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Thread: Freeways without futures

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    Freeways without futures

    The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) has released its 2008 list of freeways that it claims should be eliminated, including one in my neck of the woods (I-64). There's even one for our Canada friends!

    The Congress for the New Urbanism (www.cnu.org), a leading national organization promoting walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl, today announced its list of the top-10 cities where the opportunity is greatest for removing highways to make way for convenient boulevards and revitalized neighborhoods. The “Freeways Without Futures” list recognizes places where highways-to-boulevards transformations can help revitalize cities and save taxpayers billions of dollars in highway construction costs.
    http://www.cnu.org/highways/freewayswithoutfutures

    Discuss.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) has released its 2008 list of freeways that it claims should be eliminated, including one in my neck of the woods (I-64). There's even one for our Canada friends!

    http://www.cnu.org/highways/freewayswithoutfutures

    Discuss.
    I find the idea that these cities will be able to replace this highway infrastructure with successful redevelopment projects highly presumptous, particularly in some of the cities on the list (which will not be named for risk of starting a flame-war; draw your own conclusions).

    So too with the added implication that taxpayers will save money on such endeavors, factoring in the astronomical cost of demolishing these monstrosities and replacing them with something and all that involves (re-engineering traffic, new infrastructure, environmental remediation). And of course all these costs must be absorbed before the CNU can sketch their pretty renderings of tree-lined, mixed-use boulevards.

    If only it were so easy as they make it seem...

  3. #3
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    ^^^I agree with hilldweller's points for most of the list, but the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle is a different case, IMO. It has to be replaced with something soon (because it is seismically unstable and will fall down in the next earthquake) or be retrofitted at tremendous cost.

    To me it seems very similar to the Embarcadero Freeway that existed on the San Francisco waterfront prior to the 1989 earthquake, which has since been replaced with a surface boulevard with wide sidewalks, light rail, and ample room for cars. Seems that something similar would be best in Seattle too.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    ^^^I agree with hilldweller's points for most of the list, but the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle is a different case, IMO. It has to be replaced with something soon (because it is seismically unstable and will fall down in the next earthquake) or be retrofitted at tremendous cost.

    To me it seems very similar to the Embarcadero Freeway that existed on the San Francisco waterfront prior to the 1989 earthquake, which has since been replaced with a surface boulevard with wide sidewalks, light rail, and ample room for cars. Seems that something similar would be best in Seattle too.
    The big differences between the two is that Alaskan Way is a busy through route (the Embarcadero, although planned to be a through route, never developed beyond a local-access spur) and also, unlike the Embarcadero, Alaskan Way is on a much narrower ROW. Is there enough room there for a useful through traffic carrying surface street/boulevard with all of the aesthetic and pedestrian touches? To remove it and not replace it with something useful will overload I-5.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    To remove it and not replace it with something useful will overload I-5.
    That is assuming that volume is not directly related to capacity (i.e. If you build it they will come).

  6. #6
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I would support MGK920. Seattle is a major port area as well as a trading gateway with Canada. Anyplace with ports and gateways you need to be very careful as you don't want to cripple trade, and congestion is a different animal. Large trucks will slow traffic along urban freeways even under normal conditions. I could not believe the amount of truck traffic that had clogged our roads just after 9-11 and when the Northeast had that several day blackout. I-5 is the only rational route to trade by truck with Canada.

    The only no-brainer to remove around here would be I-375, which is a spur into downtown. It could be replaced by a business loop. However, about 17 years ago we got a europave demo project and that road is still as smooth as a baby's butt so that ain't going to happen anytime soon.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #7
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    The big differences between the two is that Alaskan Way is a busy through route (the Embarcadero, although planned to be a through route, never developed beyond a local-access spur) and also, unlike the Embarcadero, Alaskan Way is on a much narrower ROW. Is there enough room there for a useful through traffic carrying surface street/boulevard with all of the aesthetic and pedestrian touches? To remove it and not replace it with something useful will overload I-5.

    Mike
    Alaskan Way is a through route? It's a double decker structure that barrels into downtown and ends. Route 99 continues on along surface streets, but the vast majority of auto traffic using the viaduct is not through traffic, but downtown-bound.

    In 1985, the Embarcadero Freeway carried 70,000 cars a day at the Ferry Building. The structure that connected the Embarcadero Freeway to the Bay Bridge had on-ramps that were used by another 35,000 or so. Alaskan Way has current usage of about 110,000 cars a day - not much higher.

    Alaskan Way is on a narrower right-of-way right now, but won't be under proposals to rebuild it. The options are surface boulevard, tunnel, or new raised structure almost twice as wide. To keep the same capacity that currently exists, a significantly wider right-of-way will have to be used, because the current structure is not up to current code (lanes are too narrow, no shoulder, etc). If retrofitting is used, a lane in each direction would be taken, leading to a lower capacity than currently exists (and probably not any higher than a surface boulevard).

