Walk Tall!

The Life and Death of Urban Highways

A new report jointly produced by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and EMBARQ, The Life and Death of Urban Highways, re-appraises the specific conditions under which it makes sense to build urban highway and when it makes sense to tear them down.

This report chronicles the stories of five very different cities that became stronger after freeways were removed or reconsidered. They demonstrate that fixing cities harmed by freeways, and improving public transport, involves a range of context-specific and context-sensitive solutions. This perspective contrasts with the one-size-fits-all approach that was used in the 1950s and 1960s to push freeways through urban neighborhoods. The belief then was that freeways would reduce congestion and improve safety in cities. Remarkably, these two reasons are still commonly used to rationalize spending large sums of public money on expanding existing or building new freeways.

Five such cities are showcased in this report: Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Seoul, South Korea; and Bogotá, Colombia. These cities demonstrate the social, economic, and environmental benefits that accrued when urban highways were removed and reconsidered.

As Peter Park, former planning director of Milwaukee during the Park East Freeway removal, writes in the foreword, “While the following report is about urban highways, more importantly, it is about cities and people. It is about community vision and the leadership required in the twenty-first century to overcome the demolition, dislocation, and disconnection of neighborhoods caused by freeways in cities.”

In the past fifty years, tens of thousands of miles of urban highways were built around the world. Many are now approaching the end of their life cycle. This is leading many cities, not just in the United States, to question the place of major highways in urban areas and whether they merit further investment or removal. Today, some of the same urban highways that were built in that period are being torn down, buried at great expense, or changed into boulevards. As cities around the world grapple with congestion, growth, and decline, the case studies highlighted in this groundbreaking report illuminate what can be done when a highway no longer makes sense.

Published by: EMBARQ on March 19, 2012

Download ” The Life and Death of Urban Highways” here. 

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