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Robert Moses is rolling in his grave!
July 8, 2009 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Seoul, Portland and San Francisco: 4 cases for destroying highways to save the city.
posted by geoff. (79 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
San Francisco...relieve traffic jams

Good one.
posted by clorox at 1:06 PM on July 8, 2009


Please destroy the Gardiner in Toronto next.
posted by GuyZero at 1:07 PM on July 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


I've walked on the newly-daylighted Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. It's wonderful, and it gets heavy pedestrian use.
posted by gurple at 1:08 PM on July 8, 2009


Sweet, I've always wondered why it's called Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Now I know!
posted by nonmerci at 1:10 PM on July 8, 2009


The Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle is a great potential success story for a project like this. Around these parts we've been battling for years over what to do with it, since it needs to be torn down soon regardless.

Currently, it looks like we'll get some kind of park-lined waterfront boulevard, which will be nice, but we'll also get a tunnel underground to replace the viaduct.

The tunnel will be hugely expensive. And if the area can deal with the lack of viaduct during the several years of tunnel construction, I'm not sure why it couldn't deal without a road there permanently. But there's a lot of shipping traffic from the port to think about -- traffic that legitimately needs to go right through there.
posted by gurple at 1:15 PM on July 8, 2009


The two San Francisco examples they talk about are more correct than not. However they left out the freeways that never were, in particular the desperately needed freeway connecting the Peninsula to the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead we have the messes of Van Ness and 19th Avenue, with its three-miles-in-twenty-minutes crawl.
posted by Nelson at 1:16 PM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


While I came to SF long after the Embarcadero was torn down, I think the current situation is probably better (and I'm a huge fan of driving). Even though the south/east part of this "waterfront boulevard" isn't exactly the safest place in SF.

However, the fact that there's no way to get via freeway from the peninsula to the north bay has always irritated me, and it's hard to believe it wouldn't be any faster. After all, the 101/280->80 freeway connections are still there, and while they get backed up at rush hour, there are plenty of times you can drive the speed limit on them, which is much much faster than taking surface streets.

Of course, SF can do what it wants with its land (I live just south of the city, not in it). But any drive north (to Marin, wine country, etc) ends up with its longest leg being the relatively short distance you have to spend between 101 or 280 and the Golden gate.
posted by wildcrdj at 1:16 PM on July 8, 2009


Please dynamite the Whitehurst Freeway. Thank you in advance. Think about how cool the Georgetown waterfront could be if K street wasn't a brick and steel tunnel looking like the place where Bob Hoskins almost said "balls" in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:18 PM on July 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


I used to work in a building that was right up against the Embarcadero Freeway. The fromt of the building faced Steuart, and had a nice frontage. That back, not so much.

The building was on the site of an old hotel which was demolished (it had a room rumored to have been featured in a scene in "Bullitt"), and the property was donated to the non-profit which built the building, propbably because the shitty hotel was in a shitty space right next to that shitty freeway.

Then the freeway came down, and all of a sudden the 6th and 7th floors at the back of the building had stunning waterfront views. Heh.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:18 PM on July 8, 2009


What's with my typing today? "Front." "Fromt" probably means something completely different to architects.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:20 PM on July 8, 2009


There's a movement called 8664 pushing for this to happen in Louisville by the Ohio River. One can always hope.
posted by dilettante at 1:26 PM on July 8, 2009


In the San Francsico cases, the freeways they removed were relatively short spurs off of the main freeway that deposited drivers directly into selected neighborhoods. Their removal made it slightly less convenient to get to places, but it wasn't like they decided to take the entire freeway system out. And as people have said before, the severe lack of a freeway connecting the golden gate bridge to 101/280 is a major shortcoming in the transit network.
posted by Badgermann at 1:32 PM on July 8, 2009


I lived in San Francisco until slightly after the last shock from the Loma Prieta earthquake. (Then I got the hell out of Dodge.) The Embarcadero was an eyesore and good riddence. I agree, the connection from 19th to Van Ness to 101 is a complete mess, but there are many mass transit options to get from Marin to the City (including my favorite, the ferry.)

Of course I don't see a mention of the instant removal of the Nimitz Freeway (I-80) that connected the East Bay to the City. (580 is pretty nice, although a bit out of the way.)

You don't need a car in San Francisco, so removing roads only creates green space and less congestion.

Now what do we do about Atlanta? They've been pimping a new Green Belt railway for a while now, I sure would like to see that.

Of course with a dwindling tax-base due to having the highest level of mortgage fraud and foreclosure in the country, I wouldn't hold my breath.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:35 PM on July 8, 2009


Please destroy the Gardiner in Toronto next.

