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Posts from the Highway Removal Category


Is Cuomo Ready to Rid Downtown Syracuse of I-81?

Governor Cuomo seems eager to teardown Syracuse's crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Governor Cuomo seems ready to tear down Syracuse’s crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Speaking in Syracuse yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to indicate support for the removal of 3.75 miles of Interstate 81, the aging elevated highway that cuts through the heart of downtown.

“That could be a transformative project that really jump-starts the entire region,” Cuomo said, according to the Post-Standard. “I-81 did a lot of damage — a classic planning blunder. Let’s build a road and bisect an entire community. That’s an idea, yeah, let me write it down.”

With the elevated portion of I-81 fast approaching the end of its useful life and in need of near-constant repairs, state officials have narrowed its future to two options: tear it down and replace it with a surface-level boulevard, or rebuild it — which would most likely require widening the highway. A third option, an underground tunnel, is viewed as costly and infeasible.

The state DOT is in the midst of cost and environmental analyses of the remaining options, and is expected to issue a draft environmental impact statement by the end of the year. Cuomo did not explicitly say he supported a surface-level boulevard, but with the tunnel all but ruled out, if he wants to get rid of the highway it’s the only option left.

Cuomo also indicated a readiness to get things moving. “We procrastinate,” he said. “We wait for everyone to agree. You know when that day is going to come? Never. Never. If you wait for the perfect, you’re never going to get there. You will do nothing. And that’s just what we’ve done on I-81. We’ve done nothing. Find the best solution with the most agreement and move forward.”

Cuomo has been on somewhat of a highway removal kick of late. Earlier this year, the state budget included $97 million to transform the Bronx’s Moses-era Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard. And in April, the governor has lent his support to the proposed teardown of Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway.

The governor’s office has not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry asking whether his comments mean the state will go forward with the I-81 teardown.

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Houston’s Big Chance to Turn Back the Tide of Car Traffic

TxDOT's $7 billion proposal for downtown Houston highways is not terrible, say advocates, but it could be better. Image: TxDOT via Swamplot

TxDOT’s $7 billion plan for downtown Houston may tear down the Pierce Elevated Freeway while expanding I-45. Some civic leaders question why more resources won’t be devoted to transit. Image: TxDOT via Swamplot

There’s a lot riding on Texas DOT’s $7 billion plan for downtown Houston freeways.

TxDOT has been working for more than a decade on a plan for the three highways that roughly form a circle around the city — I-45, I-10, and U.S. 59. Last April, the agency revealed a draft version of the plan, and another revision is expected to come out as soon as six months from now.

Advocates for a walkable Houston see a lot of promise in TxDOT’s willingness to rethink the city’s freeways, but the plan might still make traffic worse by adding lanes.

On the bright side, TxDOT is proposing to tear down the Pierce Elevated Freeway, which could open up 20 to 50 blocks of downtown for walkable development. The plan also calls for aligning I-45 with U.S. 59 to the east of the city, burying the roads in a trench capped with a park.

“The impacts on walkability and urbanism are real and are a big deal,” said Jay Crossley, former director of the smart growth advocacy group Houston Tomorrow. “If they could only do those parts of the plan it would be an amazing plan.”

But while TxDOT is starting to consider how its highway projects affect urban neighborhoods, said Crossley, it hasn’t quite embraced the “paradigm shift” away from highway widening that Mayor Sylvester Turner has called for.

It’s still an open question whether TxDOT’s plan will result in a net increase in highway capacity, pumping more traffic into downtown.

Read more…

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Texas DOT Seems Open to a Downtown Dallas Highway Removal

The Texas DOT is formally considering tearing down Interstate 345 in Dallas. Image: CityMAP/TxDOT

TxDOT shows just how much land could be freed up by tearing down Interstate 345 in Dallas. Image: CityMAP/TxDOT

Will Texas embrace a model of mobility that works well for cities, instead of tearing them up with wider highways?

A new report from the Texas Department of Transportation indicates that at least in some circumstances, the answer may be “Yes.”

TxDOT last week released its “CityMAP” plan for urban highways in central Dallas [PDF]. Normally, you would expect a highway-focused report from TxDOT to be nothing but road expansions and widenings, with no regard for the neighborhoods that the highways cut through. But CityMAP is different.

The report calls for “integrated solutions reflecting statewide, regional and local shared goals that seek a balance for mobility, livability and economic development.” In other words, TxDOT is thinking about more than just moving cars.

Most significantly, the report indicates that TxDOT is seriously considering a highway teardown. Grassroots advocates in Dallas, led by planner Patrick Kennedy, have been mobilizing to remove I-345, which divides downtown Dallas from the Deep Ellum neighborhood, to make way for walkable development. The proposal gets a nod from TxDOT in the report.

