The Death Row of Urban Highways, Part 2

A look at five more city-infringing freeways targeted for much-needed demolition.

A few months back, we assembled the "death row of urban highways": ten city-infringing roads that have been targeted for much-needed (if tricky) demolition. A number of those convictions were based on the 2010 "freeways without futures" list produced biennially by the Congress for the New Urbanism. Last week the congress released its 2012 list, and while many of the usual suspects appear, there are a few fresh cases worth hearing.

These include interstates in St. Louis and Miami, and several cities in New York state — a serial offender, with intrusive roads in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. At the risk of taking the metaphor way too far, here are the mugshots and rap sheets of the five newest inmates on the death row of urban highways.

Syracuse - I-81

Interstate 81, constructed back in 1957, carries upwards of 100,000 cars a day on six lanes that run just east of downtown Syracuse. The road condition is deteriorating, and many residents consider the 1.4-mile elevated portion through downtown a particular eyesore. Syracuse University is among the parties in favor of removing the elevated structure. City, state, and citizens groups are all reviewing potential alternatives, with some calling for its redevelopment as an urban boulevard.

Image: Courtesy of New York State DOT

St. Louis - I-70

Since the early 1960s, Interstate 70 has divided downtown St. Louis from the Mississippi River waterfront area - isolating residents from the iconic Gateway Arch. Studies conducted by the state transportation department have found that most cars on the highway are heading west of the city, not into it, so that re-routing the downtown segment could cut traffic in half. Leading the calls for connectivity with the river is the City to River organization, which advocates reducing the highway to a pedestrian-friendly, grade-level boulevard that will attract commercial development.

Image: Flickr user Vanishing STL via a Creative Commons License

Buffalo - Route 5 / Skyway

The 1.4-mile, 110-foot Skyway Bridge crosses the Buffalo River and becomes Route 5 in the city's outer harbor, restricting pedestrian access to the waterfront in the process. New York state transportation officials examined potential alternatives for the road, but ultimately decided to retain Route 5 as an embankment rather than reconfigure it as a surface-level boulevard.

A number of civic groups have challenged that decision, pushing instead a plan that includes the redevelopment of 16 acres of waterfront territory that will remain inaccessible in the current concept.

Image: Wikipedia user Darmon via a Creative Commons License

Miami - I-395 / Overtown Expressway

Roughly half the population of Miami's Overtown area was displaced in the mid-1960s to make way for major interstate interchanges. In early 2010 the Federal Highway Administration evaluated five alternatives to the intrusive 1.3-mile I-395 spur; those included an "open-cut" alternative, preferred by many as a way to promote a mixed-use development, and two elevated options, one of which is shown here. Motivated by a desire to increase capacity, the state transportation department supports a proposed $580 million super-elevated structure, which is also part of Miami's 2035 regional plan.

Image: Courtesy of the Florida Department of Transportation

Rochester - I-490 / Inner Loop

The inner loop of Interstate 490 almost completely encircles downtown Rochester, New York, acting as a barrier between the city center and surrounding neighborhoods. Built for a larger city - Rochester's population has dropped from 330,000 in the 1950s to just above 210,000 today - the 2.68-mile downtown segment carries just 10,500 cars a day in places. Proposals have been made to reduce the light-traffic stretches to a grade-level boulevard, which would create more than 9 acres of developable land, and the city has requested federal grants to begin the project. 

Image: Wikipedia user Aip3745 via a Creative Commons License

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