Too late. There's so many condos now that you'd hardly notice it was gone (though I agree with you 100% in theory).
posted by Go Banana at 1:38 PM on July 8, 2009


I'm not from Cleveland OH, but drove through it a few times on the I-90. What a horrible waste of waterfrontage. The interstate takes a pretty stupid and unsafe 90 degree turn at one point.

Is there a plan to replace that mess?
posted by eastofottawa at 1:40 PM on July 8, 2009


a brick and steel tunnel looking like the place where Bob Hoskins almost said "balls" in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.


I strongly suggest you go see what's on the other side of that wall.
posted by The Whelk at 1:41 PM on July 8, 2009


Old Robert Moses' body lies moldering in the grave something something highway something something his car is speeding on!
posted by The Whelk at 1:44 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you want to see how beautiful a skyline can look not marred by freeways, I give you Calgary. No downtown freeway access and the largest downtown workforce, per capita, in Canada have made for the most successful LRT system in North America, with daily ridership more than double that of Portland's more famous, and more hyped, MAX system.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:52 PM on July 8, 2009


Of course, SF can do what it wants with its land (I live just south of the city, not in it). But any drive north (to Marin, wine country, etc) ends up with its longest leg being the relatively short distance you have to spend between 101 or 280 and the Golden gate.

It wasn't any different really when the Embarcadero Freeway existed. Since it dropped you off in Chinatown or North Beach, traffic was actually worse; a whole bunch of freeway drivers dumped in the city at one time right before the bridge. Of course, Chinatown merchants loved it, because putting cars on city streets is good for business, especially when they have no choice but to end up there. ;) However, the overall takeaway from that is that traffic in urban areas is good for business. So not only do less urban freeways mean you get less extraneous car trips, less pollution, and nicer places to live, you get car trips taking place on roads with businesses, and that is a good thing. Even better if the cars are going really slow.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:54 PM on July 8, 2009


Toronto needs a GO Ferry to alleviate QEW congestion.
posted by autodidact at 1:55 PM on July 8, 2009


GTA I mean.
posted by autodidact at 1:55 PM on July 8, 2009


What was the first city that said "hey, we can turn this downtrodden waterfront into something good, instead of just using it for a highway"?
posted by smackfu at 1:59 PM on July 8, 2009


I'm surprised that they didn't mention the most expensive US highway project of all time.

I have to say -- although the Big Dig was a colossal clusterfuck of fraud, waste and abuse, a poster child for Massachusetts' dysfunctional, corrupt and quasi-Stalinist one-party government ... it's amazing. It has completely changed the character of Downtown Boston, significantly improved downtown traffic and resulted in a beautiful park (the Rose Kennedy Greenway).

Not sure I'm happy about paying for it well into 2038 though. :(
posted by xthlc at 2:00 PM on July 8, 2009


The danger of tearing down city-splitting freeways and replacing them with "urban greenery" is that they can just as easily turn into empty wasteland. See: Boston.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:03 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


jsavimbi, xthlc, do you guys live in the same city?
posted by Fraxas at 2:11 PM on July 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


Is there a plan to replace that mess?

If only. But it's much too expensive to level an entire city.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:15 PM on July 8, 2009


jsavimbi, I've gotta go with xthlc - even if the resulting green space isn't quite what was promised in the brochure, it's 10 million times better than a dank and rusty elevated highway.
posted by jalexei at 2:17 PM on July 8, 2009


Can I plug my earlier post to the blue on Braess' paradox and the price of anarchy? Well I just did anyway.
posted by parudox at 2:19 PM on July 8, 2009


Please dynamite the Whitehurst Freeway. Thank you in advance. Think about how cool the Georgetown waterfront could be...

The Georgetown waterfront is not bad looking. The freeway is set back from the riverside park and doesn't exactly cast oppressive shadows. Getting rid of the Whitehurst would mean diverting tons more traffic to M St NW, which this cyclist would then have even more reason to fear...as if it weren't already dangerous enough.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2009


jsavimbi, I've gotta go with xthlc - even if the resulting green space isn't quite what was promised in the brochure, it's 10 million times better than a dank and rusty elevated highway.

At least you had a view driving up and down the artery.

Understanding Boston and it's parochial society isn't easy, and out of topic, but the main purpose of burying the artery appears to be the consolidation of the Southeast Expressway, the Mass Pike and Storrow Drive into a fluid delivery system. (Forget about the expressway north of the Zakim Bridge). That part was accomplished.