TxDOT considers how tearing down the 20-lane highway and replacing it with an at-grade, six-lane road would affect traffic congestion and city life. The agency estimates that traffic delay on the surface street wouldn’t be any worse than if it spent hundreds of millions more dollars to bury the highway in a trench. (Although TxDOT says the teardown could increase congestion on surrounding roads.) Furthermore, TxDOT notes that removing I-345 would increase opportunities for urban housing, which could lessen the need for people to drive on highways in the first place.

Read more…

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U.S. DOT Wants to Show America How to Heal Divides Left By Urban Highways

Highway destruction in reverse: U.S. DOT used the teardown of Milwaukee’s Park East Freeway, shown here mid-demolition, to illustrate its “Every Place Counts” initiative. Photo: Milwaukee Department of City Development via CNU

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx opened up earlier this spring in a refreshingly personal speech about how highway construction in American cities isolated many neighborhoods — especially black neighborhoods — and cut people off from economic opportunity. Now U.S. DOT is following up with an effort to demonstrate how those wrongs can be righted.

Yesterday the agency announced the Every Place Counts Design Challenge, which asks cities to submit proposals for “reconnecting” communities “bifurcated” by transportation infrastructure. U.S. DOT will select four cities from different regions of the country where the agency will lead workshops to advance the winning ideas. (The deadline to apply is June 3, but the agency wants notification of intent to apply by May 20.)

In its announcement, U.S. DOT doesn’t go into a lot of detail about what types of projects it’s looking for. However, the agency chose some highly suggestive images to illustrate the initiative. One photo shows a highway cap over Interstate 70 in Columbus, Ohio, not the most groundbreaking project. Another shows Milwaukee’s Park East Freeway, mid-demolition, a rare 100-percent intentional highway teardown. And the third shows Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which was made possible by another freeway teardown — the removal of Harbor Drive.

Too often, when city residents build momentum to heal the damage caused by urban freeways, the state DOT shoots it down. This could be an opportunity to get different levels of government on the same page and move forward with some really bold ideas.


Andrew Cuomo, City Builder

The removal of I-81 in Syracuse could be the defining project of Andrew Cuomo’s city-building legacy. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

The headline is no joke. In his sixth year governing the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo is on a bit of a roll when it comes to urban planning and city-based economic development. Cuomo and his administration have announced or budgeted for multiple projects over the past few months that promise to heal urban neighborhoods by repairing the damage inflicted by mid-century highways.

Last Wednesday, Cuomo said his administration will study capping a three-quarter-mile segment of the Kensington Expressway, which obliterated the Olmsted-designed Humboldt Parkway in the 1950s, traumatizing Buffalo’s historic East Side.

Cuomo told the Buffalo News editorial board that paying for the full project, estimated to cost upwards of $500 million, is feasible. “It was originally the Humboldt Parkway, it was beautiful, and it was part of the Olmsted design,” he said to an appreciative crowd at the Buffalo Museum of Science, the paper reported. “In the mid-’50s, we had a better idea and it turned out not to be a better idea, which was to move vehicles in and out of Buffalo faster by building a highway. This was not just in Buffalo; this was all over the United States. Most places have reversed their mistakes, and that’s what we are going to be doing here.”

At the same event, Cuomo reiterated his administration’s support for converting Buffalo’s Scajaquada Expressway, a 3.6-mile 1960s-era highway segment that cuts across city neighborhoods and parks, into a surface street where people can safely walk and bike. (Last year, a driver careened off the road and into Delaware Park, killing a 3-year-old boy and critically injuring his 5-year-old sister.) In both cases, the state is responding to grassroots campaigns to undo the devastation of urban highways.

Earlier this week, the final state budget included $97 million for transforming the South Bronx’s Moses-era Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard, creating better walking and biking connections to the Bronx River waterfront and opening up land for mixed-use development.

And last month, Cuomo announced that two miles of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls will be removed to improve access to the waterfront.

Read more…


Sheridan Expressway Removal Gets $97 Million Boost in State Budget

In 2013, the city recommended converting the Sheridan Expressway to a surface road. Photo: Stephen Miller

In 2013, the city recommended converting the Sheridan Expressway to a surface road. Photo: Stephen Miller

Last week’s Albany budget deal includes $97 million for decommissioning the Sheridan Expressway and transforming it into a surface boulevard.

The Sheridan, a short Robert Moses-era highway connecting the Bruckner and Cross-Bronx expressways, cuts South Bronx neighborhoods off from the Bronx River waterfront and its growing network of parks and greenways. Community groups have been advocating for the removal of the Sheridan for almost two decades under the umbrella of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance (SBRWA).

