Monday, March 27th, 2006
2006 marks the anniversary of the Interstate Highway System. While many of us have come to take the highway system for granted, it’s good to remember how controversial the building of this system was. Many neighborhoods, often lower-income and minority ones, were displaced, if not destroyed entirely, by roads that cut right through the heart of so many cities. While Lewis Mumford’s prediction that interstate highways would create “a tomb of concrete roads and ramps covering the dead corpse of the city” perhaps was a bit overstated, many agree that the highway system facilitated white flight and the development of suburbia and urban sprawl.
As highways reach the end of their natural lives — or succumb to natural disasters, as was the case in San Francisco — the country is now being given a second chance to decide if the highway infrastructure it has is actually what it wants. Over the last two decades, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and Milwaukee have all chosen to tear down their elevated urban highways and replace them with boulevards, newly reconfigured to reconnect back to the urban grid. And today, cities like Baltimore, Buffalo, Akron, New Orleans, Miami, Cleveland, Rochester, Louisville and the Bronx are all considering doing the same.
CNT wants to make sure that these cities make well-informed choices. With the Congress for the New Urbanism CNU, CNT is assessing the economic and environmental benefits of replacing superhighways and high-speed arterials with lower-speed, at-grade streets. We plan to use our findings to impact the public debate about what constitutes good urban development and influence decision-makers to make the choices that best serve the environmental and economic interests of people in communities.
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