But the visionaries forgot about reuniting a city with it's waterfront, which I'd think would be a pretty big item on the agenda since a lot of pissing and moaning in the seventies was about how the artery severed the North End and South Boston from the city. Aside: that may have been the purpose at the time and could still be.

What we have now is a shadeless wind corridor running from the Garden down to South Station, an equally segregational separator that probably stemmed from a planning meeting whose minutes could be summed up as "We'll just wall-up some dirt on the surface and let the moneybags fight over where to put Rose Kennedy's bushes".

In essence, they should have built buildings in some of those green spaces, uniting the livability of Beacon Hill, North End and Southie with the 7pm wasteland that is the Financial District and Gummint Center, but they were probably too busy either stealing or getting their cousins hired on the dig to bother.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:41 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is a similar proposal to tear down the Claiborne Expressway (I-10) between Elysian Fields and the Superdome in downtown New Orleans.
posted by djeo at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2009


Getting rid of the Whitehurst would mean diverting tons more traffic to M St NW, which this cyclist would then have even more reason to fear...as if it weren't already dangerous enough.

Eh. I'm in traffic all the time on my bike, including morning and evening rush hours and including Mass Ave and M Street, and I don't think volume is really the problem with biking in DC. I think it's more that bike lane designation needs to speed up and the DOT needs to pay more attention to large potholes and shoddy road repairs. DC is already pretty walkable, and hopefully with the addition of the Silver Line and whatever other mass transit projects are in the pipe the number of commuters on the road will decrease. Not everyone needs to be a special little flower and drive their leased 3-series into the city.

That only leaves the number one menace: dickhead cab drivers.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:47 PM on July 8, 2009


The Portland "before" and "after" photos show different locations. The before photo is north of the Hawthorne Bridge, accurately depicting where the southern extent of the park will be.

The "after" photo is of the south waterfront at night (now "RiverPlace", which is kind of blecch in a creepy vaguely upmarket sort of way, as if some of the more or less identical Lake Oswego development broke loose, floated downriver and got stuck in the old pilings around there), well to the south of the bridge.

You wouldn't be able to see Tom McCall Waterfront park in that shot even if it wasn't too dark; it starts on the other side of the bridge and is more or less behind it in that shot.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:50 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


On most days I ride to work along Portland's waterfront park. The cherry trees that blossom there in the spring are pretty high on my list of reasons for never wanting to leave this city. If there happens to be a sunny day during the week or two they're in bloom, you'll find the entire length of the park filled with people and picnic lunches or a couple tallboys. I think people really appreciate the reminder that it won't be gray forever.
posted by JohnFredra at 2:51 PM on July 8, 2009


Ruthless Bunny: Of course I don't see a mention of the instant removal of the Nimitz Freeway (I-80) that connected the East Bay to the City. (580 is pretty nice, although a bit out of the way.)

I think you mean the Cypress Viaduct; the Nimitz is still there. But why would they mention it? The connection it provided was replaced, though on a different path. And Mandela Parkway (née Cypress Street) isn't exactly a poster child for urban renewal. A twenty-foot wide park between 50 mph traffic in the heart of industrial/residential West Oakland isn't exactly the ideal spot for a picnic.
posted by clorox at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2009


posted by Nelson the desperately needed freeway connecting the Peninsula to the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead we have the messes of Van Ness and 19th Avenue, with its three-miles-in-twenty-minutes crawl.

Where would this proposed "desperately needed" freeway be built? I once heard discussion about digging a tunnel underneath 19th Avenue, but aside from that, I can't think of where this freeway would be built. But instead of a freeway, we could have the next best thing if they'd simply synchronize the stoplights on 19th Avenue. Everyone treats it like a freeway, anyway.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:53 PM on July 8, 2009


Fraxas: There is some extremely odd and always-deserted parkland just north of the Charles River dam that was renovated as part of the Dig. Maybe that's what jsavimbi is referring to? Anyway, it's better than what used to be there, even if its primary purpose is to be something nice to look at when crossing the bridge.

The RK greenway isn't perfect -- it's in the middle of a divided street and so isn't the most pleasant place to sit and eat your lunch. Plus it has a frankly embarassing lack of trees, in favor of hedges and the sort of terrible poured-concrete modernist ornamentation that passes for tasteful public space nowadays. But it makes for a very nice walk from Haymarket down to the Waterfront.
posted by xthlc at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like freeways. They get me where I need to go. I like driving my automobile on them.
posted by scrowdid at 2:56 PM on July 8, 2009


jsavimbi: Ah. Point. I forgot about the wind.

