Monday, June 4, 2012

American Cities and the Waterfront Division

In response to Steve's comment in the post below this one, I want to illustrate the severing of the urban area by freeways from several other cities in our country, some who have taken steps to mitigate the problem, some who are considering ideas and others who are doing nothing.

First up is Boston, a city with perhaps the most famous and expensive mitigation project, the Big Dig. I-93 divided Downtown Boston and the Waterfront, displacing thousands of residents in the process. The Big Dig put the freeway in a tunnel, which united the two areas again. Property values have gained as a result.

This image taken during the Big Dig's construction shows how divided the city is from the waterfront.
Note that the I-93 portion through Downtown is not the only area where the freeway lays directly next to the waterfront.
New York's Robert Moses was the pioneer of not only freeway building, but placement by waterways and parks. Every single borough in the city has at least some portion of its waterfront and parkways lined with a freeway. Moses also planned a freeway to run across Midtown and the SoHo neighborhoods. One shudders to think of the devastation that these freeways would have brought to these vibrant areas.

All five boroughs in New York are divided from the waterfront.
The West Side Elevated Highway collapsed on Manhattan's West Side in the '70's. The City decided against rebuilding, reverting the corridor back to a surface street from Lower Manhattan to Midtown.

Philadelphia is another perfect example of this era of planning. I-76, I-95 and I-676 were all built next to the rivers of the area. As far as I know, there hasn't been any progress in removing or mitigating these freeways.

Staying on the East Coast, Baltimore and Washington D.C. followed the same example. Baltimore saw I-95, I-695 and I-895 built next to waterways. In addition, I-83 is the border for three major parks, severing the surrounding built environment from a potential asset.

Washington D.C. avoided the severing within its boundaries, but the region sure didn't. I-295, Anacostia Freeway and George Washington Memorial Parkway all border rivers. Also, many of the freeways border parklands, further dividing and isolating the area.

In Chicago, Lake Shore Drive divided downtown from Lake Michigan, I-94, I-90 and I-55 border the Chicago River and I-294 border a local waterway.

Portland, Oregon is often cited as a positive example of planning principles and the freeway removal from the downtown waterfront is one of the highest. Harbor Drive ran on the west side of the Willamette River. It was closed in the '70's so a new park could be built in its place, allowing for recreation along the river.

Harbor Drive was a scar on the urban landscape. Now, this area is a neighborhood recreational amenity.
Portland also killed several freeways drawn up by Robert Moses during the '70's.

The Green are highways not built. Some would have bordered the rivers. Portland instead spent the money on expanding their rail system.
Finally, San Francisco is a city that has A) built freeways bordering San Francisco Bay, B) demolished freeways bordering the Bay and C) canceled planned freeways that were to be built by the Bay.

Current freeway map of San Francisco
The route the Embarcadero freeway ran, clearly dividing the City from San Francisco Bay.

The freeway plan for San Francisco. The entire Bay side would have been cutoff as well as some of the parkland in the middle of the city.

One of the points I want to make is that the urban areas always suffer more from freeway construction. With the exception of D.C., which was able to avoid large scale construction within the urban area, these freeways divide once contiguous neighborhoods, displaced thousands upon thousands of residents and commercial structures and altered future development in an anti-urban fashion. Some cities are able to mitigate these effects, some aren't or haven't.

But the question I continually go back to is this; if we know what this does to urban areas, if we know the negative impacts and consequences, why are we trying to repeat it with the Trinity Parkway? It will not only be built next to Dallas' only body of water, but will also be built in parkland. It is repeating every 1950's era freeway building mistake our country made. Why can't City Officials learn from the mistakes of other cities?

No comments: