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Livability Star Vancouver the Latest City to Look at Highway Removal

10:54 AM EDT on April 12, 2011

When it comes to the choice between a highway and a more connected, cohesive urban community, more and more cities are getting serious about ditching the highway.

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Planners in Vancouver are the latest to contemplate urban highway removal, joining New Orleans, New York, Seattle and other cities that may replace high-speed, limited-access roads with more valuable uses. The Canadian metropolis is considering tearing down two viaducts that run between the city's east side and its downtown.

Erica C. Barnett at PubliCola has this report:

The city closed down the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts to traffic throughout the Olympics, and “nothing fell apart,” Vancouver city engineer Peter Judd told the paper, which reports that “A preliminary Transportation Review unveiled April 7 shows that almost half of the traffic on the viaducts originates within the city of Vancouver, and there is unused capacity on parallel arterial streets like Expo, Pacific, and Hastings — which suggest traffic could be accommodated if the viaducts were partially or completely removed.”

Tearing down the two viaducts would, much like the removal of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, create five city blocks’ worth of developable land in Vancouver’s downtown.

The statements by Vancouver’s anti-viaduct visionaries will be familiar to anyone who’s followed Seattle’s debate over how to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. What’s different in Vancouver, politically, is that there appears to be no real organized, pro-highway opposition to the proposal—instead, the debate centers on how much of the viaducts should be torn down, and how quickly. In fact, the only skeptical voice in the [local news] story comes from an anti-freeway activist who notes that the two viaducts are just “postage stamp[s]” compared to the freeways that are still being built elsewhere in the city.

It's that progressive attitude, no doubt, that has helped Vancouver earn the title of world's most livable city five years running.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Active Transportation Alliance is encouraging readers to contact their elected representatives to express support for a proposal that would allow Illinois gas tax revenues to fund sustainable transportation. Sharable Cities lists the top 13 cities for public transportation. And at the National Transportation Examiner, Streetsblog contributor Adam Voiland asks whether improved cycling infrastructure in D.C. will encourage more women to try biking for transportation.

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