Claiborne Expressway, NOLA: CNU Freeway Without a Future #3

April 7, 2011

A proposal for transforming the 1940s Iberville complex in downtown New Orleans into a denser mixed-income neighborhood, hinges on removal of  I-10, an elevated highway, which in the 1960’s replaced Claiborne Avenue, a broad tree-lined boulevard that was then a bustling African-American commercial strip.  An article published this week in the New York Times Critic’s Notebook column highlights the project, and the idea, first proposed by the Congress for the New Urbanism, to replace the elevated expressway, with an at-grade urban boulevard.  The city received a federal grant of $2 million last October to study the teardown option.

CNU’s report states that “Demolition of the aging elevated expressway would remove an eyesore that has dominated and damaged the Tremé/Lafitte landscape for almost 50 years and held back serious attempts to spur economic development. The destruction of the oak-lined avenue and construction of the elevated expressway in the 1960s, was intimately tied to the overall decline of Claiborne’s surrounding neighborhoods and occurred against the wishes of the area’s largely disenfranchised African-American residents….”

The full report, “Restoring Claiborne Avenue”, released in July 2010, concludes:  

The real benefits of removing a downtown urban freeway borne out by several cases of urban freeway deconstruction in New York City, San Francisco and Milwaukee. Among the key lessons from these case studies are:
 
o Traffic is adaptable.  Urban traffic (i.e., drivers of motor vehicles) is highly adaptable and will divert to the best route available, especially when there is a highly connected grid of streets. When a high‐speed urban freeway is available, traffic is drawn to that corridor due to the higher speeds. In cities that have experienced a freeway removal, either planned or through a catastrophe, traffic has quickly adapted and redistributed itself to other routes.
o Economic benefits result from removing elevated freewaysThe localized economic harm that has resulted from the Claiborne Expressway is obvious, documented by the low property values and decline that the corridor has experienced since the freeway was constructed. Several compelling recent projects show the great benefit that can result by removing elevated freeways and replacing them with well designed, multimodal urban streets.

“Highway Removal” Project in Cleveland Looks an Awful Lot Like a Highway

April 7, 2011

According to the March 23, 2011 Streetsblog , NPR didn’t get it quite right in reporting that Cleveland is replacing a freeway with a tree-lined pedestrian-friendly boulevard a la the Embarcadero in SF or Park East in Milwaukee.  Although the elevated freeway is coming down, the ODOT has reportedly nixed a reduction of the speed limit from 50 to 35 mph and the placement of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings – planners say they would add 70 seconds to commuters’ travel time – relegating pedestrians and bicyclists to underground tunnels to reach the park on the shores of Lake Erie.

This sounds a lot like Buffalo’s Experience with NYS DOT and the Outer Harbor Expressway that separates Lake Erie from downtown https://oclblog.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/rethinking-i-81-ocls-study-blog-3/.  The elevated, limited-access Route 5 restricts access to the lakefront and limits development potential according to opponents, but DOT rejected calls for an at-grade boulevard.


Gridlock! Traffic! Crying Wolf in Seoul

April 1, 2011

What would happen if they took out what was considered a vital traffic artery carrying 168,000 cars per day? Lots! Improved travel time, improved environment, increased property values, more public space, revitalized central business district.

 Kamala Rao, MCIP, Transportation Planner in Vancouver, BC, and a Sightline board member, profiles Seoul’s success story of urban highway removal at Sightline Daily.


More Cities are Razing Urban Highways

March 10, 2011

Removal of aging highways is a strategy some cities are using to try and boost their downtown districts http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0302/Downtown-need-a-makeover-More-cities-are-razing-urban-highways – Christian Science Monitor

By Jeremy Kutner, Correspondent / March 2, 2011

New Haven, Conn. In New Haven, Conn., a mistake of the past – one that displaced hundreds, razed a neighborhood, and physically divided a city – is finally set to be rectified: A highway is going to be demolished.

Some people in New Haven have been waiting to see this for 40 years, ever since it became clear that a modern roadway slicing through the heart of downtown would not bring the hoped-for suburban shoppers and revitalization. That waiting list is long, it turns out, as cities across the United States look to erase some of the damage from urban highway construction of the 1950s and ’60s – tearing up or replacing the roadways and attempting to restitch bulldozed neighborhoods. ….

