Freeways without futures

As plans move forward for renovations to St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch, a group of local urbanists known as City to River have a dream to make the project even better: Demolish a section of Interstate 70 [known locally as the “depressed lanes”] that walls off the Arch from the downtown area. Getting rid of that portion of the highway [which will be rendered superfluous when a new Mississippi River bridge is completed in 2015], would reunite the Arch with its host city and make the downtown area more accessible to the legendary river that built the city in the first place.

So far, City to River has not convinced the National Park Service—which controls the land on which the highway was constructed– to go along with their idea. But they’re not alone in their quest to rethink antiquated highways that, in many cases, are interfering with better ideas for urban development.

Recently, Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) issued a report called “Freeways Without Futures,” a list of the top ten locations in North America “where the opportunity is greatest to stimulate valuable revitalization by replacing aging urban highways with boulevards and other cost-saving urban alternatives.

The list came from a CNU call for nominations. CNU reviewed the submissions and prioritized them based on factors including the age of the structure, redevelopment potential, potential cost savings, ability to improve both overall mobility and local access, existence of pending infrastructure decisions, and local support.

St. Louis’ project didn’t make the list, But the top-ten teardowns offer opportunities unique to their communities that any new urbanist would cheer for. Here’s the list of the top ten. You can get detailed information about the challenges they represent [plus pictures] at the links.

1. Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle, WA
2. Sheridan Expressway, Bronx, NY
3. The Skyway and Route 5, Buffalo, NY
4. Route 34, New Haven, CT
5. Claiborne Expressway, New Orleans, LA
6. Interstate 81, Syracuse, NY
7. Interstate 64, Louisville, KY
8. Route 29, Trenton, NJ
9. Gardiner Expressway, Toronto, ON
10. 11th Street Bridges and the Southeast Freeway, Washington D.C.

[Cover image: Claiborne Expressway, New Orleans, LA]