By on April 9, 2019

Urban transportation is a slippery fish. No two cities are the same, and most need to harmonize foot, rail, bike, bus, and automobile transportation to ensure everyone can get where they’re going in a timely manner. Unfortunately, as the constantly changing recipe varies significantly between towns, some projects can hamper a city’s wellbeing.

Take New York as an example. The city’s subway system is well on its way to becoming an unmitigated disaster as more and more disgruntled residents lean on ride-hailing services as an alternative. This has increased on-road congestion, without making the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s underground option cheaper, less crowded, or more reliable. The city has since decided to enact congestion charges for Lower Manhattan.

Other towns face similar issues, with the presiding logic frequently being little more than “let’s just cram a highway through there.” Unlike in past decades, cities are increasingly hesitant to enact such plans. An ill-placed freeway can spell disaster for local communities, just as a well-placed one can help bedroom communities thrive. Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) recently released a list of 10 highways it would like to see demolished in order to create more walkable, connected neighborhoods under the banner of promoting “great urbanism.”

While we found CNU’s “Freeways Without Futures” report fascinating — and willingly agree that highways can absolutely divide established neighborhood,  sometimes sapping their growth potential — the organization’s biases are glaringly obvious.

Congress for the New Urbanism’s primary goals include promoting urban equity and inclusion, environmentalism, maintaining areas with varied local businesses, and tearing down highways. But city planning remains exceptionally difficult; it’s always worth hearing all possible solutions to a problem before you begin discounting them.

In conjunction with local governments or advocacy groups, CNU has identified 10 freeways it argues should be dismantled:

Claiborne Expressway (I-10), New Orleans, Louisiana
I-275, Tampa, Florida
I-345, Dallas, Texas
I-35, Austin, Texas
I-5, Portland, Oregon
I-64, Louisville, Kentucky
I-70, Denver, Colorado
I-81, Syracuse, New York
I-980, Oakland, California
Kensington and Scajaquada Expressways, Buffalo, New York

While the report goes into detail about the pitfalls of each road, most suffer similar problems. They are old, need quite a bit of costly maintenance, and are believed to have had a generally negative impact on local communities. Congress for the New Urbanism claims that their removal will be a step toward restoring the “wholeness and opportunity to the neighborhoods and business districts these routes disrupted.”

Several of the plans involve demolishing specific sections of highways, leaving the rest intact. In the case of New York’s I-81, the CNU report only recommended replacing an 1.4-mile stretch of elevated road in Syracuse (that effectively splits the city in half) with a ground-level boulevard.

From Congress for the New Urbanism:

Cities must strive to create walkable places out of former highway corridors, designed on a scale suitable for pedestrians. If the street or boulevard that replaces the highway still caters to a high volume of vehicle traffic moving at a fast pace, then many of the benefits of highway removal will fail to manifest. The boulevard will still be an effective barrier for pedestrians, businesses that are supposed to rely on foot traffic will flounder, and property values will remain stagnant. Eight uninterrupted lanes of at-grade traffic mimics the effects of a highway, including its dire public health consequences for nearby residents.

A street design that includes cars but does not make them the highest priority is key: the test of time has shown that a road of four to six lanes is adequate for auto traffic but can still be designed for people and bicycles, with well-proportioned sidewalks, frequent and well-signed crossings, street trees, and one or more medians that create a desirable and walkable avenue.

However, the report also mentions “graduated campaigns,” and your humble author noticed Detroit’s I-375 on the list. A comically short run of ugly Detroit pavement that isolated a portion of the city, it’s also a convenient stretch of road I regularly used while living in Michigan. Encouraged by Congress for the New Urbanism and local advocacy groups, The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has formally committed itself to I-375’s removal. And it leaves me wondering about the people utilizing the rest of the claimed “Freeways Without Futures” for their daily commute. Do you drive on or live near any of these roads?

If so, what would your life be like if it suddenly went missing?

Don’t feel bad if you have to guess; CNU is doing the same thing by assuming the removal of these highways will automatically revitalize local communities. There is no guarantee any of this will turn things around. However, the report does showcase exactly how a poorly placed road can practically obliterate neighborhoods, while highlighting that something probably needs to be done in specific instances.

If you’re interested in delving deeper into the issue, the full CNU report can be found here.

[Image: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]

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81 Comments on “Do You Use Any of These ‘Freeways Without Futures?’...”

  • avatar

    Sometimes the motives by the ‘resistance group’s are hidden. I used to live in the I-70 corridor of Denver that is about to start rebuilding. There has and still is a major protest to this construction. Their argument (reinforced in the above article) is that the freeway cuts through a poor Hispanic neighborhood, and that the white knights with political pull have to step in to help the oppressed. But what they don’t say is that ‘connected, walkable communities’ is code language for ‘a place for wealthy white people to move in and push the poor people out.’ You may want to ask the long-term residents which they would rather have: a freeway that keeps their neighborhood value down, or being forced out by gentrification and having to find a new place to live?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s an interesting point. NIMFBY’s at work. (Not In My Future Backyard)

    • 0 avatar

      Look at their banner photograph. I dare say you got it in one. They make the KKK look like the United Colors of Benetton.

