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Thread: Succesful crossing of highways

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Succesful crossing of highways

    I am working on a project at UNC on Winston-Salem, NC, and am looking for examples of crossings of highways that were succesful in knitting together neighborhoods on both sides. The particular situation here is that there is a historic, walkable village (Old Salem) on one side of the highway, and the downtown that is trying to be somewhat walkable on the other. We are helped in the situation that the highway is an early one, and therefore not that wide (four lanes, some 80-90' according to my measurements on google earth) and that it is in a natural (?) depression already - the crossings are at grade.

    Nevertheless, the urbanity of either side has failed to connect across the highway. This surely has to do with land use choice near the highway - it looks like parking lot and blank space, though I imagine it also has to do with the types of streets that are crossing the highway.

    So, I was wondering if people have ideas of urbanity and the urban-feeling pedestrian experience bridging a highway. I am afraid that, at least in the short-term, removing the highway is not an option, and neither is a big-dig-style burial. Instead, I am thinking of the Mass Pike near Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay, and perhaps the bridging between the new town and the old town in Edinburgh, or even more radically, Cowgate's crossing under Southbridge, in a fantastic piece of urbanism in Edinburgh.

    Any other examples, or ideas of strategies?

    Thank you very much.

    (ps. Not sure if this post should live in transpo, LU or design; feel free to let me know if you think it ought to be moved. Thanks again)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Boston has several areas where the building frontage continues across the highway uninterupted. For those walking along the street, the highway is invisible. There are plans to build some more buildings in the air rights of I-90. Here's the area I am talking about:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...=18&iwloc=addr

  3. #3
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    If you're looking for a smaller scale solution, check out East Milton Square in Milton, Massachusetts. The East Milton deck was built a few years ago to bridge the I-93 divide (a depressed but uncovered highway) and reconnect two parts of the East Milton neighborhood. As far as I can tell, it's been successful.

    There's not much on the park on the net, but this article says it all:

    http://www.patriotledger.com/archive...-Square-Milton

    "Sitting in the middle of the park in East Milton Square, you’ll almost forget the expressway traffic zipping by below you, going to and from Boston. "

    I found an excellent photo here:

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/5165000

  4. #4
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bookworm View post
    So, I was wondering if people have ideas of urbanity and the urban-feeling pedestrian experience bridging a highway. I am afraid that, at least in the short-term, removing the highway is not an option, and neither is a big-dig-style burial. Instead, I am thinking of the Mass Pike near Copley Square in Boston's Back Bay, and perhaps the bridging between the new town and the old town in Edinburgh, or even more radically, Cowgate's crossing under Southbridge, in a fantastic piece of urbanism in Edinburgh.

    Any other examples, or ideas of strategies?
    The Back Bay/Fenway area of Boston is a good example, but the Mass Pike is significantly below grade at this point before it goes underground as you approach downtown. I can't think of a good example of an at-grade crossing that works the way you are looking for as far as integrating urban environments.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    There is an entire tall-building office complex built in the air rights over I-90 in Boston.

    Also, I-395 passes directly under the west Capitol reflecting pool in Washington, DC.

    Do you think that there is the willingness to spend the cash needed to 'deck' over that freeway, putting it into a tunnel and creating park and other useful land above it?

    Mike

  6. #6
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Another example is the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza in Hartford, Conn. It actually steps above I-91 and then stwps back down to the Connecticut River, but it is designed to reconnect the downtown to the river for pedestrians. Is it successful? I don't know, but it is interesting.

    http://www.riverfront.org/parks/mortensen/

  7. #7
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Since it is not my $$$, I would explore a pedestrian bridge with a structure and elevator on each side. Perhaps as a visitors center. Difficult to make it sensitive with the Old Salem charm, but a stand alone bridge will not work.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Not the right scale, but a chance to show off Dallas:
    Woodall Rodgers Park
    Decking over an existing depressed freeway to provide several blocks of park space, and connect Downtown and Uptown Dallas.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks all

    Hey all, thanks for all this help a year ago or so. I just got around to posting my two papers on my website, theurbanmapper.com, and a brief synopsis and links are available here.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Cap Parks

    Ran across this article at that other planet-citizen place, and I though of this thread. The article refers to these constructs as "cap parks," and I thought that this was just as good a term for them as anything.

