree-shaded promenade with space for children’s playgrounds and sports facilities. The length of this promenade is TBD, with some proposals occupying a modest 0.9 miles, while others insist on a 2.05-mile car-free quayside, potentially freeing up 1.4 acres of parkland. “All of this is part of a comprehensive policy in which we assume very deliberately that there will be fewer cars in Paris,” Hidalgo told reporters at a press conference. “Therefore, in calculating the flow of spillover traffic I don’t project myself into a world where there are as many cars as today. Objectively, that will no longer be the case.” The Seine has a distinctive double-tiered embankment that has allowed it to moonlight as a motorists’ artery into the city center without detracting from the romance of the riverscape. The upper embankment sits at street level, and has remained a scenic promenade dotted with quaint booksellers’ stalls. The lower embankment, where the roads traverse, is at water level and is sunken below high walls, with sections of road encased in tunnels. The City of Paris began reclaiming the Seine in 2002 under the "Paris Plages" program, when it closed down sections of the quayside to create a temporary summer beach complete with real sand and sun loungers. In 2013, the city barred cars permanently from a long stretch of the Left Bank to create a waterside park. According to the mayor, the city’s slow assail on motorways is part of  “an urban, almost philosophical project which consists of seeing the city in another way than through the use of cars.” In Hidalgo's car-cutting schemes along the Seine are also architected toward freeing up the Georges Pompidou Highway on the North side, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  
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Tired of the noisy Autobahn, Hamburg to kick off major highway-capping project

The city of Hamburg is kicking off a massive effort to bury and cap two miles of a highway that cuts right through town. Fast Company reported that the $800 million project will create 60 new acres of green space which include “open meadows, woods, bike paths, community gardens, and tree-lined squares.” Capping the highway will also create space for about 2000 new homes, according to city officials. While everyone likes new green space, this massive project is actually a means to solve a pretty common urban problem: noise. Since putting up walls around the increasingly crowded highway wouldn't do the trick, the city opted for the capping option. This then has the added benefit of creating new usable space. But it's not all urbanist dream world over in Hamburg. As Fast Company noted, the capping project also means widening the highway - and as you probably know, widening highways pretty much always makes traffic worse. As Hamburg gets to work on this project, Montreal is starting a highway project all its own. The Canadian city isn't burying one of its highways, but knocking it down to create a multi-modal boulevard. It is an ambitious plan with an ambitious budget and timeline; the city says it can have the project done in 2017 at the cost $141.6 million. The Hamburg project is expected to wrap up in 2022.
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Montreal to transform expressway into multi-modal urban boulevard

Urbanists rejoice! Montreal will tear down a major piece of one of its expressways and replace it with a multi-modal urban boulevard complete with parks, dozens of new trees, bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, a dog park, and art installations. The Montreal Gazette reported that crews will start dismantling the city’s Bonaventure Expressway this spring, and that the entire $141.6 million project should wrap up as soon as 2017. “At the centre of the massive project, which was subject to public consultation in 2009, are 42-metre wide public-park spaces, totalling more than 20,000 square metres, that will separate the north and southbound roadways,” reported the Gazette. An original plan would have placed new buildings on the sites now slated for parks. Montreal’s mayor said that the city’s independent inspector will monitor the project for possible corruption. [h/t Planetizen]
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Remembering Doug Wright, the man who helped tear down highways in San Francisco and Portland

San Francisco's deputy mayor for transportation—who played an integral role in getting the city to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake—passed away on July 30th. He was 68. After the earthquake struck the city, Wright convinced former San Francisco mayor, Art Agnos, to help lead the effort to remove the highway and replace it—not with another highway, but instead with a boulevard at street level. In the 1970s, Wright worked as the planning director in Portland, Oregon. He set a major urban planning milestone in the United States: he got the city to take down a large portion of Harbor Drive, a highway along the Willamette River and build a park—the Tom McCall Waterfront Park (named after former Oregon governor, Tom McCall)—in its place. In many ways his actions were visionary, setting a precedent for large scale urban freeway removal projects. In later decades, other cities let go of portions of their elevated highways, such as Boston, Milwaukee, and Seattle. Seattle is currently in the midst of boring the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel and planning a major redevelopment of the waterfront, designed by James Corner Field Operations. "I hate the word 'vision,' but he had a vision as to how transportation should be part of larger efforts to sustain the urban environment," Rudy Nothenberg told the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a colleague of Wright and San Francisco's former chief administration officer. "More than anyone I worked with, he was the kind of person you would want as a fermenter of ideas and possibility."
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Demolishing Dallas’ I-345 To Make Room for Economic Growth

