Highway Spotlight: Minhocão - São Paulo's "Big Worm"

Minhocão (“The Big Worm”) is an elevated highway running through the heart of São Paulo, Brazil – the largest city in one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Officially Via Elevada Presidente Artur da Costa E Silva, after Brazil's second president, the Minhocão was built in 1971 as a solution to São Paulo's rapid population swell that brought the city from a population of about two million in 1950, to nearly eleven million today.

The 2.2 mile expressway zooms alongside office and bedroom windows as it snakes its way through the heart of the city. With 80,000 cars passing through daily, the noise and pollution of Minhocão are often cited as the reason real estate values in surrounding neighborhoods have plummeted. Unlike some other major Brazilian cities, São Paulo experienced rapid growth sans a comprehensive urban plan. The result is a sprawling, incoherent maze of transportation infrastructure that is now seen as an roadblock to the metropolis's bright future.

As São Paulo emerges as a global city and plays host to events such as the 2014 FIFA world cup, local urban planners are advocating the tear down of the expressway as a major step towards a São Paulo renewal. Closed every Sunday and holiday since 1976 to the delight of pedestrians and cyclists of the city, planners are advocating the permanent razing of Minhocão and a return to street level transportation. A boulevard, expanded public transit, and (naturally) a tunnel are being explored as neighborhood friendly alternatives and a step towards a revitalized São Paulo.

To learn more about Minhocão and other urban highways, check out CNU's Highways to Boulevards Intitiative here.


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