I'm still baffled as to why they didn't put trees there. That would solve quite a few problems, and be similar to the greenspace down the middle of Comm Ave.
posted by xthlc at 3:00 PM on July 8, 2009


wildcrdj: "However, the fact that there's no way to get via freeway from the peninsula to the north bay has always irritated me, and it's hard to believe it wouldn't be any faster."

There is, but you have to go through the East Bay.
posted by clorox at 3:04 PM on July 8, 2009


What we have now is a shadeless wind corridor running from the Garden down to South Station, an equally segregational separator that probably stemmed from a planning meeting whose minutes could be summed up as "We'll just wall-up some dirt on the surface and let the moneybags fight over where to put Rose Kennedy's bushes".

Save that automatic negativity and "everyone's corrupt" grousing for Boston.com comments. The Greenway is awesome. There's still a demarcation between Haymarket/Beacon Hill and the North End, but it's used-- by people! There's a big difference between walking into Haymarket and seeing a huge raised highway that's essentially a wall telling the unknowing "the city ends here" and seeing a green space with kids playing in fountains and people sitting at tables eating North End take-out.

Almost everything about the Big Dig was a big middle finger to taxpayers, but the Greenway and the Zakim are big positives.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:07 PM on July 8, 2009


Paris Beach
posted by jeffburdges at 3:10 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fraxas: There is some extremely odd and always-deserted parkland just north of the Charles River dam that was renovated as part of the Dig.

No, that's the old railyard/wharehouse area where East Cambridge and Charlestown meet and had nothing to do with the Dig. Don't you go worrying about that place there, because my inside sources tell me they're going to re-route the Green Line through there and build an urban village of luxury condos and office space. Just not right now because the recently yuppified industrial area on the other side of McGrath Highway by Lechmere hasn't sold so well and people in Medford don't want those punks riding the trolley all the way up to the Mystic River Pwky.

The RK greenway isn't perfect


I agree, but again, we're dealing with parochialism and the mere thought that someone might come along and do something to improve the life of a fellow citizen in Boston is cause for suspicion and concern. So why not just go cheap with the already existing Stalinist theme?

But it's dawned on me that the Big Dig isn't really related to the article because all they did was bury the artery and improve the inflow/outflow. Build it and they came. What would've happened if they'd terminated both the Southeast and Northeast expressways at Logan along with the Mass Pike, breaking the connection between the two and forcing the north/south traffic out onto I-95? As I recall, Boston was a city standing on its own two legs before someone decided that they needed a quick ride down to the Cape.
posted by jsavimbi at 3:12 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's wind everywhere in Boston. It's a coastal city. Ever tried to read a newspaper in Copley Square or PO Square in the spring? When the Artery was still there, the wind would howl through the tunnels and practically throw you out towards Haymarket anyway.

It's also a very Irish city, so perhaps we can learn from Cuchulain's example and not fight the tide.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:15 PM on July 8, 2009


Nelson: I can't wait for the Alaskan Way Viaduct to be torn down. It won't be torn down during contruction, however. My understanding is that one of the big benefits of the current deep-bore tunnel plan is that is will be located further east, and bored out, not cut and cover. This will leave the viaduct operational while the tunnel is being constructed.
posted by chupacabra at 3:40 PM on July 8, 2009


Where would this proposed "desperately needed" freeway be built? I once heard discussion about digging a tunnel underneath 19th Avenue

Oh, the western highway in San Francisco should go right on top of 19th Avenue. It's already a state highway, so the designation is there. Just condemn the buildings on either side, build a few underpasses, and you're set!

OK, maybe that's a bad idea (although honestly, when did you last want to go west of 19th Avenue other than the park or the beach?) The underground idea is fabulous and fabulously expensive. This 1955 map shows it going roughly up Junipero Serra, over Portola to Laguna Honda and back up 7th Avenue, connecting in the park to Park Presidio. That route is actually pretty efficient, although again politically impossible. Up the Great Highway maybe? Who cares, it's never going to happen. You won't be able to get on the Golden Gate Bridge efficiently until we have hovercars.

I haven't been back to Boston since the freeway was torn down. Surprised to hear the North End is still somewhat isolated. Not surprised to hear the Greenway hasn't worked perfectly. Sounds like it's from the Government Center school of urban planning, windswept and barren and devoid of any reason to be there.
posted by Nelson at 3:48 PM on July 8, 2009


eastofottawa: I'm not from Cleveland OH, but drove through it a few times on the I-90. What a horrible waste of waterfrontage. The interstate takes a pretty stupid and unsafe 90 degree turn at one point.

Yup. But that's two different issues.

