An Inconvenient Truth:
    Highways and cities don't mix?

    A Planetizen op-ed.
    "As part of our effort to slow global warming, we should be correcting one of the great errors in the history of American city planning:
    the post-war binge of urban freeway building."
    • During the 1990s, San Francisco demolished the Embarcadero Freeway.
    • Once the freeway no longer cut them off from the waterfront, the entire new neighborhoods of Rincon Hill and South Beach were developed on what had been underused land.

    • In 2002-2003, Milwaukee demolished its Park East Freeway.
    • Hundreds of millions of dollars of new development have already been built, approved, or proposed in the 26 acre redevelopment district that had been occupied by the freeway or blighted because it was next to the freeway.
    • Manhattan's West Side Highway, an elevated freeway along the Hudson River, collapsed and was closed in 1973. When it was closed, 53 percent of the traffic that had used this freeway simply disappeared. The political establishment took it for granted that they had to replace it with a bigger and better freeway, but citizen resistance delayed the replacement for two decades, and finally even the politicians saw that the city was getting along quite well without any freeway here. Instead of replacing the freeway, the city simply added new medians, a waterfront park, and a bicycle path to the surface street here.

    • Seoul, South Korea, removed the Cheonggye freeway, the one major freeway that cut through the center of the city, in order to stimulate the economic revival of central Seoul's Dongdaemun district. The river that this freeway covered was restored as a park.

    • Paris, France, has closed the Pompidou Expressway during the summer, covered the roadway with sand, and turned it into Paris Plage (Paris Beach), which has become a very popular attraction. Recently, the city decided to close the Pompidou permanently as part of a larger plan to reduce automobile use by 40%.
    Two thoughts for Chicago. Can we close Wacker Drive in the nice weather, cover it with sand and turn it into a beach? Why not?

    And can Chicago close Lake Shore Drive, starting on Sundays - just in the summer months? Start with that, and see how people like it. Biking, blading, jogging along the lakefront, on and beside the drive, in quiet, in cleaner air. Sounds fabulous.

    Both ideas would benefit the people, especially those who can't or can't afford to leave the city during the summer. Can we give them a more peaceful, restorative lakefront?

    Are we willing to "sacrifice" for that?

    The traffic that needs to get somewhere will always get there.
    No matter how people-friendly you make your city.


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