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Highway Removal

Wiki Wednesday: Better Stimulus Through Highway Removal

4:55 PM EST on January 28, 2009

We know plenty of states want to use stimulus funds to expand highway capacity, but how many are looking to jolt their economies with a much-needed freeway teardown? So far as we can tell, the answer is none. Perhaps they should reconsider and take a page from this week's StreetsWiki entry on highway removal:

During the 1960's and 70's, federally-subsidized elevated highways were built through the middle of every major U.S. city. For better or worse, these roadways provided quick access to the surrounding countryside, facilitating suburban expansion. But in the words of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), these structures:

"cut huge swaths across our cities, decimating neighborhoods and reducing quality of life for city residents. This massive concrete infrastructure had devastating effects on urban economies. It blighted adjacent property and pushed access to basic amenities further out. With the Federal and State Departments of Transportation confronting shrinking budgets and cities looking for ways to increase their revenues, it is an ideal time to offer less expensive, urban alternatives to the reconstruction of urban expressways."

CNU President John Norquist, formerly the mayor of Milwaukee, made the case for highway removal-as-economic development after releasing a list of 10 "Freeways Without Futures" last September. Since then, the top target on the list, Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, looks like it's headed for demolition, but not to make way for a less-expensive, traffic-mitigating alternative. A group of state and city officials agreed in principle earlier this month to replace the elevated highway with an underground highway. Number two on CNU's teardown list, the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx, is considered a candidate for removal by the state DOT, but plans to preserve the "highway to nowhere" may still prevail.

This entry also features something new on StreetsWiki -- videos from Streetfilms. Tell us what you think of the execution.

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