1. There are lots of plans to re-configure Cleveland's lakefront, mostly taking Chicago's as the model. However, Burke Lakefront Airport will remain a huge waste of lakefront land for the forseeable future, for a number of reasons; the FAA's reluctance to eliminate existing runways for one, and the benefit of shorter limo rides to downtown for those with access to private / corporate jets for another.

2. The 'inner belt' is already undergoing rework, which is first focussing on the on/off ramps downtown (as in reducing the number of) and replacing high level bridge(s) over the industrial flats / Cuy River. Unfortunately, Dead Man's Curve as such will likely remain for some time. There's not a lot of ways to straighten it out.

Is there a plan to replace that mess?

More . than you can possibly . imagine.
But none of them seem to involve destroying freeways.
posted by Herodios at 3:50 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


This would so not work in Los Angeles.
posted by Justinian at 4:01 PM on July 8, 2009


Traffic schmaffic.

Don't frakkin' build the roads and the freeways next to the rivers, waterfronts and pretty places. People want to go to those locations, not drive beside them.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:08 PM on July 8, 2009


There is, but you have to go through the East Bay.

Heh, true, but that ends up being much slower of course. Basically the problem to me is that SF occupies the entire tip of the Peninsula, so there's no way to get across the bay without going through SF or allll the way around. It's not about whether you need cars in SF or not, or whether it helps or hurts SF businesses, but about longer hauls where SF is in the way (in other words, where neither your starting point nor your destination is the city, so the public transit in the city itself is totally irrelevant).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:13 PM on July 8, 2009


Milwaukee, Wisconsin - the Park East Freeway was removed in 2003

before
during
after
OK, so we're still working on it. (pdf of plan) (flash map of current projects)
posted by desjardins at 4:27 PM on July 8, 2009


And Mandela Parkway (née Cypress Street) isn't exactly a poster child for urban renewal. A twenty-foot wide park between 50 mph traffic in the heart of industrial/residential West Oakland isn't exactly the ideal spot for a picnic.

Eh, I've eaten my lunch there, it is actually kind of nice. I always see people walking their dogs or riding their bikes; not a bunch, granted, but there's always someone. I've also talked with some of the neighbors that lived there when the Cypress Structure existed, and I can tell you they much prefer sun, trees, and grass to crappy freeway overpass. A lot of neighborhood input went into the design and planning process with CalTrans, who originally wanted to rebuild the freeway right there. Instead a bunch of neighborhood organizations formed and forced Caltrans to move it. CalTrans tried to get neighbors to drop their insistence that the freeway go elsewhere by promising to build them a park- unfortunately for CalTrans, neighborhood activists found out that the park was going to be on a piece of contaminated land that CalTrans owned and refused to budge.

There's long been a tendency among governments to put their freeways through poor or minority neighborhoods. The fact that West Oakland residents got together and made sure that that wasn't going to happen again makes eating lunch in a narrow park in the middle of traffic that much better.

PS. On the east side of Mandela Parkway there's a bunch of boulders opposite a trucking company. The CalTrans landscape architect I met told me that they installed the landscape, and the trucking companies big rigs backed right over it. So they installed it again, only to have the same thing happen several more times. Talking to the trucking company had no result, so he managed to requisition a bunch of boulders from a freeway excavation somewhere else in the state, and craned them into the space directly opposite the trucking company. No more squished plants and destroyed irrigation.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:15 PM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would love to see something fix Portland's remaining interstate overpass mess on the Willamette's east bank... but what could be done? Bury it? Wasn't there a movement to push the whole thing several blocks to the east a few years back?
posted by Auden at 5:50 PM on July 8, 2009


There's a movement called 8664 pushing for this to happen in Louisville

The chances for which will be much improved if we can vote out Mayor Abramson, who staunchly supports a hugely expensive mess of highway expansion. No doubt because he's a crooked, shady, son of a bitch who stands to gain something in his back pocket by making this happen. Currently Louisville loves trying to make itself look like a big city by enacting ridiculous plans without any attention to cost or detail (highway expansion, building a new stadium). 8664 is a great example of how to reverse this trend and actually make the city a nicer place to live. We have a beautiful waterfront park space that is choked off by interstate 64, but Louisville's old money doesn't live downtown so politicians have nothing to gain by changing it for the better.
posted by Roman Graves at 6:06 PM on July 8, 2009


Hmm, I'm another one with mixed feelings for Oakland's Mandela Pkwy (former Cypress Structure). It's safe to say that it's not fully realizing its potential right now because of its current neighborhood feel, which is best described as industrial & poor.

