12 Freeways to Watch (‘Cause They Might Be Gone Soon)

If you make your home on the Louisiana coastline, upstate New York or the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, chances are you live near a highway that really has it coming. It’s big. It’s ugly. It goes right through city neighborhoods. And it just might be coming down soon.

New Orleans' Claibourne Overpass is this year's Congress for New Urbanism choice for "Freeway without a Future." Photo: ##http://www.cnu.org/highways/freewayswithoutfutures2012##CNU.org##

Last week the Congress for New Urbanism released its updated list of “Freeways Without Futures” — 12 transportation anachronisms that are increasingly likely to meet the wrecking ball.

This year’s top finisher was New Orleans’ Claiboure Overpass — a 1960s-era eyesore that replaced a thriving, tree-lined commercial street at the center of the city’s oldest, most culturally vibrant black neighborhood. The teardown for this highway has some real traction; a master plan to remove the elevated portion is expected to be endorsed by City Council shortly, according to CNU.

The Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx is runner up, the same position it held in CNU’s 2008 Freeways Without Futures list. This riverfront disaster was bestowed by the master highway builder himself, Robert Moses. Residents of the Bronx have successfully fought off two separate proposals to expand the Sheridan, which runs right along the Bronx River. A coalition of community groups and advocates called the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance has led the charge to replace the freeway with housing and parks, and a group of cities agencies are now examining teardown scenarios with the help of a federal TIGER grant.

The third-place finisher is New Haven’s Route 34 (the Oak Street Connector), which is slated for demolition. New Haven received TIGER funds to convert the road into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard and local officials are currently haggling over the design details — there’s a chance they’ll opt to replace a highway with a road that feels like a highway.

Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct fell 11 spots in the list from last year, due to the fact that while the elevated highway will be demolished, the city is moving ahead with an underground replacement, the so-called deep bore tunnel that has sustainable transportation advocates up in arms.

There’s more: Buffalo, Miami, St. Louis, Cleveland, Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto and Hartford all have urban freeways that CNU has identified as endangered. Kudos to the state of New York, by the way, for leading on sheer volume. Streetsblog reported on efforts to remove the elevated portion of Interstate 81 in Syracuse and West Shoreway in Cleveland last year.

CNU’s 2012 Top Tear-down Prospects:

1.  I-10/Claiborne Overpass, New Orleans
2.  I-895/Sheridan Expressway, New York City (Bronx)
3.  Route 34/Oak Street Connector, New Haven
4.  Route 5/Skyway, Buffalo
5.  I-395/Overtown Expressway, Miami
6.  I-70, St. Louis
7.  West Shoreway, Cleveland
8.  I-490/Inner Loop, Rochester
9.  I-81, Syracuse
10.  Gardiner Expressway, Toronto
11.  Aetna Viaduct, Hartford
12.  Route 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle

CNU attributes the rising popularity of highway teardowns and highway-to-boulevard projects to declining DOT budgets and greater local understanding of the benefits of a connected, urban street grid. CNU’s “Highways to Boulevards” program helps educate communities about the benefits of freeway removal and offers technical assistance.

 

  • DC is planning to repurpose a soon to be unnecessary spur of I-395 that runs from the 11th street bridge to Pennsylvania Ave SE (at Barney Circle) and replace it with an urban boulevard.

  • Tom

    Gardiner Ex’way don’t count.  It’s in British North America, not US of A.

  • Zenobiaznb

    Let’s get rid of the Sheridan already, and while we are at it, the Clearview Expressway too!

  • fj

    Just look at the size of these things meant to carry vehicles weighing tons and much more.  What a huge waste!

    Elevated systems carrying vehicles weighing a hundred pounds or less are miniscule in comparison and much easier to put up, take down, or modify as required and are much more practical with minimal waste.

  • Daleyplanit

    Albany NY’s 787 should be on that list for cutting the capital city off from the Hudson.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more with the inclusion of the highways in New Haven, St. Louis, Rochester, Syracuse and Hartford on this list.

  • Why is the aesthetic of a roadway even part of the consideration of whether or not to keep it? It boggles my mind.

  • Ian Turner

    @twitter-272053984:disqus : Because beautiful places make people happy, and ugly ones make them unhappy?

  • Joe R.

    @twitter-93223785:disqus Agreed. I continue to be amazed how we build huge, ugly, very expensive grade-separated roadways for motor vehicles through cities when grade-separated infrastructure for bicycles costing several orders of magnitude less is needed far more for both safety and efficiency reasons. This just shows how warped our priorities are. And when you see these grade-separated freeways clogged with motor traffic moving slower than a bicycle, they’re not even serving the purpose they were designed for. Indeed, what a waste!

  • Curmudgeon

    And just how many goods and services move by bicycle to your inner city?

    Moreover, when roads are “clogged with traffic”, it means that they are actually being used and are at capacity, or over capacity.

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