Big spaces, big cities, big freeways. This equation has held ground since the boom of major road developments in the 1970s. But a Dallas group lead by urban designer Patrick Kennedy is fighting that conception. He and his initiative, A New Dallas, are pushing a proposal that has been steadily gaining support since it began two years ago. Interstate 345 is an eight lane, 1.4 mile stretch of elevated highway that serves roughly 200,000 commuters weekly. Kennedy wishes to demolish the structure completely, replacing it with a major surface street, four new parks, $4 billion in new private investment, and homes for 25,000 Dallas residents. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings met with TxDOT's district designer, Bill Halson, on April 1 to discuss the project. He issued a written statement applauding TxDOT for looking into the issue, while also noting that the city has no control over the department. Meanwhile, Kennedy called the decade-long investigative report a stalling tactic. TxDOT, however, claims that the thousands of commuters who use I-345 every day are part of an ongoing need that has to be taken into consideration. The first question many ask is how demolishing the expressway will affect traffic. Counterintuitively, the removal of major expressways actually improves traffic conditions. Structures like I-345 operate under the principle of induced demand, which dictates that if something is there, people will use it. Major traffic jams, long commutes from work to home, and decentralized modes of commercial space (a.k.a. strip malls) do not occur because freeways are not big enough or long enough. Rather, they grow in proportion to the size of the freeway itself. Indeed, this demolition trend is catching on throughout the country, as more and more people realize how major expressways hinder growth. I-345 was born in 1974, a time when developers believed that a commute's efficiency was defined by how fast one could get into and out of the city. The consequent boom in highways throughout the nation resulted in residential developments expanding outward from a city's business district, with strip malls and small businesses popping up in the vast concrete wake. Now, however, experts say that urban sprawl can actually hinder, not contribute to, economic growth. They also note that removing the structure would not back up or halt traffic altogether. Rather, it would disseminate it through city side streets, creating a more even flow and possibly completely eliminating the type of traffic problems that are encountered, not in developed urban areas, but in the suburban sprawl enabled by major highways. Indeed, at least six other cities have removed their traffic-chugging arteries. The resulting spaces have been reinvented into parks, cultural centers, public transit, and industrial developments. Kennedy said that the nearby side streets could handle the traffic flow, and that the installation of a major surface road could encourage the use of public transit, as well as facilitate the type of foot traffic seen in Klyde Warren Park. These types of highway removal initiatives, which allow for a more harmonious blend of office, residential, and commercial space, result in more localized living that reduces the need to drive as frequently or as far. Less traffic also equals less pollution, an environmental bonus that Kennedy's initiative has not addressed, but seems wholly feasible. Kennedy's plan also makes Dallas a safer city, considering the risk factor of accidents resulting from high-speed traffic. As several other U.S. cities throughout the nation are considering similar removals, Kennedy's observation that “this is a political and economic discussion more than it is engineering” may be spot-on. So logistically, what would a demolition look like? On the financial side, $10 million dollars and ten years to research the demolition of I-345, after which an approximate 1.9 billion dollars would be funneled into its removal. Meanwhile, TxDOT’s $100 million dollar renovation of the highway is underway.
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Boulevard of Broken Bourbon Bottles: Louisville Ponders Its Waterfront Again

It's beginning to sound a bit like a broken record, but for the umpteenth time, the conclusion has been drawn that the riverfront interstate, I-64, in Louisville, Kentucky, is a problem. That along with a lot of other advice—some insightful, some, like, “duh!”—was included in a new $300,000 master plan for the city developed by the firms MKSK, Development Strategies, City Visions, and Urban 1. The more insightful bits include ways of reconnecting Portland and west side neighborhoods with the urban core. The obvious, but still necessary, include the 42 million (that figure is a bit of hyperbole) surface parking spaces. Have you ever flown into Louisville? The downtown looks like a mall parking lot. Mayor Greg Fischer, don’t let this advice fall on deaf ears… again.
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Ten Roads Whose Time Has Come: Congress for the New Urbanism Releases List of Freeways Ripe for Removal

highways_to_boulevards_2 The Congress for the New Urbanism has released their annual list of Freeways Without Futures. The organization selected the top 10 urban American (and one Canadian) highways most in need of removal. The final list was culled from nominations from more than 50 cities. Criteria for inclusion included age of the freeway, the potential that removal would have to positively effect the areas where the roadways are currently situated, and the amount of momentum to realize such removals. Additionally the CNU highlighted campaigns in Dallas, the Bronx, Pasadena, Buffalo, and Niagra Falls, that are taking significant steps towards removing freeways (some of which have been included in past lists) as illustrations of broader institutional and political shifts on urban infrastructural thinking. I-10/Claiborne Overpass - New Orleans The already aging Interstate 10 was heavily damaged in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. The Unified New Orleans Plan (UNOP) suggested that the removal of the elevated portion of the highway would allow for the reclamation of 35 to 40 city blocks and 20 to 25 blocks of open space. With the help of public engagement Livable Claiborne Communities outlined a plan for a similar removal that would improve living conditions in the neighborhood in the immediate vicinity of the expressway. I-81 - Syracuse This road, including an elevated portion that runs through downtown Syracuse, was built in the 60's. Advocates for the transformation of the most urban portion of the freeway could be replaced by a boulevard that would connect neighborhoods, inject economic activity into the area, and be cheaper to maintain. Numerous local politicians have spoken in favor of such a plan and the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council and the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) co-led the I-81 Challenge to examine traffic patterns and alternatives to the current state of the highway. Gardiner Expressway - Toronto Unpopular with local citizens, the overworked Expressway requires more than $10 million annually in repairs. Recently, the City of Toronto and WATERFRONToronto finished work on the Gardiner Expressway & Lake Shore Boulevard Reconfiguration Environmental Assessment & Urban Design Study which will dictate the future of the portion of the Gardiner overlooking Lake Ontario. Route 5/Skyway - Buffalo The Skyway Bridge and Route 5 mar public views of the Buffalo River, diminish land values, and create a web of confusing traffic patterns predicated on inefficient one-way streets. The Department of Transportation rates the Skyway bridge as "fracture critical" while the Federal Highway Administration classifies the bridge as "functionally obsolete." It is likely to cost more than $50 million to maintain over the next two decades. Inner Loop - Rochester The Loop was built for the city Rochester once was, rather than the shrunken metropolis that stands today. For this reason much of the beltway carries traffic that could easily be carried by a urban avenue. Furthermore it constricts the downtown area, inhibiting development and isolating adjacent neighborhoods. In 2012 the city was awarded a USDOT TIGER grant to replace the eastern portion of the Loop with a two lane boulevard flanked by street parking. I-70 - St. Louis I-70 separates the city from the waterfront of the Mississippi River and Saarinen's iconic arch. Calls for bridging this divide by converting the expressway into an urban boulevard have been long simmering. Park Over The Highway is a $380 million project for a park and pedestrian and bike path that leaps I-70 in connecting the city to the area abutting the river. I-280 - San Francisco Meant to be part of a larger web of freeways that was ultimately halted by mid-century protests, the removal of this highway stub would increase the land values of the area by $80 million according to a report by Fourth and King Street Railyards. Replacing the strip with a urban boulevard would open the area for further redevelopment and allow for greater fluidity between neighborhoods. The city's Center for Architecture + Design has hosted a design competition for such a project. I-375 - Detroit This 1.06 mile strip served to divide portions of the city and contributed to the isolation and subsequent decay of once thriving black neighborhoods. Detroit's drop in population has lead to a 13% decrease in usage since 2009. In December of 2013, Detroit's Downtown Development Authority moved forward with alternative plans for the highway, with particular focus on converting the road into a more pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. Terminal Island Freeway - Long Beach As it stands the freeway currently serves a mere 14,000 vehicles a day, numbers that could drop further if plans to expand the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility come to fruition, a development that would redirect significant freight traffic in the area. Local nonprofit urban design studio City Fabrick have spear-headed a movement to convert the road into a greenbelt that would act as a buffer between residential districts and industrial port infrastructure. In 2013 the plan was awarded a Caltrans grant. Aetna Viaduct - Hartford This 3/4 mile stretch of elevated expressway was completed in 1965. In running directly through downtown Hartford the Viaduct destroyed historic architecture, public spaces, and severed inter-community links once easily traversed by foot. Initially set for costly re-surfacing that would increase its lifespan by 20 years, new plans are being considered for the heavily-trafficked road. Hartford officials and Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) are currently considering plans to re-align nearby rail tracks that would open 15-20 acres of nearby land for redevelopment.
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John Norquist To Retire from Congress for the New Urbanism