    Also, as jmello mentioned, much of the traffic could likely be shifted to other modes with the correct incentives and investments.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I-5 is the only rational route to trade by truck with Canada.
    Did you forget about I-405 around Seattle?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    Did you forget about I-405 around Seattle?
    Yep! Our even numbered 3 digit interstate routes here were never allowed to be much. I-275 never meets 75 to the N, and 475 and 675 operate as business loops INTO Flint and Saginaw. I looked closer at I-405 on the map and it does flow pretty well. Thanks for calling me on that, it made me look at the port facilities a lot closer (got to love google), WOW! I'd sure like to know what the truck modal split is on the freeways.

    There are not many places to cross the rivers in the area. There would need to be some bridge replacements should the freeways go away, and you would most likely need more bridges because traffic would move slower (unless you replace it with something like Lakeshore in Chicago)

    The Seattle freeway also appears to be one odd-duck route that was never finished. Its interesting that the Alaskan Way is so darned tight in there. It does appear to be the type of road that people use just because its there. Has anyone run the local transportation model with it gone? Did it have much of a difference? Not being from the area I might be missing something, but it seems to be odd.
    Last edited by DetroitPlanner; 29 Sep 2008 at 11:00 PM.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  10. #10
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    There are not many places to cross the rivers in the area. There would need to be some bridge replacements should the freeways go away, and you would most likely need more bridges because traffic would move slower (unless you replace it with something like Lakeshore in Chicago)
    There are plans (admittedly decades-long plans) to replace the 520 bridge.

    That being said, port truck traffic going north is really pretty negligible in Seattle as a percentage of total traffic. Vancouver has pretty substantial port facilities as well - the advantages of off-loading something in Seattle and trucking to Vancouver are pretty limited for most items. It would take traffic significantly worse than currently exists to get anywhere near the level of traffic that trucks must deal with leaving Oakland or LA/LB, both of which are several orders of magnitude larger in size than the port facilities in Seattle.

    The Seattle freeway also appears to be one odd-duck route that was never finished. Its interesting that the Alaskan Way is so darned tight in there. It does appear to be the type of road that people use just because its there. Has anyone run the local transportation model with it gone? Did it have much of a difference? Not being from the area I might be missing something, but it seems to be odd.
    The Alaskan Way vaiduct has been picked over with a fine-toothed comb by folks from all different sides. There is actually a pretty good wikipedia page with lots of links, etc:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Way_Viaduct

    And, yes, it is odd. It seems incredibly unnecessary to me, as well as my friends who live in the area.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    CJC, How much manufacturing takes place out there? I know that we get hit quite a bit by assembling cars on both sides of the river (high movement of parts across the bridge, movement of raw goods, and this includes Toledo as well). We trade quite a bit with Canada through Detroit and often times what ends up being a raw material in Windsor gets shiped to Detroit and becomes a part for a plant in Toledo or any combination of those movements.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  12. #12
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    CJC, How much manufacturing takes place out there? I know that we get hit quite a bit by assembling cars on both sides of the river (high movement of parts across the bridge, movement of raw goods, and this includes Toledo as well). We trade quite a bit with Canada through Detroit and often times what ends up being a raw material in Windsor gets shiped to Detroit and becomes a part for a plant in Toledo or any combination of those movements.
    There isn't a whole lot of manufacturing in the Seattle area (Boeing still has quite a bit, but the amount of suppliers to Boeing in the immediate area has diminished greatly). The local economy has turned away from manufacturing towards more of a tech-based white collar economy over the last twenty years (Microsoft has obviously had some pull).

    The ports of Seattle and Tacoma have a decent amount of agricultural exports, and quite a bit of containerized imports. Not much in the way of raw material going in or out.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I find the idea that these cities will be able to replace this highway infrastructure with successful redevelopment projects highly presumptous, particularly in some of the cities on the list (which will not be named for risk of starting a flame-war; draw your own conclusions).

    So too with the added implication that taxpayers will save money on such endeavors, factoring in the astronomical cost of demolishing these monstrosities and replacing them with something and all that involves (re-engineering traffic, new infrastructure, environmental remediation). And of course all these costs must be absorbed before the CNU can sketch their pretty renderings of tree-lined, mixed-use boulevards.

    If only it were so easy as they make it seem...
    Go ahead, name Buffalo, since it's #3 on the list. I can guarantee you that these CNU "urbanidiots" have never stepped foot on the Outer Harbor and maybe never been in Buffalo and WNY. They are completely clueless about urban reality.

    Buffalonians have long recognized the towering Skyway Bridge as a barrier to waterfront redevelopment. Built in 1953, this 1.4-mile long, 110-foot tall limited-access bridge begins at the Inner Harbor downtown, crosses the Buffalo River and touches down as Route 5 in the Outer Harbor. Route 5 continues for another 2.6 miles as a limited-access expressway built on an embankment of slag. The highway's oddly configured exit ramps lead to a confusing series of one-way streets that further hinder access to the waterfront. A total of 41,500 vehicles per day travel along this blighted corridor. There is no pedestrian access between downtown and the Outer Harbor.