Hope the whole "induced demand" thing really works both ways-- that people soon move to be near Mandela Parkway because of its general attractiveness. It takes time, though.
posted by samthemander at 7:01 PM on July 8, 2009


I hadn't heard of the Braess Paradox before - but it makes sense. I already avoid places I know are full of traffic, I'll go to quite a lot of trouble to find another way to get around. If you then add better public transport or cycling resources, I bet a lot of people would ditch the car more often.
posted by harriet vane at 7:03 PM on July 8, 2009


I have to agree with jsavimbi about Boston. I visited just as the Big Dig was about finishing up, and all that was left to do was the landscaping. I remember looking across from near Faneuil Hall (North Street, probably) towards North End, thinking, 'Hmm, guess this is the edge of the city center, won't bother going over there, it dosn't look to good.' This is after the highway was taken down, but the gap left really wasn't enticing, and definitely created a 'cutoff' in my mind that everything worthwhile stopped at that point.

I went back a year or so later, and knew what the Big Dig was by then. I deliberately decided to walk some of the waterfront and visit the North End. Crossing the street into the park felt like you were standing in the median of a highway, it really wasn't a nice space. I wouldn't stop and sit there, especially when the waterfront is so near by. Looking down the length of the park, the two halves of the city on either side seemed like such a huge contrast, and nothing tied them together.

I understand that the highway previously there was even worse, but the vitality of the North End is a real resource (I would definitely choose to live there), that not even attempting to integrate it with the rest of the city is such a waste.

My city recently completed a ring road that has been building for several decades, and it's painfully obvious how highways beyond a certain width/busyness fragment cities. They create a physical and mental barrier between one place and another, where even if somebody decides to cross over or through them, the city on either side seems so disconnected. I'm with Jane Jacobs, and don't believe good cities will ever exist where cars are given priority over pedestrians and other users of the same space. Tear em all down, let them ride bikes.
posted by Sova at 7:42 PM on July 8, 2009


Nobody drives there anymore; there's too much traffic.
posted by zsazsa at 7:54 PM on July 8, 2009


> Thank you in advance. Think about how cool the Georgetown waterfront could be if K street wasn't a bric
> k and steel tunnel looking like the place where Bob Hoskins almost said "balls" in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
> posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:18 PM on July 8 [2 favorites +] [!]


I was thinking of a different Roger Rabbit quote.

Judge Doom: A few weeks ago I had the good providence to stumble upon a plan of the city council. A construction plan of epic proportions. We're calling it a freeway.
Eddie Valiant: Freeway? What the hell's a freeway?
Judge Doom: Eight lanes of shimmering cement running from here to Pasadena. Smooth, safe, fast. Traffic jams will be a thing of the past.
Eddie Valiant: So that's why you killed Acme and Maroon? For this freeway? I don't get it.
Judge Doom: Of course not. You lack vision, but I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on all day, all night. Soon, where Toon Town once stood will be a string of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food. Tire salons, automobile dealerships and wonderful, wonderful billboards reaching as far as the eye can see. My God, it will be beautiful.


We'll hope this new golden vision works out better than that one did. But on principle I'm absolutely in favor of ripping up the highways. All of 'em. Unintended consequences be damned.
posted by jfuller at 8:19 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I'm not sure why it couldn't deal without a road there permanently. But there's a lot of shipping traffic from the port to think about -- traffic that legitimately needs to go right through there.

However the tunnel will not have any downtown exits. It exists almost entirely as the result of the Mayor being scared of losing downtown businesses to the traffic congestion, and to help quell the fears of folks in west seattle and ballard losing their north-south corridor (99), as those two regions have horrible access to I-5.

The tunnel sounds good on paper, because they wont tear down the viaduct until the tunnel is complete, but I don't know how that will work, as they will still need the connections to 99 done. There is also no money for anything but two lanes in both directions, no room to put an HOV lane in, nothing. And the huge budget is still ridiculously low for a project of this magnitude, so would leave little money for actually cleaning up the surface streets, or maybe extending the waterfront trolley track further south to put the maintenance facility in the lightrail space (since it was closed because people in belltown were complaining about the facility on the north end of the tracks).

I'd take a surface street solution, and spending the tunnel money on fixing the mercer exits, and the general horrible state of I5 access from the western part of the city.

But then, I've just moved to LA, where the chances of anything like that actually happening here is even less.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:02 PM on July 8, 2009


What we have now is a shadeless wind corridor running from the Garden down to South Station, an equally segregational separator that probably stemmed from a planning meeting whose minutes could be summed up as "We'll just wall-up some dirt on the surface and let the moneybags fight over where to put Rose Kennedy's bushes".