The campaign has gone through many ups and downs in the past few years, and there’s still work to do to ensure that New York State DOT moves forward with the project, but with this allocation of state funds the teardown is closer to fruition than ever.

After the state DOT rejected a complete teardown in July 2010, activists refocused their efforts at the city level. That fall, four city agencies were awarded a $1.5 million TIGER grant from U.S. DOT to study how the highway removal might work. (At the time, current NYC Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was a high-ranking federal DOT official closely involved with TIGER.)

Read more…

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Vancouver City Council Votes to Erase Last Vestiges of Freeway System

An artist rendering of what the space now occupied by viaducts will look like. Image: City of Vancouver via CBC

An artist’s rendering of what the space now occupied by viaducts will look like. Image: City of Vancouver via CBC

Vancouver is famous for not having any freeways within the central city. But highway building got underway before public opposition quashed the freeway system in the early 1970s, and a couple of fragments of the old freeway structure have remained in the form of two short elevated roads.

Not for long, however.

CBC Canada reports that the Vancouver City Council voted yesterday to remove the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. The city plans to add 13 acres of parks on the newly available space. Two city blocks will also be preserved for housing, including 300 below-market units.

The viaducts will be replaced by a four-lane, at-grade road. Planners estimate converting the viaducts to surface street will add about one to three minutes to motor vehicle trips. It would have cost $50 to $65 million to upgrade the viaducts to make them safe in case of an earthquake.

Tearing down the viaducts will cost about $200 million. But Business Vancouver reports the city expects to come out ahead when all is said and done:

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500 People Ate Dinner on a Freeway in Akron This Weekend

"500 Plates" brought together people from all over Akron to have a meal together on the to-be-closed "Innerbelt Freeway." Photo: Jason Segedy

“500 Plates” brought together people from all over Akron to have a meal together on the Innerbelt Freeway, which is not long for this world. Photo: Jason Segedy

How’s this for a creative reuse of outdated 20th century infrastructure? This weekend, 500 people in Akron, Ohio, sat down and had dinner together on the Innerbelt Freeway.

The event, dubbed “500 Plates,” brought together people from all over the city to talk about the future of the Innerbelt. The city is planning to decommission the lightly-used 1970s-era highway and redevelop the land — but exactly how is still under discussion.

Photo: Jason Segedy

Photo: Jason Segedy

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The Pendulum Swings Away From Highways on the Dallas City Council

Half of the Dallas City Council now opposes the construction of a six-lane, limited-access highway along the Trinity River. Image: Army Corps of Engineers via Dallas Morning News

A runoff election Saturday has solidified who’s in and who’s out of the Dallas City Council. At stake were the future of two highway projects: the construction of the Trinity Toll Road and the removal of I-345 to make way for walkable development. Highway opponents gained ground, though not enough for a majority.

Before the election, four of 14 votes on the City Council consistently opposed the construction of the Trinity and supported removing I-345. Then in the May election, two candidates endorsed by A New Dallas, a PAC supporting the I-345 teardown, picked up seats. With the 35-vote victory victory on Saturday of Adam McGough, it appears that the council is now split on both highway issues.

McGough is the former chief of staff to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the Trinity Toll Road’s chief booster. But late in the campaign he expressed opposition to Alternative 3C, the design that involves building a six-lane high-speed road alongside the Trinity River. McGough explicitly called for 3C to be rejected and said he supports a smaller four-lane road instead.

McGough also supports the effort to replace I-345 with surface streets. His runoff win puts him in a bloc along with Mark Clayton and Carolyn King Arnold, the newly elected council members, and the four sitting highway opponents.

With the City Council split 7-7, the pro-walkability camp remains one vote shy of a decisive majority. But in Dallas’s weak-mayor system, it is significantly stronger than before the election. As the Dallas Morning News reports, “the toll road will always be a bumpy ride for the mayor” and “the lopsided votes of the past in favor of the Trinity project now become closer.”

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Toronto City Council Blows Its Chance to Transform Downtown

Toronto could have had a waterfront boulevard but the Council voted to keep an elevated highway instead. Image: ## TO##

Toronto could have replaced its downtown elevated highway with a surface boulevard, but the City Council voted to keep an elevated highway instead. Image via Blog TO

Tearing down Toronto’s Gardiner East Expressway would remove a hulking blight from downtown, improve access to the waterfront, open up land for walkable development, and save hundreds of millions of dollars compared to rebuilding the highway.

But that didn’t convince the City Council.

In a 24-21 vote yesterday, the Council opted to rebuild the aging Gardiner with some minor modifications instead of pursuing the “boulevard” option that would have removed a 1.7-kilometer segment of the highway.

Replacing the elevated road with a surface street would have cost $137 million less upfront (in Canadian dollars) than rebuilding it, and nearly $500 million less in total costs over the next 100 years.

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