john_norquist_cnu-01 After a decade as CEO and President of the Congress for the New Urbanism, 64-year-old John Norquist has announced he will retire next spring. In 1993, with 16 years of Milwaukee mayoral reign under his belt, Norquist created CNU as an advocate for mixed-use development in city neighborhoods. Since then, the organization has promoted highway removal, re-design of public housing, and increases in public transportation, building its membership count to over 2,500. In June 2014, after the 22nd Annual Congress in Buffalo, Norquist will leave his position, hoping for “time to write and teach.” (Photo: Courtesy CNU)
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New York State Tearing Out Robert Moses State Parkway

Go Down, Moses, indeed. Highway-removal advocates were awarded a small victory this week as New York State announced it will be tearing out a two-mile expanse of the aptly-named Robert Moses State Parkway (aka the Niagara Falls expressway). The section to be removed runs along the main part of the river gorge and has long been a barrier to pedestrians seeking access to recreation areas. The Buffalo News reported that some sections of the roadway will be kept, but the long-term plan is to build a multi-use nature trail for sports such as hiking, biking, and cross country skiing. This will be the first time in half a century that residents and visitors will have access to nature trails without the inconvenience of crossing the parkway. There will be car access to the gorge by way of Whirlpool Street, which will be turned into a two-lane parkway. New York State Parks officials anticipate the entire process will take around three years and cost up to $50 million. According to the Buffalo News, “It would also constitute the largest expansion of Niagara parkland since the Niagara Reservation was created in the 1880s.”
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Vives les Plages! Paris Rethinks its Riverbanks by Banishing Cars

The "reconquest" of the Seine's riverside expressways will be ushered in by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, following a long battle with Nicolas Sarkozy's recently ousted right-wing government. Continuous two-lane motorways have severed Paris from the banks of the Seine, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, since Georges Pompidou opened them in 1967 under the slogan “Paris must adapt to the car.” Delanoë has made it his mission to reverse Paris' auto-centric planning mentality, increasing the number of bicycle and bus lanes in the city while implementing bike- and electric car-share schemes. The pedestrianization of the Seine also follows Delanoë’s Paris-Plages program, started in 2002, that transforms small stretches of riverbank into sand-covered beaches complete with palm trees and deckchairs for one month each summer. Starting next month, a stretch of road on the Right Bank starting at the Hôtel de Ville and running eastward a little more than half a mile will be narrowed and additional speed-controlling traffic lights and pedestrian crossings will be installed. Pedestrian corridors and bicycle lanes will be added to the road, along with bars and cafes (some of them on floating barges and islands). The next stage, to be unveiled next spring, will replace the road completely for a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Left Bank between the Musée d’Orsay and the Pont de l’Alma, creating an 11-acre park with volleyball courts, sundecks, and floating gardens. This corridor will be connected to the Right Bank by new pedestrian crossings at Debilly (adjacent the Eiffel Tower) and Jardins des Tuileries (adjacent the Louvre). It is expected these modifications will add only six minutes to the average commute while restoring access to the riverfront to Parisians and tourists alike.
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7 Cities Consider Removing Major Urban Highways

