America’s Least Wanted Highways

sheridan_map_1.jpgThe Congress for New Urbanism released a highly entertaining top ten list today: the North American highways most in need of demolition.
At the top is Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, a structurally damaged
elevated highway that, if removed, would free up 335 acres of public
land by Elliott Bay.

New York’s Sheridan Expressway, which traverses 1.25 miles of Bronx River waterfront (right), comes in at number two. Thanks to the advocacy of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, the state DOT is considering a proposal to replace the lightly-traveled, Moses-era Sheridan with housing and parks. As the Tri-State Transportation Campaign reported last month, preserving it is becoming harder and harder to justify.

Here’s
the full "Freeways Without Futures" list, issued as part of a joint
venture between CNU and the Center for Neighborhood Technology called
the Highways to Boulevards Initiative:

  1. Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle, WA
  2. Sheridan Expressway, New York, NY
  3. The Skyway and Route 5, Buffalo, NY
  4. Route 34, New Haven, CT
  5. Claiborne Expressway, New Orleans, LA
  6. Interstate 81, Syracuse, NY
  7. Interstate 64, Louisville, KY
  8. Route 29, Trenton, NJ
  9. Gardiner Expressway, Toronto, ON
  10. 11th Street Bridges and the Southeast Freeway, Washington D.C.

Previous highway-to-boulevard conversions have succeeded in cities from New York to San Francisco to Seoul, often in the face of opposition from carmaggedon-predicting doomsayers. More from CNU President John Norquist on why freeway removal makes sense, after the jump.

CNU
President and CEO John Norquist says that compared to the prospect of
completely rebuilding aging freeways — something that’s inevitable
after 40 or 50 years — highways-to-boulevards projects are real money
savers. "There’s a whole generation of elevated highways in cities that
are at the end of their design life. Instead of rebuilding them at
enormous expense, cities have an opportunity to undo what proved to be
major urban planning blunders," said Norquist, Mayor of Milwaukee when
it replaced the Park East Freeway with McKinley Boulevard in 2002. "The
Federal Highway Fund just received a short-term bailout. The money that
does exist can be invested much more efficiently in surface streets and
transit. The development that results is walkable and close to jobs and
city life. It helps residents keep a lot of money in their wallets that
they’d otherwise spend driving."

"Fifty years ago, when
there was flight from cities, industrialized waterfronts seemed like a
convenient place to run freeways," Norquist said. "The result for the
neighborhoods has been blight. Cities like San Francisco that have
removed freeways and reclaimed waterfronts have turned them into
magnets for people and investment."