Guardian reports on successful highway removal (and Braess' Paradox)

paytonc's picture

The Guardian, a leading British newspaper, reports on how Seoul, a city of nearly ten mllion people, rediscovered its heart underneath a highway carrying 160,000 cars a day:

[I]n a revolutionary act of ecological restoration that is now being examined around the world, the city of Seoul, under the leadership of the then mayor, Lee Myung Bak, pledged in 2002 to restore the river, tear down the motorway and create a five-mile long, 800-yard wide, 1,000-acre lateral park snaking through the city where the river once ran...

"The tearing down of the motorway has had both intended and unexpected effects. As soon as we destroyed the road, the cars just disappeared and drivers changed their habits. A lot of people just gave up their cars. Others found a different way of driving. In some cases, they kept using their cars but changed their routes."

The city had beefed up its bus service and given people options to avoid the motorway, and the effect on the environment was remarkable. [Kee Yeon] Hwang [professor at Hongik University]] says... "many birds came back, plus fish, insects and plants. The variety of wildlife has vastly increased since we tore up the road."

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The images of the Seoul project are powerful

Vancouver is another dense city that thrives without freeways running through its heart, but people in Seoul had to wonder what would happen when an elevated freeway carrying 160,000 cars a day was removed from its intensively developed downtown. What happened was the remarkable renewal of a riverfront that spent years buried in concrete. Images of this project are posted at cnu.org as part of CNU's Freeways to Boulevards campaign and they tell a powerful story.

freeway teardowns

The results in Seoul parallel those in Portland's Willamette Riverfront, SF's Embarcadero and Central Freeway, New York's West Side Highway and Milwaukee's Park East. With the enormous expense of rebuilding and maintaining urban expressways, tearing them down could be one of the great public works projects of the 21st Century. Teardowns are under consideration in Buffalo, Seattle, Louisville, New Orleans, Akron, Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington DC, Bronx, Miami, Toronto, London( Hammersmith Flyover) and Tokyo. Who have we left off this list?
John Norquist

Fort Worthology's picture

Lancaster Initiative, Fort Worth

Fort Worth suffered a horrible urban freeway for many years. I-30 was slammed through the south side of downtown, right over bustling Lancaster Avenue. Before, Lancaster was a compact four-lane avenue lined with proper traditional development and three magnificent civic/transit structures (The Art Deco Texas & Pacific Terminal and Warehouse and Neo-Classical Central Post Office, all built at the same time). Once the I-30 Overhead pushed its way through, Lancaster was widened to an eight-lane monster and all but the T&P/Post Office complex fell, either to the road expansion or to ever-increasing parking lots.

Fortunately, now the city has done the right thing. I-30 was rerouted over a rail yard and out of downtown, and the old I-30 Overhead was demolished. Now, the city has set off on a massive Lancaster Initiative. The old convention center nearby was completely remodeled and made into a proper urban structure. The swath of parking lots is being filled, slowly but surely - three big ones are going now, two as the site of a 547-foot Omni Hotel & Condos tower with ground-floor retail, one as a new parking garage featuring ground-floor retail and Art Deco-style architecture.

Lancaster Avenue itself is set to become the start of a new urban redevelopment plan. The road is being narrowed back to a compact four-lane layout, lined with trees and featuring on-street parking and a beautiful median featuring a row of 30-foot metal sculptures made of plates based on the Art Deco details of the T&P complex. The other four lanes of the post-widening Lancaster will be shut down permanently once the new, smaller road is complete, and that strip of land will be opened up for mixed-use urban development. As for the T&P complex - the actual T&P Terminal has been fully restored and serves as both a station for the Trinity Railway Express and as loft condos. The Post Office is still a post office, its lobby fully restored, and it may also serve as a new City Hall in the not-too-distant future. The T&P Warehouse is about to be redeveloped into 300 apartments, two floors of office space, and ground floor retail (it's a *huge* structure).

Kevin Buchanan
Editor-in-Chief, Fort Worthology
http://fortworthology.com - kevin@fortworthology.com

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