Some parts are better than others - I (and my kids) love the fountains just south of Haymarket - My guess, as someone whose office is just off the northern terminus on Causeway Street, is as development directly bordering the greenway progresses, the no-building edict will soften in places where it might make sense. For example, I'm curious to see what happens to the big empty field behind the Avenir complex just finishing up on Canal street - In any event, it took almost 400 years for Boston to get where it is today, I'm willing to be a bit patient to see how the Greenway develops.

There is some extremely odd and always-deserted parkland just north of the Charles River dam...

I've read there's some byzantine environmental standard/certification that's in limbo and keeping that park from opening. What's more frustrating is the pedestrian access connecting that park and the stretch of green across the harbor was axed.
posted by jalexei at 9:09 PM on July 8, 2009


There were a number of buildings planned for the Greenway - museums and a YMCA. Then the economy collapsed and none of them could get financing. At least they didn't start construction, then just walk away and leave the city with gaping voids like the Filene's Memorial Hole in Downtown Crossing.

Also, let's not forget the Southwest Expressway that was supposed to go where the Orange Line is now. You can still see the stub where it was supposed to connect to I-93 just north of the Charles (and I hear the half-abandoned cloverleaf that still exists where 95 was supposed to cross 128 is quite the thing to explore).
posted by adamg at 9:46 PM on July 8, 2009


Hmm, I'm another one with mixed feelings for Oakland's Mandela Pkwy (former Cypress Structure). It's safe to say that it's not fully realizing its potential right now because of its current neighborhood feel, which is best described as industrial & poor.

Hope the whole "induced demand" thing really works both ways-- that people soon move to be near Mandela Parkway because of its general attractiveness. It takes time, though.


Put me down in the opposite camp: I'm relieved that Mandela Parkway didn't trigger sudden increases in property values, rising rents and home sales, "old residents" vs. "new residents," or any other massive disruption to the community as some feared. It might become an example where a neighborhood revitalization effort (not to mention the long-overdue closing of the Red Star Yeast factory!) ends up benefiting the existing community.

Not that a nice grassy median with a meandering sidewalk is exactly top priority for most low-income communities, and not that it can make up for the massive screwing-over that happened when the highway was originally put straight through the middle of the neighborhood, but maybe it's a start, and at least it didn't cause anything bad to happen.
posted by salvia at 12:42 AM on July 9, 2009


Some pics from Cheonggycheon (self-link).

It really is beautiful and relaxing. You're walking below street level, which makes it much quieter than the center of a city should be.

The big controversy were all of the vendors who got displaced by the new construction.
posted by bardic at 1:29 AM on July 9, 2009


Then the economy collapsed and none of them could get financing.

I find that to be a poor excuse for lack of original thought. Having been born and then lived/worked/commuted through the old artery and the dig along with living with its current status, I can attest that there has been ample time to consider what the damn place would look like after completion and how it would function. Ample time during which there were at least three boom/bust cycles to secure development and financing.

Economically, for the powers that be, it makes sense to let the area go fallow. After all, in a city where a parking spot can go for $300,000, it just wouldn't do to introduce new construction that could bring prices down.

There's still a demarcation between Haymarket/Beacon Hill and the North End, but it's used-- by people!

You don't tie a city together by building parks and widening crosswalks, you do it by repopulating the vacant areas with people who live, shop and work there, not the occasional intrepid office worker looking to expand their horizons beyond PO Sq. nor the tourist looking for the Freedom Trail. You need a permanent presence, a destination that offers something that you don't have in your neighborhood.
posted by jsavimbi at 2:29 AM on July 9, 2009


This is an issue currently being debated in Syracuse NY where I-81 runs through the city. The overpass is nearing the end of its expected lifespan and there is a proposal to reroute the interstate and build a boulevard where the highway currently runs through downtown.
posted by maurice at 6:47 AM on July 9, 2009


Taking the Gardiner down now wouldn't accomplish much now. They've built condos that but up right against the south side of the road. Toronto's Waterfront starts South of those condos now. It'd be nice if they greened up the underside. Or did something creative with the space. Though, being Toronto, they'll probably tear down the road to build more condos.
posted by chunking express at 7:29 AM on July 9, 2009


I've walked on the newly-daylighted Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. It's wonderful, and it gets heavy pedestrian use.