    Despite calls for redevelopment of this area, the NYSDOT selected to retain the embanked Route 5 (and reinforce it with new ramps) instead of replacing it with a surface boulevard supporting an urban street-and-block network, even though a boulevard-only option was deemed viable in the project's environmental impact statement. NYSDOT's current plan leaves aside the fate of the Skyway Bridge, but its decision to retain the embanked Route 5 will necessitate that the Skyway Bridge be replaced by a similar, high-speed expressway facility. It also rebuilds and reconfigures an access road adjacent to the embanked freeway, resulting in a total of 8 lanes of roadway with a right-of-way width of 214 feet. The agency's designs, which leave waterfront access highly restricted and promote auto-dependent land uses, set the stage for limited reinvestment on the waterfront.

    A coalition of citizens and civic organizations, including members of the Buffalo Common Council, David Franczyk and Michael Kearns, Partners for a Livable Western New York, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, and CNU continue to call for a surface boulevard option noting its environmental and economic development benefits. Their plan would utilize an additional 16 acres of waterfront land that would otherwise be paved or inaccessible in the NYSDOT plan. Led by Julie O'Neil, the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and others are currently challenging the NYSDOT decision in court.
    First off, it's not the Skyway that blocks the city from its waterfront, it's a railroad ROW and the I-190, which does so from downtown all the way north and west along the harbor, Black Rock Channel, and the Niagara River. The Skyway leapfrogs that impediment. DOH.

    There has never been residential in this area (unless you count the shanty town that existed beyond the seawall in the 1890s) because it is the coldest and windiest part of the city. Trust me, Buffalo's Outer Harbor from November through March is not a hospitable place for anybody but ice fishermen and ice-surfers/sailors. Moreover, Buffalo already has 10,000+ vacant houses in residential neighborhoods plus thousands of abandoned industrial and commercial sites, and the city cannot take care of the neighborhoods it has, so does it make sense to build a new one???

    The big breakwalls built to protect an expanded Buffalo harbor before WW I allowed large scale industry, including a Ford Motor Company factory, to become established there. Later, it became a sort of dump for nearly fifty years. The entire parcel that's marked for development is a huge brownfield. Moreover, there is no indication that there is any private interest whatsoever in developing this parcel, probably because it's unlikely that the thousands people the "urbanidiots" envision moving to the waterfront aren't going to line up to give up their comfy $ 150,000 suburban homes for the privilege of living in $300,000 condos built on contaminated ground and sending their kids to private schools.

    Finally, the estimates for taking the Skyway down are around $100 million. Building the long-promised and never-started "Southtowns Connector" to move traffic to the I-190 would cost another $100 million. NYS wasn't going to spend $200 million on this project before the recent banking/financial crisis hit. Now, it surely won't.

    The only feasible "use" for Buffalo's Outer Waterfront for the forseeable future is for passive parkland that would include parking lots and paved walking/bike trails to provide some waterfront access much like Toronto and its suburbs have along the Lake Ontario shore line.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    In rural western KS, 10,000 vehicles per day seems to justify four lane roads. Every town wants four lanes. Dodge City, with 30,000 people, is building a by-pass around the existing by-pass. Go figure. There are much less expensive alternatives.

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    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    In rural western KS, 10,000 vehicles per day seems to justify four lane roads. Every town wants four lanes. Dodge City, with 30,000 people, is building a by-pass around the existing by-pass. Go figure. There are much less expensive alternatives.
    That 'bypass of the bypass' is likely because the original bypass was built several decades ago to legitimately get through traffic out of their congested downtown area and then the locals got greedy in that they allowed anyone access to that bypass without much in the line of restrictions - to the point where it ceased to function as a useful bypass. Yes, a VERY expensive mistake by the state DOT and the local planning gurus.

    I would assume that the new, much more expensive bypass is being built to near-interstate standards.

    Mike

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    Cyburbian Doohickie's avatar
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    Interesting rebuttal, Linda_D. I grew up in Cheektowaga and and had family in Lackawanna & Hamburg, so I'm somewhat familiar with the area. The article seems pie-in-the-sky; you're comments seem to hit home.

    Not directed toward any of the Top 10, but here in Fort Worth, they moved I-30 a couple blocks south. Where it used to be an elevated roadway over Lancaster Avenue separating some historic art-deco-era buildings (Post Office, Texas and Pacific Train Station), it now runs just south of them and thus includes them in the downtown district. Now downtown is bordered on the south side by a broad boulevard (Lancaster) with historic loft condos instead of a blighted freeway overpass. Sometimes, rerouting a freeway to nowhere can be successful.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Toledo

    When I-75's 10-lanes were being carved through central Toledo, OH, the road planners built an interchange for CBD traffic that included lanes for what was to be called "The Downtown Distributor". Not sure if there was going to be an interstate number attached......but I do know that it was going to roll along the riverfront, between the Maumee River and Toledo's then-busy downtown. I believe the plans also called for a connection, downstream a mile or so, with I-280.

    Those plans never materialized. In the early 1970s a local group fought the road planners and the riverfront became a park. It remains that today.

    Bet ya dollars-to-donuts that this freeway would be listed in the "freeways without futures" group.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

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