      • 0 avatar

        I would bet a very solid chunk of money that this group is financed mostly by realtors and developers. We as a society need to stop caving to these special interest groups.

        I just spent a few hours on I-5 through Portland. I would like an explanation on how they would like to route that traffic if they were to remove the freeway. Do they envision a wonderful setup like I-95 in Washington DC?

        • 0 avatar

          That’s the point. They want to eliminate cars and make everyone take public transit. Because cars are evil. Better you should take collective transport, comrade.

  • avatar

    I-275 in the Tampa area is critical for St. Petersburg & other towns west of Tampa Bay. It also goes directly to the Tampa airport. Deleting it would cause massive traffic delays and problems. I have visited the area for more than 5 years.

    • 0 avatar

      Going from St. Petersburg to the outlet mall in Ellenton would take maybe 30 minutes on I-275. Without that highway, the same trip takes more than twice as long.

      • 0 avatar
        gator marco

        St Pete to Ellenton is on I275 over the Sunshine Skyway. That route is entirely in Pinellas and Manatee counties.
        The article describes removing I275 through Tampa, in Hillsborough county.
        The article is a little short on details, and has only one before and after illustration of a very short stretch of the Interstate.
        I275 connects St Pete Eastward over the Howard Frankland bridge to Tampa airport, and points East. Just a couple miles East of where I275 traverses the central parts of Tampa, it makes a sharp Northward turn, and sends traffic in 2 different directions: East on I4 towards Orlando, and North to eventually connect to I75 and North Central Florida.
        The article mostly describes removing I275 on the path from the Howard Frankland bridge to the I4 start, a distance of about 5 miles. Yes, Tampa is cut in two by I275.
        What the article of course leaves out is that Hillsborough county just passed a 1 cent sales tax increase, that will raise something like $345 million per year. The sales tax increase was sold to voters as a way to raise money to relieve congestion. The fine print (where all the juicy details are), breaks up the money into pieces to be spent by the local transit authority. 45% of the tax is to be spent on “transit improvements.” This will mean about $170 million per year to spend on some sort of light rail system. The light rail system needs to go somewhere. And I275 is just in the right spot.
        There is no way that all the car and truck traffic that runs on I275 from the Howard Frankland bridge to I4 / I75 is going to just stop and get on a train, or go from highway speed to a wide boulevard. So I’m not sure exactly what the plan is. There is no way that the 5 mile stretch of I275 through mid Tampa can be replaced for even 10 times that amount. But now the local poobahs have $175 million per year for studies, consultants, lawyers, etc.
        Nice work when you can get it.

    • 0 avatar

      I-275 is basically the only way around Tampa Bay’s west side – does someone really think you could remove it? Likewise would the Skyway bridge just go away too? Ummm I think not. Granted there are many places in St Pete where 275 is basically running thru people’s backyards so I’m sure they wish it was gone.

      It sucks when your local neighborhood is ruined by a highway but its called progress and you have to move on. Where I grew up they planned a new interchange (I-595 / US 441 / SR 84), but my father took one look at the proposal and we quickly moved away. Thankfully we had the money to relocate. I-595 basically allowed cities further west (like Weston, Plantation, Davie and Sunrise) to flourish as people could live there while continuing to work in downtown Ft. Lauderdale or reach the airport and cruise port quicker. Of course I-595 is now just a massive parking lot which means downtown is seeing more residential development as people don’t want to deal with the traffic “out west”.

      I have lived in South Florida for nearly 50 years now and these things go in cycles. Everyone moves away from the congested areas only to create more traffic someplace else, which forces people back to the original location that the highway was intended to allow you to escape. Irony is funny like that.

  • avatar

    Shutting down 5 in Portland might be feasible. It would free up some nice riverfront. The 205 bypass would probably have to expand, it’s already pretty busy. There are some bottlenecks on that route that might be challenging.

  • avatar

    Tampa, and the areas feeding it, would be less damaged by the detonation of a nuclear weapon than the removal of I-275. Furthermore, there’s very little area on either side of the highway that any sane person would care to walk unarmed. I find it pretty unlikely that the “Congress” is composed of rational, or intelligent, human beings based on this absolute numbskullery.

  • avatar

    Milwaukee had the Park Freeway spur that coursed east from I-94, north of downtown. It was removed by Mayor John Norquist in 1999. Development sprung up after the removal, much of it gentrification.

    I can see, in my humble opinion, that infrastructure including freeways may have a shelf life. When freeways are removed *something* has to take its place. Reino made a comment above that wealthy people move in and push out the poor (I keep in mind that wealth does not have a racial profile. See Pres. Obama vs. the Jackson Park poor people). Is it possible that poor neighborhoods also have a shelf life? In Milwaukee, the poor have moved to Mitchell Street and Lincoln Avenue. In many of the downtown areas, the poor have been displaced.

  • avatar

    I’ve no extensive experience with any of these expressways. I’ve probably been on 980 in Oakland a few times. Same with 275 in Tampa. Maybe in my younger days I5 in Portland and I64 in Louisville.