Me too. Let's hear it for 2MB (who is now the President)!
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:52 AM on July 9, 2009


There are a lot of cities in Britain which could do with this. Basically, any place where 1950s urban planners finished what the Luftwaffe began and encircled the city centre with a ring of concrete and asphalt. (Birmingham and Nottingham are two examples that come to mind.)
posted by acb at 9:56 AM on July 9, 2009


To heck with that part of the Gardiner. I want the part south of Parkdale removed. I want to walk straight down Roncesvalles to the Beach like back in the 20's. The downtown is a lost cause.
posted by GuyZero at 10:33 AM on July 9, 2009


Actually, that would be pretty cool. Mind you, the Lakeshore is still in your way. You can cross the whole thing via those bridges right now though. (I did that the last time I walked down Roncesvalles with my wife. It's not that nice a trek, mind you.) They are tearing it down in the East. There were bids on the urban planning for that recently.
posted by chunking express at 10:42 AM on July 9, 2009


Nelson: I can't wait for the Alaskan Way Viaduct to be torn down. It won't be torn down during contruction, however. My understanding is that one of the big benefits of the current deep-bore tunnel plan is that is will be located further east, and bored out, not cut and cover. This will leave the viaduct operational while the tunnel is being constructed.
posted by chupacabra at 3:40 PM on July 8 [+] [!]


Yeah, that's the current option, though who knows what will actually come to pass. Tunneling through the fill around downtown is going to be interesting, I'll bet.

But as bad as traffic is in Seattle now, I'd hate to see it without the viaduct at all -- the only way that would fly is with a concurrent major mass-transport effort, which ain't going to happen.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:26 AM on July 9, 2009


Thanks for the links! Beautiful examples of humanizing cityscapes.

Honolulu needs to tear down its highway - to save the ISLAND!
posted by Surfurrus at 1:03 PM on July 9, 2009


Hmm, I'm another one with mixed feelings for Oakland's Mandela Pkwy (former Cypress Structure). It's safe to say that it's not fully realizing its potential right now because of its current neighborhood feel, which is best described as industrial & poor.

I'm not sure there's a solution for this- only build nice things in nice neighborhoods?

You may not enjoy going to Mandela Parkway because West Oakland is a difficult place, but the primary people this was built to serve are the people who were (are) living in West Oakland when it was designed. As such, it has addressed issues that were important to them, while working as an efficient route between West Oakland and Emeryville (and eventually serving as a portion of the Bay Trail). It was meant to be a less divisive, more pleasant throughway that people in the neighborhood could use. I've seen a man teaching a younger boy to ride a bike on Mandela Parkway's center plaza at Grand Avenue. Businesses such as Brown Sugar Kitchen have opened next to it. Small things that probably would not be taking place if the freeway had been rebuilt instead. While it's true that landscaping projects need to being developed and evaluated in context, I don't think saying a project is unsuccessful because the rest of the area has a bad feel to it makes any sense unless the specific intent was to address those issues. The specific intent was to build something nicer than another concrete hunk of double-decker freeway in the middle of a residential/industrial neighborhood. The effect is that now West Oakland is a much nicer place to be than it was before. It seems strange to say that the neighborhood would be even nicer if it wasn't crappy. Well, yeah, of course it would be. I just don't see how that reflects on the potential of the project that was meant to make the neighborhood less crap in the first place.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:45 PM on July 9, 2009


I agree wtih oneirodynia's take on West Oakland. Some friends of mine just moved up there and you know, it's all right. Maybe not most people's favorite neighborhood, but a neighborhood none the less, with actual bikes and pedestrians and things. Infinitely nicer than it'd be in the shadow of roaring traffic. Admittedly, I'm kind of partial to industrial-edge neighborhoods, but I liked it.
posted by tangerine at 4:29 PM on July 9, 2009


You need a permanent presence, a destination that offers something that you don't have in your neighborhood.

I completely agree. Boston doesn't have a terribly good history (pdf) with things like that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:55 PM on July 9, 2009


Back in the 90's, people were talking about this in relation to surface traffic, too. The idea was that you could revitalize an area by making entire streets pedestrian-only. Pedestrian and auto traffic wouldn't have to vie for the same streets as much, reducing congestion. As a pedestrian trapped in the body of a car-owner, I've always been saddened that the idea didn't get more traction. I've seen cities and towns do this in half-measures, and I've always liked the results.
posted by lekvar at 6:10 PM on July 9, 2009


Wish they would do something like this in the Bronx or possibly with the BQE
posted by kathrineg at 6:24 PM on July 9, 2009


There's an article on the front page of today's Times Picayune (nola.com) about the drive to tear down the I-10 over North Claiborne Avenue*. I'm surprised this is getting traction but I support the idea.

* I posted a different article from last spring higher up in the thread.
posted by djeo at 1:02 PM on July 12, 2009


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