In Providence, Rhode Island transportation officials opted to reroute a dilapidated section of highway, moving the road Some people in New Haven have been waiting to see this for 40 years, ever since it became clear that a modern roadway slicing through the heart of downtown would not bring the hoped-for suburban shoppers and revitalization. That waiting list is long, it turns out, as cities across the United States look to erase some of the damage from urban highway construction of the 1950s and ’60s – tearing up or replacing the roadways and attempting to restitch bulldozed neighborhoods.outside the downtown core at no small expense. Demolition began late last year.

Now, “there’s an opportunity not only to create a new neighborhood but to sort of reinvent our downtown,” says Robert Azar, a planner with the Providence Department of Planning and Development….”


Less Congestion, More Sprawl

January 27, 2011

More on the irrationality of current traffic congestion measures, from Gateway Streets, a St. Louis blog:

Work continues on 141 between Olive and 364. Credit: modot_stl_photos.

“… a closer look at the data in the Urban Mobility Report reveals a puzzling fact: despite reduced congestion on the region’s roads, commutes in St. Louis are getting longer than ever before. Peak hour commuters spent an average of 289 hours behind the wheel in 2009, 36 hours more than in 1999 when congestion was significantly worse. In fact, according to the UMR report, St. Louis has the 5th longest commutes among metro areas over 1 million population (Los Angeles and New York, bafflingly, are ranked 22nd and 33rd, respectively). How is it that that commuting times get longer as congestion decreases?

The answer to the puzzle, of course, lies in the sprawling nature of St. Louis’s suburbs. Between 1950 and 2000, St. Louis’s urban population grew 48% while urban land area grew over 260%.

St. Louis’s extensive highway network may be partially to blame for the region’s sprawl. As pointed out by the Urbanophile, St. Louis has the 3rd most freeway lane miles per capita amongst metro areas over 1 million in population ….”


Driven Apart

October 12, 2010

As The I-81 Challenge –  official decision-making process led by two entities, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC), the region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO) – gets into gear, the Rethinking I-81 blog will reopen for comments.   

Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse – “A new report from CEOs for Cities unveils the real reason Americans spend so much time in traffic and offers a dramatic critique of the 25 year old industry standard … often used to justify billions of dollars in expenditures to build new roads and highways.

“The report recommends a new system for measuring urban transportation performance that includes emphasizing accessibility and focusing on measures of land uses, trip lengths and mode choices as well as travel speeds”.


“Rethinking I-81″: OCL’s Study Blog

May 20, 2009

Stent (or Dagger?) in the Heart of Town: Urban Freeways in Syracuse, 1944-1967

The 1961 Decisions in Syracuse, by SU political scientists Guthrie Birkhead, Roscoe Martin, and others, explored a series of case studies of metropolitan action in Syracuse in the Post–World War II era. The study focused on public decision-making and the relative influence of various interest groups in the power structure at a time of emerging demographic change and suburbanization.  The case studies are fascinating glimpses at how important metropolitan issues, from sewage treatment and water district  to government reorganization and real estate development were approached in a regional context. 

Although it occurred in the same time period, the I-81 construction was not a subject of the book. Creation of the highway system in and around Syracuse was much less a local, or metropolitan, process than a process in which federal and state plans, and dollars, determined transportation developments.  The recent study, Stent (or Dagger?) in the Heart of Town: Urban Freeways in Syracuse, 1944-1967, published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Planning History, takes a look at decision-making on the urban freeways in Syracuse. 

Author Joseph F. C. Di Mento, a professor of Law and of Planning Policy and Design at the University of California Irvine, concludes that the timing of transportation decisions in Syracuse was important.  Before the evolution of environmental law, and at a time when the urban renewal goals of “slum clearance” and redevelopment converged with the funding opportunities of the federal highway fund, the fiscally conservative city administration deferred to state highway plans.  A relatively weak city planning function and a “strong engineering-driven state highway bureaucracy and gubernatorial positions” influencing choices Syracuse made, “ …led to an outcome different from what city fathers and officials had envisioned…”.

The approaching need to reconstruct parts of the freeway through the city gives Syracuse an opportunity to develop a new vision for the community.


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