Advocates Defend New Haven’s “Downtown Crossing” Highway Removal Plan

This is the city of New Haven's concept for Downtown Crossing, its plan for 11 acres of downtown land that will be cleared by the removal of the Route 34 Expressway. Photo: Downtowncrossingnewhaven.com

Earlier this week we ran a story about why local livable streets advocates with the New Haven Urban Design League are disappointed with the city’s decision to replace a section of grade-separated highway with a plan that remains, on balance, car-centric.

We soon heard from teardown proponents who remain supportive of the project. While acknowledging its shortcomings, Ryan Lynch of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign says the current project would be an important step forward for both New Haven and the state of Connecticut:

We agree that there is too much parking in the corridor, and the road remains too wide, but we have to disagree with the assertion that what is being proposed is only marginal improvement. This project, even in the first phase, will be implementing some of the most progressive transportation infrastructure in the state. Some of this infrastructure, to our knowledge, are firsts for the entire state of Connecticut, including the first ever bike boxes, separated cycle tracks, and raised intersections at particularly wide intersections.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Benton, a spokesperson for the city, took issue with some of the assertions from the Urban Design League, including the claim that the roadway replacing the highway will have no through streets. Phase I of the project — the phase that New Haven has collected about $30 million to build out — does not include side streets. Those are supposed to be built in Phase II, said Benton. Future phases are not yet funded, she allowed, but she said the city is committed to finishing them.

Benton said the city appreciates what advocates including the Urban Design League have proposed, but it’s the city’s responsibility to put forward something practical, as well as transformational. “I think it’s a testament to this project that they have been so engaged,” she said. “I don’t think their ideas are necessarily bad ideas. I think sometimes there a gap between feasible reality and what they would like to see.”

In other news about this project, Anstress Farwell, president of the Urban Design League, is traveling to Washington this week to speak with representatives of U.S. DOT about the organization’s concerns.