    Driving Green: LA flush with freeway cap park proposals

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    The best one I've ever seen is in Columbus Ohio. Retail was built along the main N-S highway (High Street) over the freeway.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    The best one I've ever seen is in Columbus Ohio. Retail was built along the main N-S highway (High Street) over the freeway.
    Wow, haven't been in Columbus since they opened that stretch. I was there for a few conventions and they were completing it. Looks nice, a great pedestrian bridge into the Short North from the Arena Dist.
    @GigCityPlanner

  13. #13
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    Although one of the things it connects is not a neighborhood, there is a whole system of pedestrian walkways, streets with wide sidewalks, and a park that spans I-95 in Philadelphia and connects Old City and Society Hill on the west with Penn's Landing on the east.

  14. #14
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    That one in Columbus is really simple, but seems to work well. Do you know how well business is for the stores located there?

    I love the one in Milton, now they just need a little development over the edges of the highway now to create a sense of space, and finish the 'square'

  15. #15
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Goody View post
    That one in Columbus is really simple, but seems to work well. Do you know how well business is for the stores located there?
    Sorry not a Columbus pro. Being that I have a Michigan plate on my car there is no way in heck I am going to park my car in that part of Columbus. It is too close to OSU campus. I am not pro UM or anti OSU, just don't want to be considered 'the enemy'.

    it does have features that would make it work better for retail than surrounding areas including an attractive design and covered sidewalks.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    The only bad aspect of the Columbus Ponte Vecchio is the adjacent convention center, which has blank frontages that negate the higher-quality pedestrian environment the three bridges (one for traffic and two for retail) across the freeway provide.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    The only bad aspect of the Columbus Ponte Vecchio is the adjacent convention center, which has blank frontages that negate the higher-quality pedestrian environment the three bridges (one for traffic and two for retail) across the freeway provide.


    I agree to a certain point but the architect of the convention center did provide a staggered facade to keep this from being a total uggo. Special attention was also used to ensure that there were windows, a varition of materials, and entrances along this structure. I have seen a lot worse for convention centers.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  18. #18
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    ^ I agree, and this development looks even better from street view.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Columbus Bridge - enough building?

    While I don't love or hate the convention center, back to the ponte veccio (I love using this new term). One of the major selling points for crossing highways in this type of way is extending the urban fabric. I think here, this crossing fails. By my quick look in street view, I see two problems:

    1) the street layout: the street crosses the highway approximately diagonally. Therefore, the highway, Goodale and Park streets make up most of the horizon: eg. left, right, straight, back, and two of the corners. This doesn't seem to be enough massing to really continue the urbanity. This relates to Marc Childs' ("Squares") discussion of gestalt theory in urban design - a certain amount of the visual radius must be definied to create a sense of being in an outdoor room.

    2) the two corners where there might be urban form are not much better. One is a park, which does not give a sense of definition to the space, and the other is a rather attractive cathedral, but that is set back from the road, so that its definition is also reduced.

    So my two potential suggestions here:

    1) Short of building buildings as part of the bridge (a real ponte vecchio) consider if possible highways going under roads mid-block - this maintains as much building frontage as possible.

    2) Try to make the non-street areas that do front the bridge as urban as possible, because they will be fighting against a lot of open air.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    I'm a big proponent of roundabouts. How about instead of enormous elevated spans we simply merge traffic at points where highways cross via a roundabout?

  21. #21
    Roundabouts work well for cars, and they do seem to reduce pedestrian accidents, but they are terrible for pedestrians to cross. The traffic circles in DC, for example, are a real pain to cross. Ditto for all those semi roundabouts in Barcelona.

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