    With that said, it can be done. I think the main example is the former Embarcadero Expressway in San Francisco that essentially cut off the eastern waterfront of the city with a double decker expressway monstrosity. After the 1989 Earthquake, it either had to be rebuilt or torn down. They decided to tear it down. Predictions of traffic Armageddon…. never materialized. That area of the city is really a nice place to spend time now. I have little doubt they made the correct call.

    I also like to think of Carmageddon when they shut down I405/US101 or whatever it was in Los Angeles a few years ago. Warned people, was gonna be traffic hell on earth. Nothing happened.

    The excellent expressway system in Detroit has been cited as a big reason for the population decline there since 1950 (among plenty of other reasons, of course). It is beyond obvious even today that these freeways ripped right through what used to be good neighborhoods. It couldn’t have been a positive.

    But people make adjustments. They go other ways. They shop locally.

    I believe the phenomenon is called “induced traffic” if you care to read more about it.

  • avatar

    They tore down the Embarcadero and Nimitz double decker highways after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Yea folks complained at the time but after 30 years no one cares. And you can imagine the hell raised if you wanted to rebuild them now.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The Toronto area had a comprehensive system of highways planned in the 1950’s. Among them the Scarborough Expressway, and the Allen Expressway. Both of which were cancelled in the 1970’s and the land accumulated for them sold off.

    This has resulted in the existing highways being beyond planned capacity.
    And the planned highway connections allowing traffic to bypass populated areas not existing.

    Generally I favour good public transit, but a poorly planned city in the early 21st century still needs some internal highways and by selling the land, building the planned highways is no longer an option.

    Also the Victorians/Edwardians/Romans were far better urban planners, than we are. Streets laid out in a grid pattern equally distribute traffic, create a better flow, provide more options and eliminate bottlenecks.

    Narrower frontages, semis, townhouses and low rise buildings increase density and decrease infrastructure costs, without creating the overcrowding of 30+ story, condos.

    Elevated highways have been proven to be a boondoggle. Particularly in areas that are prone to earthquakes or that use salt in the winter. Repair costs on the Gardiner in Toronto are astronomical. And it is an eyesore.

    • 0 avatar

      Ha, having only experienced Toronto 2x, I could say they could use some more expressways.

      I suppose in areas that have doubled or tripled in size in 50 years, they probably do need some more capacity. Seattle is a city I’m familiar with. Expressway system designed for 1960’s populations isn’t cutting it now. Same in Toronto.

      Then you’ve got other cities that have a 1960’s expressway system and drastically shrunk. Detroit. St. Louis. Cleveland, etc. I could see it working a lot better in those cities.

      • 0 avatar

        I think a lot of midwestern, post-industrial cities are poised for a comeback, and Jerome10 offers one clue as to why: the infrastructure is already there.

        In many ways, these cities are far more “livable” than places like Denver or Austin, which are great as long as you can afford a radically overpriced place in the city. If I was in a position to drop three quarters of a mil to live in a cool neighborhood in Denver, and never had to go outside the city, I’d be happy as a clam. But the traffic situation in the suburbs is becoming nightmarish.

        Meanwhile, in a place like St. Louis, a terrific house in the ‘burbs is a couple hundred, and getting around is no problem – it was always a major city, and the transport system was planned accordingly.

    • 0 avatar

      I mean, we did get a new highway, an excellent bypass for the 401 (which would’ve alleviated a good deal of congestion), and then went and sold it off rather than keeping it and dropping the tolls once it paid for its development.

      Also, I’m not sure where there would be space for more highways without destroying a bunch of neighbourhoods. What’s worse is our pitiful level of transit development for a city of our size and density (and one that purports to have learned from Jane Jacobs, although I think her lessons were only used to enforce a bunch of NIMBYism).

  • avatar

    Thank God the govt built the interstate system in the 60s.
    Eisenhower was impressed by the German Autobahns from WW2 IIRC.

    There’s no way it could possibly happen now.

    • 0 avatar

      It is no longer enough to stop expanding civilization. Now we must dismantle what has been achieved.

    • 0 avatar

      Look at the cost of what The Big Dig cost Boston (wasn’t it over a billion/mile?) and what it’s costing the expansion of existing freeways in urban areas like adding the HOT lanes in places like the DC-metro area, Charlotte, and Houston. The only cost effective way is making existing roads into Interstate-compliant roads like the building of I-69 in Indiana and Texas (69W, 69C and 69E), I-2 in Texas, I-73 and I-74 in North and South Carolina, along with the planned I-11 from Vegas to (at least) Phoenix.
      We cannot afford the interstates we have now and yet we need more. Tolls seem to be the only solution states see to getting things done. I agree – there’s no way the interstates could be built as we know them today, but then again, today’s American society was built on the mobility of the Interstate system so who knows what life today would be like if the system never existed?

