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Freeways to Parks & Parkways

Seoul, Before and After Highway Teardown

The Infrastructurist takes a look at four cases where freeways have been torn down and made into parks and/or boulevards, making the argument that such actions can actually improve the traffic congestion problem rather than worsen it:

Though our transportation planners still operate from the orthodoxy that the best way to untangle traffic is to build more roads, doing so actually proves counterproductive in some cases. There is even a mathematical theorem to explain why: “The Braess Paradox” (which sounds rather like a Robert Ludlum title) established that the addition of extra capacity to a road network often results in increased congestion and longer travel times. The reason has to do with the complex effects of individual drivers all trying to optimize their routes. The Braess paradox is not just an arcane bit of theory either – it plays frequently in real world situation.

Likewise, there is the phenomenon of induced demand – or the “if you build it, they will come” effect. In short, fancy new roads encourage people to drive more miles, as well as seeding new sprawl-style development that shifts new users onto them.

Of course, improving congestion is not the main reason why a city would want to knock down a poorly planned highway–the reasons for that are plentiful, and might include improving citizen health, restoring the local environment, and energizing the regional economy. More efficient traffic flow is just a wonderful side benefit.

And yes, one of those benefits can be access to more public spaces such as parks and parkways. The picture (above) The Infrastructurist provides from Seoul shows quite clearly how these new spaces can enhance the public life of a city.

Is there a freeway that deserves removal in your city?

(Alternatively, there’s also the practice of covering freeways to varying degrees – covered in a report by TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence in 2007.)

3 Responses

  1. Cincinnati’s Fort Washington Way which connects I-71 with I-75 near Cincinnati’s riverfront would merit removal. Luckily for Cincinnati they decided to consolidate and bury that stretch of highway a few years ago. Once capped the highway won’t even be noticeable, but I think could still merit removal as it could be replaced by a buried high-speed rail station in the heart of Cincinnati’s center city.

  2. Apparently Baltimore is thinking about tearing down a mile-long stretch of the Jones Falls Expressway (http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.jfx17may17,0,7643521.story).

    There is also the “Highway to Nowhere” in West Baltimore, an unfinished section of what was to be an extension of I-70 into the city, is now designated as part of U.S. 40. Mayor Dixon wants to get rid of that too.

    And there is also a highway in Milwaukee that was removed and turned into a Boulevard.

  3. […] it they will come” theory. And I guess I am not the only one who feels this way. According to this, there are a few places starting to think a little […]

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