Monday, June 11, 2012

Teardown as a Freeway Mitigation

A week ago, I posted a brief tour of various cities negative freeway effects. Some of those cities have instituted a few mitigation programs to minimize or eliminate their effects. Freeway demolition is a tool that is sparingly used, but as freeways approach the end of their usable lifespan, it is receiving a lot more attention.

A construction disaster collapsed the West Side Highway in New York. By policy, Portland lost Harbor Drive and Milwaukee demoed the Park East Freeway. An earthquake helped remove the Embarcadero Freeway. New Orleans is considering demoing the Claiborne Expressway (I-10) and back in New York, the Sheridan Expressway (I-895) is facing an uncertain future about its existence.

The one common thread through these examples is the relatively short freeway lengths. These were small spurs through the urban environment. However, another city may become the greatest freeway removal example to those promoting the urban benefits.

In the fourth example I gave in the case study post above, Baltimore's I-83, the Jones Falls Expressway, as a perfect example of an urban divider, separating the city from its parks. Well, turns out there is a movement afoot to remove it.

There are two options mentioned. The first was the typical stub. Less that a mile of the roughly 10-mile long freeway would meet the wrecking ball. For the map-inclined folks like myself, that is from Fayetteville St to Chase St in Downtown Baltimore.

Since it isn't Dallas related, I likely wouldn't have posted this if it was just that portion, especially since this proposal (I even think it is too early to call it a proposal) is still in the infant stage. What I want to post is that for the first time, an entire freeway is being talked about for removal.

In a sixty-page PowerPoint entitled "Fallsway: A New Downtown Neighborhood for Baltimore, MD," Edison shows the taking down of the JFX as key to redeveloping an area that would reach east to the blighted Old Town neighborhood (and beyond that to Hopkins Hospital) and west to Mount Vernon and the Downtown business district.

Johns Hopkins Health Care Center is at the complete opposite end of the 10-mile highway. That is huge!

The before shot. Note the clear deliniation of either side of the highway. There isn't a much clearer example of a freeway dividing the urban landscape. Add the fact that it is elevated and the pedestrian sure feels the division.

There is a directly parallel light rail line (MTA's Blue Line) six miles from Downtown. It is less than a mile away for the rest of the route. The only area this rail line doesn't serve that the freeway does is the hospital, but a bus route does (poor frequency would have to be addressed) and connects to both the Blue Line and the Heavy Rail Line that is color coded green. This would help transit use soar in this area.

The after. While there is still a clear visual seperation, the addition of parks and a taming of the street, not to mention the addition of urban buildings, will make the area near-seamless to the urban user.
Downtown's built environment would be helped out by either proposal, but just the idea of tackling a freeway removal in an outer area is virgin territory. It is just in the beginning of preliminary talks, but if this were to happen, the momentum of freeway removal will be huge.

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