      • 0 avatar

        The Big Dig was expensive and took forever, but it was 100% worth it. The transformation over the past ten years of the city of Boston is directly due to the fact that the elevated central artery is dead and gone, and Logan Airport’s current renaissance would be impossible without the Ted Williams Tunnel. Sure, there’s still traffic, but it’s not gridlock and I think if you asked everyone here if they would do it again, they would absolutely say yes.

        Hopefully with less death and incompetence, but, you know.

        • 0 avatar

          +1 on all of this — the Big Dig has transformed Boston, and I would be shocked if the increased economic development hasn’t already far surpassed its cost.

          Sadly, I think the press around it, and the failure to project its cost correctly so many times, is going to have more of a legacy than the road ever will.

          (Of course, it’s not quite relevant to the topic of this article; it was an incredibly expensive project to *keep* an expressway, whereas most of these removal projects are relatively cheap.)

    • 0 avatar

      There was a 90% tax on the upper brackets that is how we could afford the interstate freeways. No one want’s to raise taxes so only toll ways like I69 in Texas can be built.

      • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar

        Infrastructure has been in free-fall since the 1980s thanks to twin failures on the right and left. The right doesn’t want rich people to pay taxes. The left thinks people will demand transit if driving sucks.

        But roads need maintenance and repair whether you raise money for it or not. And the barriers to building transit are huge whether people want it or not. So people just keep driving on terrible roads and hating politicians.

    • 0 avatar

      High mobility is what made America so powerful. In other countries, where people can’t move from place to place with ease we do, less earning potential, less employment potential, less find the right worker potential, etc. So, someone who could be great at something, simply has to settle on something else because in his town there is no such opportunity.

  • avatar

    LOL @ anyone taking the Congress for new urbanism seriously. They are essentially a PR and marketing organization for the real estate industry.

    Gutting a bunch of freeways without creating viable mass transit in already sprawling American cities won’t actually solve congestion–but it could very well lead to higher real estate values in these newly redeveloped areas.

  • avatar

    I am familiar with I-980 (Nimitz) freeway. Good luck with shutting it down in Oakland and using only I-580 to bypass Oakland. When I came to CA Oakland was mostly populated with black people esp West Oakland. You could easily tell that just riding BART (which was much more pleasant experience than today). Last ten or so years though young white and Asian professionals (tech workers) started to move from SF to Oakland because it was cheaper and strategically well located – close to SF, Silicon Valley, Napa Valley etc. Gentrification in other words. Predictably poor people were pushed out of Oakland into neighboring towns or who knows where. So it looks like rich white and Asian kids decided to make Oakland better place to live. Good for them. Destroying I-580 will certainly increase housing values.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry I mistaken I-980 with I-880. Yeah I-980 is something I never used, heard or paid attention to so probably it is not that important, at least for those who do not live in Oakland. I personally will care less if it is shut down, probably it is a good idea to get rid of it.

      Regarding SF Embarcadero – I cannot imagine why someone would build freeway there in the first place – it is nice blvd as it is now. On the other hand driving from south of SF to Golden Gate bridge is a PIA since there is no direct freeway connection.

  • avatar

    I live in Buffalo and I use both the Kensington and Scajacuada expressways on a daily basis….Sure they cut my commute time somewhat but they destroyed huge areas of the city. Buffalo has the most extensive park and parkway system Frederick Law Olmsted ever designed and the Scajacuada cut our largest and most beautiful park, Delaware Park in half. The road is obsolete with 90 degree on ramps and off ramps, narrow lanes relatively steep curves. Its removal would rid the city of an unsafe highway and restore Delaware Park. The Kensington destroyed the former Humboldt Parkway, a magnificent boulevard lined with thousands of Elm trees and stately homes. It connected Delaware Park to Humboldt Park….In its place is a depressed 6 lane expressway that severed neighborhoods in half and created a blighted deteriorating neighborhood.
    Removal would be a huge step in restoring Buffalo’s neighborhoods and parks

    • 0 avatar

      BUF Guy

      Buffalo raised here. Cant agree with you. The Scajaquada is about 1.5 miles long total. At ground level. Slow moving traffic. Changing this out to a boulevard would slow traffic greatly. Backups there would make CROSSING the road even more difficult for pedestrains as over passes would be eliminated.

      Kensington>? It is a below ground most of its length. Many over passes for cars and people. Eliminating this road would help nothing and triple commute times. One of the things I like about buffalo is how easy it is to get around the town.

      Anywhere to anywhere in 20 minutes.

      • 0 avatar

        The Scajacquada needs to be made into a surface-level road – it really does not carry that much traffic – when was the last time you were backed up on the Scajacquada? Never.

        The Kensington was a huge mistake – needs to be covered over and redeveloped – made into an underground road.

        The 20-minutes-to-anywhere situation is a result of having the infrastructure of a city of a half-million home to little more than half that population currently.

        The light rail is going to be extended to the UB North Campus, which will result in its 3 campuses (North, South and Med School downtown) all being on the rail line, which will result in both the employees of the entity that is by far the largest employer in Erie County, and the students of the largest campus in the SUNY system, not needing to use cars or buses on Main Street to go from one one campus to the other. That will be huge.

        • 0 avatar

          I disagree. Leave as is.

          • 0 avatar

            You all need to stop! All of your arguments were well thought out and you didn’t even start calling each other names! Such well-reasoned discussion has no place on the internet.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, since you’re from/in the area, you do know that that’s not on the table…the do-nothing option, I mean. Scajacquada/198 change is happening sooner rather than later, and at some point the Kensington. Also the Skyway/Rt.5.

            I assume your comments were not directed at the light rail developments…Sinatra made a smart acquisition of Boulevard Mall, and the extension of the light rail is gonna run right in front of the mall proper, between it and Rt. 62. Will be a license to print money.

      • 0 avatar

        They have already reduced the speed limit to 30mph but did nothing to the road itself. The exits are dangerous…A 90 degree exit at Delaware and all of the other on ramps are way too short for acceleration. Because of the narrow width and curves multiple street lights are taken out every weekend…In addition the expressway cuts Buffalo’s most important park in half with access only by a pedestrian bridge. Intersecting roads like Elmwood,Delaware and Grant should be brought to the same grade as the expressway and proper intersections with signals should be installed…No on ramps or bridges. Access to the museums, Buffalo State College and the park would be vastly improved. Buffalo is blessed with Frederick Law Olmsted’s largest commission in his career and elimination of the expressway would restore it to its glory improving our life more than an obsolete highway would.

  • avatar
    Derrick Gunter

    I-10 is so obvious it hurts. The damage it did is frightening and it’s simply a matter of re-signing I-12 as I-10, I-10 from Slidell to Baton Rouge as I-610, including the current I-610, and tearing down the part of I-10 through downtown and renumbering the parts from the current I-610 into downtown as a LA highway. It’s not a real through route to begin with. No one takes it from Biloxi/Gulfport to Baton Rouge that has a map to their name if they don’t have any business to do in New Orleans.

    It’s a real shame there’s not such a simple solution for I-20 and the railroad through downtown Shreveport.

    • 0 avatar

      New Orleans was seriously considering building an interstate loop along the river through the french quarter back in the 60’s.

      There would have been nothing like St. Louis cathedral and Cafe Du Monde set against a backdrop of raised concrete interstate.

      NOLA being surrounded by swamps or water does need good highways coming in and out, but I have to agree I-10 should be torn down inside city limits.

  • avatar

    I want to know where the traffic that flows on I70 in Denver is supposed to go if 70 was closed and demolished?
    Closing 70 strikes me as utterly ridiculous. And the note on gentrifying in another comment here is right on. Pick your poison, these neighborhoods will change one way or another.

    • 0 avatar

      The thinking is that E-W traffic across the city would use I-76 if I-70 were no more. It forms two sides of a triangle, the base of which is I-70. It was built as a bypass around downtown. But I-76 is extremely congested already, stop-and-go for several hours every day. Now reconstruction of the eastern part of I-70 is underway, changing it from an elevated to recessed highway in a trench, capped by a park. During that construction/disruption, we Denverites will see how well I-76 functions with greatly increased traffic for several years.

      Unlike Boston or Seattle, there’s no scenic waterfront, or anything else scenic or precious at stake on either route. We’re a growing city, so eliminating a major highway is getting no more consideration than it should. I hear from real state agents that the hottest new neighborhood for speculators is Globeville, a poor area split by the old elevated I-70. Though some locals complained about this, the new I-70 improvements are already a powerful draw here. Given Denver’s economic dynamism, the gentrification would occur if the highway was abandoned, so that’s a wash.

      • 0 avatar

        I suppose they could “make it work” by expanding the hell out of 76, 270, and 470 (which would involve finishing the Northwest Parkway, which apparently takes an act of the Almighty). That would basically re-route 70 through the northern suburbs, but doesn’t that just shift the traffic problem to the suburbs? What’s the point, and more importantly, where’s the money to do that?

        • 0 avatar

          Totally agree. Removing that section of I-70 merely shifts traffic somewhere else, which would include its own set of problems. I-270/US 36 and I-76 can only be expanded so much, and eliminating six miles of heavily used freeway from a metro area already lacking in lane miles is just stupid.

  • avatar

    I read this report and must agree with I-64 through Louisville’s West Side – from Downtown to Indiana. Louisville is a city of only 300,000-ish people (city proper) and yet it has three major expressways and two bypasses. Granted it makes getting around Louisville very easy, but it is very overbuilt. 64 creates this wall from half of Louisville to connect to the river and what could be potential parkland and riverfront space is taken up by a huge, ugly freeway. The report suggests using the 265 bypass as a “new” 64 through Indiana and into eastern Louisville Metro – the only downside is maybe five extra miles and a $4 toll to enter Indiana.
    I see this all of the time in downtown Cincinnati where Fort Washington Way (I-71) is this concrete canyon through the heart of Downtown separating the newer stadiums, The Banks project, a museum, and miles of parks and riverwalk from the core of downtown. There’s been decades of talk to “cap” the expressway and create parks on top of it – similar to what Philadelphia has done with parts of I-676, but no action. But unlike 64 in Louisville, I cannot imagine Fort Washington Way being removed because of its location.
    Remember the original design of the interstate system – like the European system, it was meant to be a system of bypasses and links to cities, not freeways through cities. That’s why all major European cities have these huge rings around them, but for the most part, through-freeways are fragmented, tunneled, or just doesn’t exist. My memory is a bit hazy, and it’s too late to fully research, but I recall reading that right before the interstate plan was enacted, someone came in at the last minute and drew lines on the map where through-city expressways were supposed to go without real regards to what neighborhoods were to be destroyed. And that’s how we got the system we have today and the urban fragmentation caused by this system.