In a shift from America’s traditional 20th century landscape, more and more cities are now considering removing major highways in favor of housing, parks and economic development. The chief motivation seems to be money, according to a recent NPR report highlighting the growing movement and the removal of Cleveland’s West Shoreway. As highways age, keeping them around doesn’t justify the high cost of maintenance. But tearing these highways down also means new opportunities for developing valuable real estate and rehabilitating blighted land. The federal government awarded $16 million to replace a New Haven highway with pedestrian boulevards last fall, and other TIGER II funds to explore highway removal in the Bronx and New Orleans have also been issued. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. remarked, "We think this is a big f---ing deal." Decades after urban renewal programs first put up highways, most city planners now realize that highways drain vitality from healthy neighborhoods and lower property values. San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway and Central Freeway are two poster children for how highway removal can rejuvenate neighborhoods. The collapse of the Miller Highway in New York also made way for what’s now West Street and Hudson River Park.
BALTIMORE: Demolition of Baltimore’s infamous "Highway to Nowhere," a one mile stretch that ends in a grassy slope, began last fall. In 1974, construction sliced through a vibrant working class area of west Baltimore, demolishing 700 homes and displacing 2,000 residents, mostly African American. The area is now characterized by vacant homes and high poverty rates. President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act awarded $2.8 million for the highway’s removal, which will make room for transit-oriented development.

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CLEVELAND: The only way to get from downtown Cleveland to the waterfront is through poorly lit tunnels underneath the West Shoreway freeway. NPR recently highlighted the city's plan to convert the highway into an urban boulevard, in line with efforts to develop the waterfront, but opposition from suburban commuters forced the city to scale back the project. The original proposal would have added crosswalks to the road, parks, offices and housing, while the actual project will just focus on rebuilding the pedestrian tunnels.

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NEW ORLEANS: Decades before Hurricane Katrina and getting its own HBO series, Treme was one of the wealthiest African American communities in New Orleans, and Claiborne Avenue was its teeming commercial center. The construction of the Claiborne Expressway in the 1950s changed all that, displacing families and over 100 businesses. City planners are currently debating removing the highway as part of post-Katrina rebuilding. The plan would reclaim 35-40 city blocks from urban blight and 20-25 blocks of open space.

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SEATTLE: A battle is raging in Seattle over the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The highway's coming down after sustaining damage in a 2001 earthquake, but the $4.2 billion tunnel slated to replace it by 2016 remains a political hot potato. The project is entangled in lawsuits, with critics seeking to vote on the project. Mayor McGinn came out against the Seattle’s political establishment in support of a street level replacement. He’s also pushing for removal of the Viaduct next year, citing the damage it would cause in an earthquake.

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NEW HAVEN: The city recently received a $16 million TIGER II grant to convert part of Route 34 into an urban boulevard. Residents envision a re-do with narrow car lanes, wide sidewalks and a bike lane. The plan will add 960 permanent jobs and reclaim 11 acres of land that can be developed and taxed. It will finally unite the city's central business district with the rest of New Haven, ending the highway's stifling effect on economic development. Built in 1959, the highway displaced 600 families and 65 businesses and was never completed.

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BUFFALO: After several multi-million dollar projects failed to slow Buffalo's decline, planners set their sights on removing two of the city's major highways. The Skyway and Route 5 make commutes more difficult, cost millions in annual maintenance and block waterfront development. The state Department of Transportation decided to keep the elevated roadways in 2008, even though local officials and residents wanted a street level boulevard. A coalition of citizens and civic organizations appealed the decision in 2008, and continue to advocate demolition.

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LOUISVILLE: In the opening scenes of Elizabethtown, Kirsten Dunst maps out Interstate 64 in Louisville for Orlando Bloom because "the roads around there are hopelessly and gloriously confusing." He gets lost anyway, banging his hands against his steering wheel and yelling "60B!" The Ohio River Bridges Project, a $4.2 billion plan to expand the highway to 23 lanes of traffic at its widest point, would make things even more challenging. In 2005, two Louisville businessmen launched a grassroots campaign to remove the highway and develop the waterfront with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. But it looks like the project's continuing with wider elevated lanes of traffic with some cost cut adjustments made in recent days.

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