The Congress for the New Urbanism recently published their Freeways Without Futures 2017 report, listing ten highways throughout the country that are in urgent need of removal due to their negative impacts on the surrounding areas. Number one of the list? The Scajaquada Expressway.
The organization notes,
“These ten highways are opportunities for progress. Each one presents the chance to remove a blight from the physical, economic, and environmental health of urban communities. Their intended benefits have not justified the tragic consequences, but converting these highways into human-scaled streets offers a chance to begin repairing the damage. From Buffalo to San Francisco, these are the freeways without futures.”
For a full outline of the top ten highways in America that have no future, visit this article.
We 100% agree the removal of the Scajaquada Expressway is an opportunity for progress in our city. We also understand suburban commuters may have concerns about how the downgrading may affect their commute, addressed below.
Myth #1: Removing an Urban Freeway Will Make Your Commute Longer
Fact: Numerous examples show that this is not the case. In fact, freeways are inefficient mechanisms for handling traffic. In most cases, surface streets (the urban grid) can carry the same amount or more traffic than the highway because there are many chances to enter and exit, and thus many possible routes. Freeways are a magnet for traffic; rather than alleviating traffic congestion, freeways concentrate it, leading to massive traffic jams on and near them, and under-use of existing infrastructure elsewhere. Typically, arterial roads near freeways function well below capacity, which can in fact damage the prospects of businesses located along them. In no example of an American freeway removal have travel times increased significantly. In fact, because of more efficient use of the urban grid, some trips may get faster!
Myth #2: Removing a Freeway Will Damage the City and Regional Economy
Fact: The economic benefits of freeway removal are in fact vast and far outweigh any possible negatives. A strong center city is the best indicator of an economically healthy region. Freeway removal is a correction of a mid-century paradigm that saw cities as little more than convenient parking lots for commuters. Removing freeways restores the urban fabric, unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars of land value, and bringing significant additional tax revenue to city coffers. And that doesn’t even count the traffic safety and air pollution benefits that accrue when communities remove a freeway.
Myth #3: New Freeway Capacity Could Reduce Existing Congestion
Fact: New freeway capacity tends to fill up almost as soon as it is built. This is a well-established principle that is known as “triple convergence” (in time, location, and route choice) or “induced demand.” Building new freeway capacity will not reduce a city’s problems with congestion. We need a new approach that emphasizes multimodalism—walking, transit, biking, and giving people options besides driving alone—and that best utilizes existing infrastructure.
Myth #4: Freeways are Fiscally Efficient and the Alternatives are Not
Fact: Many freeways carry far fewer cars than they were designed for, and all freeways, especially those that are built on a viaduct or in a trench in an urban area, are massively expensive to maintain. No road in the United States pays for itself, and with the gas tax not being raised since 1993, there is no sign that they will any time soon. Many urban freeways were built in an era when engineers believed traffic would increase forever, a world which we now realize is both undesirable and not around the corner. Thus many freeways, in midsize cities especially, have massive unused capacity which would be wasteful even if the area experienced rapid growth.