    • 0 avatar

      Louisville’s system, like everyone else’s, was planned and laid out in the 1950s and 1960s, and it was planned around the city *as it was.* That works for a place like Louisville because the area’s population hasn’t doubled or tripled, as it has in other cities. In Denver, where I live, the city *as it was* when the highway system was laid out had maybe 750,000 people, and it was never really expanded. The metro area is approaching 3 million people now. The existing road system was basically widened, but what Denver really needed was diagonal highways, and they never built them. If they tried today, it’d probably cost tens of billions of dollars, and voters aren’t going to go for that.

      Part of the failure here was that the people who laid out the freeway systems probably figured that America’s urban centers would continue as they were, and that the population would continue to center around industrialized cities. They didn’t count on the growth of places like Denver, Phoenix, or a host of other cities, that didn’t count on industr. Demographics and economic changes proved their thinking wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      I just think it’s funny for the Ohio River, historically one of the most polluted in the US, to be now nice enough to be thought of as a major asset. It really has cleaned up a lot I guess.

      The world isn’t all going to hell I guess!

      • 0 avatar

        I look at Cincinnati as an example. My first time there as a Xavier student (go Musketeers!) was in the early to mid 1990s. There was Riverfront Stadium, Riverfront Coliseum, an apartment tower, Serpentine Wall, a lot of warehouses and concrete and not much else. When I returned 10 years later, there were two new stadiums, the same old arena (sigh…), and all kinds of new construction (The Banks) on new apartment/condo buildings, businesses, office towers, and especially riverside parks and gathering areas for riverside parties and festivals. Even Fort Washington Way was reconfigured and removed the madness of having what seemed to be a dozen on/off ramps crammed into a concrete canyon around 1.5 miles long.

        But back to the original post – one thing didn’t change. The canyon remained and downtown still seems slashed into two parts – the new riverside development and the trying to redevelop (with a streetcar and casino, along with a new skyscraper) larger northern part of downtown. Overhead shots of downtown Cincinnati during festivals that have moved closer to the river still show in stark contrast the divide that I-71 put on Downtown. I wish city leaders would find some way to at least put a cap on several blocks over FWW/I-71 and at least connect both parts of downtown with grassy areas.

        Many other cities have rediscovered their riverfronts as valuable public space and redeveloped some of the best parts of their cities along them. Louisville needs to take a serious look at the decaying parts of the West Side and see what a redone transportation infrastructure along with river access could do to the area. It isn’t a case of booting out who’s already there – it could be increasing their quality of life with less noise, less pollution, and less traffic along with being able to move around more with having the access to the river and new parkland. It’s working in Cincinnati with a whole new riverfront through downtown and extending eastward and it can happen in Louisville and other cities as well.

        And the Ohio River has cleaned up enough where I’ve seen events involving swimming across it and Polar Plunges, but I’m not sure if hospital visits involving infectious diseases happened afterwards!!!

      • 0 avatar

        doggone liberals and their socialist clean air and water regulations. Maybe the donald can appoint an anti environmental guy to be in charge of the EPA and you FOX news grampas can get yer pollution back

  • avatar
    James Charles

    In Brisbane tunnels seem to be gaining favour. These eliminate much of the issues associated with reconfiguring surface streets and roads. These tunnels go under the city with no interchanges to the city. But they cost.

    Once outside the inner city areas the freeways are back on the surface. The freeways can literally decide realestate value, similar to living on the wrong side of the tracks.

    About 25% of Greater Brisbane freeways are toll as well. This also helped shape the city. People complain about paying tolls, but like most that complain they are the glass half full types. Somehow the infrastructure needs to be paid for.

    For its size Brisbane’s suburban train network quite a few lines, a throw back 60 from years ago, but is paying dividens now.

    • 0 avatar

      Going underground is a brilliant solution where the geography allows it. I was in Spain recently and some of the big cities are shockingly peaceful and walkable. That lovely park? The freeway is hidden beneath it. That beautiful plaza? The parking garage is hidden beneath it.

  • avatar

    81 was closed once in syracuse.

    Took me HOURS to get to where I was going.

    How does a 65 MPH Boulevard help over a highrise highway? I think the highrise highway is better… you can WALK under it (and I have walked under it…)

    If you replace it with a ground level highway, then you REALLY cut the city in half. If you turn it from a highway to a 35 mph city road, my goodness that would be a nightmare.

