City Tear It Down
posted by September 23 at 9:40 AMon
Congress for New Urbanism has a list up for of ten urban freeways that should be torn down and replaced with “boulevards and other cost-saving urban alternatives.” Topping the list? Seattle’s own Alaska Way Viaduct.
Built in 1953, as State Route 99, the Alaskan Way Viaduct is a north-south route alongside Seattle’s Elliot Bay and carries approximately 105,000 vehicles per day. Proposals released by the Washington State Department of Transportation for an expanded elevated highway or a tunnel during the downtown segment—each with price tags of $4 billion or more—met with fierce opposition. On a March 13, 2007, Seattleites voted both of these options down in a local referendum—welcoming in a surface and transit option.
This progress stems in large part from the leadership of the City Council and the People’s Waterfront Coalition, led by Cary Moon, who envisioned an open waterfront that would begin to restore the shoreline and support a vibrant urban place. Opening up 335 acres of public land on Seattle”s waterfront could give way to new parks, beaches, and development—and save the city years of construction delays and billions of dollars. “If you try to build your way out of congestion,” said Moon, “you’ll ruin your city or go broke trying.”
Says The Bellows…
The additional automobile connectivity gained by extending a freeway into a dense urban area is small, and absolutely not worth the lost land value. Neither is it a reasonable use of urban land to hold freeway miles designed to carry through traffic. If other institutions want to pay a central city to bury a freeway so that through traffic can have an uninterrupted straight-line journey, then fine, but central cities shouldn’t volunteer to undermine the value of their greatest asset—dense, gridded neighborhoods near job and residential centers.