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Lessons for Cleveland in life-altering highway removals

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/04/14 @ 11:00am  |  Posted in Vibrant cities, Transportation choices

GreenCityBlueLake has reported on and advocated for new models in ecological city design for Northeast Ohio for 25 years.

Concrete canyon<br />Seoul, Korea decided to remove this urban freeway that had buried a stream and created a big barrier for pedestrians.Return of nature<br />A naturalized stream replaced a freeway in the heart of Seoul

This week, we wrote about the sustainable master plans that are reshaping four regions in the U.S. including El Paso, Texas’ plan to be the least car-dependent city in the Southwest.

We also wrote about Hamburg, Germany introducing a Green Network Plan that will undo concrete on 17,000 acres of roads leading into the city center and replace it with green space, bike lanes and transit lines. Cars will be banned from the center of Hamburg, Germany’s 2nd largest city, and roads will be replaced by green space as part of their goal to be carbon neutral.

It’s an inspiring vision of a city that has listened to citizen concerns about noise, pollution and barriers for biking and walking posed by its urban freeway (the A7 Motorway). As a remediation measure, Hamburg plans to cap the motorway with a “green roof.”

From San Francisco to Milwaukee, cities have been acting on the impulse to restore nature and repair the urban fabric that was torn from urban highways. In this post from Gizmodo, six freeway removals, like the one that Hamburg is contemplating, are praised for changing their cities forever. They write:

“It seems counterintuitive, right? Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you'll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities? But it's true, and it's happening in places all over the world.”

The article goes on to explain that many urban highways built to relieve congestion sit nearly empty. Cities are finding that removing them doesn’t cause more congestion. After an earthquake damaged the Embarcadero freeway, San Francisco decided to remove it for a surface street. A neighborhood at the bay was born. Similar stories come from Seattle to Seoul, Korea which not only removed a highway but restored the river that it covered with a naturalized creek running right through the city for the benefit of many.

As Cleveland moves ahead with its own freeway removal project—the upgrade of the West Shoreway from a limited access road to a boulevard—what lessons from the great examples of freeway removals can we learn?

How we design this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has the ability to transform the Near West Side with access to the lakefront or not.

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He sits and he says...
3 years ago

Is it true that Cleveland's highway removal will not have an intersection and, instead, will have on and off ramps at the Edgewater Park exit?

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