  • avatar

    It seems we’re all missing the point here. We can argue all day long about whether freeways should be built or torn down, but that doesn’t change one inarguable truth: there isn’t enough money in all of Christendom to build enough freeways to truly relieve congestion. And if voters were asked to pony up that kind of money, they’d go straight into torch-and-pitchfork mode.

    Unfortunately, we built our cities around an unsustainable transport model. Interstate 70 through Denver, one of the examples above, is a great example. The problem isn’t that they built the road, it’s that they built it too small, and never expanded it. I wager the same is true of most of the other roads above.

    Simply getting rid of the roads isn’t much of a solution. Getting rid of 70 through Denver would be an unmitigated disaster – there aren’t enough alternative route through the city. It’s a variation on the old right-wing “starve the beast to cure it” approach, and it won’t work.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re currently tearing down of the elevated portion of I-70, from Colorado Blvd. to Washington, and putting it underground. That’s costing plenty of money but it’s adding sorely needed traffic lanes.

      • 0 avatar

        Correct, it adds traffic lanes, but if Denver’s going to be a car-centric city, versus transit-centric, what we really need is more main highways besides 25 and 70. Even assuming voters would be OK with running new highways through heavily populated areas (which they won’t be), that would cost tens (or perhaps hundreds) of billions to make that happen, and the money’s just not there.

        And here’s two fearless predictions for the I-70 corridor:
        1) It won’t do squat for traffic.
        2) It will make the Denver VA hospital look like a model of cost efficiency.

        Denver just needs to give up and become transit-centric, if you ask me. That, or about a million people need to move out. As it stands, I wouldn’t mind being one of them.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    If there’s anyone in this world that I despise, it’s a car-hating utopian city planner.

    They take a portion of your paycheck, by force, then spend it on “traffic calming” and “road diets” to make the already-inadequate network of roads even less efficient.

    They won’t be happy until we’re all living in 500 sq.ft. apartments in an urban center, riding the train to and from our meaningless cubicle jobs, deriving all our pleasure from drugs, video games, and masturbation.

    If you already live this way, I pity you, and I refuse to join you.

    • 0 avatar

      I currently live that way and I like it. (We’ll leave my masturbation proclivities out of the discussion, thanks.) Everything is walking or biking distance away; it’s nice. I previously lived in the ‘burbs where driving was necessary to do anything — but driving was also super convenient thanks to big roads and parking lots, so no prob. I liked that too. Life isn’t so black and white.

      The issue discussed in this post and report though are not a consequence of today’s car-hating planners, but yesterday’s car-worshiping planners. They did a lot of awful stuff: putting the freeway at the water’s edge where recreation should be, isolating poor neighborhoods in polluted islands, running freeways through or over town instead of around or under it. We can fix yesterday’s arrogant mistakes while resisting today’s arrogant mistakes.

      That said, I have no quibble with traffic calming in residential areas, where it’s intended to push commuters back out onto freeways and arterials instead of trying to haul ass through neighborhoods where kids play as a “shortcut”. I love Google Maps but it has led to a lot more of that sort of thing.

      In fact, I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but even on some commercial thoroughfares some road dieting can be a good thing: my city took over a stretch of what had technically been a state highway, and made it a city street. They reduced the number of lanes and the speed limit and installed a center safety turn lane and bike lanes. To my shock, it worked: speeds through there are about the same as ever, but there are fewer wrecks and pedestrian injuries, and more people out walking or biking. Computer modeling is pretty good these days: if they tell you travel time will be unaffected, it might even be true. (Plus my city spends big on synchronizing traffic lights: it’s faster to drive at the speed limit and catch every green than to speed and get caught at reds.)

  • avatar

    You have to understand that “urbanist” is code for “car-hating planner”. Any car on any road is seen as the enemy by these people. We are stuck with a bunch of them here, always pleading in the press to make streets car-free, build bike lanes in curbside parking areas, and sneering at anyone who does not live in a downtown apartment or condo. There is already considerable backlash emerging towards these types locally and hopefully their influence can soon be eliminated, just like the unused bike lanes they have imposed on our town.

    • 0 avatar

      Pretty funny. The potential of the train and other good-quality mass transit to get some of the cars off the road and make for a better driving experience for those of us who want to drive, and a better experience for those who would rather ride mass transit and not have the responsibility of finding and paying for parking in heavily-urbanized areas, is going right over your heads.

      You’re worried about being forced out of your car…there are plenty of people who need to get around and are tired of being forced INTO having a car.

      There’s room for both parties…and you don’t even have to be one or the other full-time…I live basically in suburbia, and drive all the time…but when I go to a really big, urbanized area, I don’t want to be saddled with a car…and people who live in those areas, when they need to travel to/through what we could call flyover country, want to be able to rent a car and drive there.

      You’re allowed to change uniforms every once in awhile, you know…

      • 0 avatar

        If you want to “save the cars,” then supporting transit is an intelligent choice. More people in transit means an easier time for people in cars.

        Unfortunately, some folks are too blinded by ideology to see that.

        • 0 avatar

          “With traffic congestion, pollution, and oil shortages all getting worse, now is the time to shift to affordable, efficient public transportation,” APTA director Howard Collier said. “Fortunately, as this report shows, Americans have finally recognized the need for everyone else to do exactly that.”

          It’s a classic!

          • 0 avatar

            Funny link!

            I use transit whenever it’s practical, and when I worked downtown a few years ago, I used it basically every day. It was cheaper and easier than fighting traffic every morning and paying for parking. In a few months, I’ll be moving to a different part of town, where I’ll be using transit every day.

            I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, a balance between the two extremes is always the best solution. But urbanists are far more extreme than any lobby group I have ever encountered. Suburbs are bad, cars are bad, bikes and public transit trump everything else. They fail to take into account that not everyone wants to live in a high-rise apartment downtown nor does it make any sense to expect many people to bike everywhere – or anywhere, in some places where the weather is lousy much of the time or where there are lots of hills. They have the mindset of a 20 year old college student whose one ambition is to get out of the dorm and into their own place, and cannot see the value in other choices.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    I-345, Dallas, Texas?

    Are you not confusing it with I-635?

    Other than that my comment is: how fortunate is that Eisenhower started the highway system in the late 1950s. When the USA still had the “Yes, We can tackle any challenge” attitude.

    • 0 avatar

      I-345 is a short connector freeway connecting I-45 (the Julius Schepps Freeway) and US 75 (North Central Expressway) between I-30 and Woodall Rogers, and runs through Deep Ellum on the south end, and on the east side of the Arts District on the north end.

      I’ve seen at least one article on it in the Dallas Morning News (probably this same group promoting it, along with some folks in Deep Ellum).

      Tearing it down would dump all that traffic onto surface streets – a huge mess.

  • avatar

    I-70? Do they not want people east of the Rockies to get produce grown in California?

  • avatar

    Oh that’s rich, I-35 pretty much IS Austin. It’s the entire artery for the city and runs well before it and well after it.

    What they need is a whole new layout for the city since it is a terrible shape for expansion. Houston is lucky to have rings and sprawl.

  • avatar

    The problem of excess car traffic (and the need for more and wider freeways) is caused substantially by the unneccesary use of cars for a lot of travel. For example, I would take the bus to the liquor store this afternoon except they run infrequently, are slow, and are expensive. I would walk, since it’s a gorgeous, cool day today, except that I have to cross two major highways packed with drivers who are frantic, in a hurry, and don’t understand why the city has wasted money painting all those slashed white lines across their lane at every intersection. So I’ll drive. It’s six blocks. I don’t think I should drive, and it won’t be particularly pleasureable. I would rather save my gas and tires for a fun drive out in the hills, and I suspect many, many other drivers would as well. But there are no reasonable alternatives.

    Frankly, I think driving for anything other than wanderlust is a waste of resources. I would have loved to commute to work by train, plane, or bus, but it was never a possibility. I would love to ride a free, convenient trolley or jitney to go buy a new pair of shoes. Doesn’t exist. And I would happily pay more gas tax to fund that trolley, but I’m feeling a little bit alone here in a lot of ways….

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    The I-275 in Tampa idea is a joke. The part they focus on replacing already has a boulevard running parallel less than a mile to the south called Kennedy Blvd. It’s a parking lot. Perhaps these folks should try driving on it at 5pm.

  • avatar

    Having lived just off of I-81 for 10 years I will tell you that I-81 in general is awful but the passage through downtown Syracuse is particularly bad where the intersection with I-690 creates a dogleg that requires you to be very aware of what you’re doing and given the proximity to city buildings and Onondaga Lake plus overlap with US-11 and NY-5 there is no good way to untangle the mess.

    In theory they could add some lanes to I-481 and do more to route traffic around the city. Unfortunately, there are two major problems with that:

    1) The Carousel Mall is quite near the I-81/I-690 interchange; retailers would never support diverting traffic away and its popularity is part of the reason more people don’t use the bypass.

    2) I-481 goes too far out of the way. Some of that is the location of the airport but it’s also because by the time the bypass was deemed necessary, the only politically feasible route meant going out beyond existing suburban development.

    If the bypass ran between Syracuse and East Syracuse then up to Mattydale skirting the south end of the airport, there would be a greater range of options.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, however the local push seems to be for the boulevard option which will push more traffic onto 481- making travel around the Dewitt/Fayetteville exit worse than it already is.

  • avatar

    Being from the only large city in Canada/US, Vancouver, without a freeway system it seems to survive nicely. Many have tried over the decades to build a freeway or two but many more have said they don’t want them. The little bit of elevated roadway they have is coming down at a huge expense. Vancouver has a pretty nice Light Rapid Transit system instead.

    Otherwise, you are free to drive everywhere and anywhere in the city. Just not on a freeway.

  • avatar

    Nobody ‘uses’ I-35 in Austin… It uses you…

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    An article relating to this very topic was published in the April 11th 2019 edition of the National Post. I have posted a link, which may or may not ‘disappear’.

  • avatar

    Having lived in the Bay area for 7-odd years, I concede I-980 is superfluous. But I-5 through Portland? The main north-south artery for the entire west coast? Are you kidding me?

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