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GRDadof3

Life without that elevated highway

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John Norquist of the Congress for the New Urbanism, spoke last night as part of a Calvin College series and brought up the subject of cities that have successfully removed elevated freeways from their downtowns (Milwaukee, Seattle, Portland, NYC). One example was Seoul, South Korea, that removed an elevated expressway built in the 1960's over top of a natural river through downtown, that carried 160,000 cars a day.

Seoul_BeforeDongdaemunArea.jpg

21seoul_before.jpg

The highway was getting old (39 years old) needed to be replaced, so their radical mayor decided to have it removed. Not only did life not come to an end, but the city boomed around the newly reopened waterway and streets that were smaller and interacted with street level merchants.

21seoul_after.jpg

g130118_u42681_seoul_2.jpg

s20.jpg

Here, memorials of the freeway were left:

s24.jpg

kiyosumigawa.jpg

The cars were either absorbed into the grid, or left at home (bus service was expanded)

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As I recall from reading about this project, the river was actually buried, too, not just covered over with an elevated highway. I think that in the 39 years since this was done, the river's watershed had been modified so heavily and diverted so much that there was basically no natural flow left. They wound up having to pump water from the Han river in order to get enough relatively clean water to make the project work.

Nevertheless, it's a great improvement.

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Does anybody have some arial photos of the downtown stretches of US-131 and I-196? I'd like to put my Wacom to good use and photoshop the elevated sections out and replace them with some parkways and restoration of the urban fabric.

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Does anybody have some arial photos of the downtown stretches of US-131 and I-196? I'd like to put my Wacom to good use and photoshop the elevated sections out and replace them with some parkways and restoration of the urban fabric.

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REGIS does as well. grmc.org, wander through the mapping system.

Others: Live maps (with the cool birds-eye view feature) and Google.

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San Francisco dealt with this after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake put paid to the worst urban eyesore in the nation, the Embarcadero Freeway. They tore down that concrete abortion and the benefits have been fantastic -- an opening up of the waterfront in the area of Market Street and an extension of a streetcar line south from Market.

Sure, traffic can be dicey, but it is always a fight in "the City."

I think that one of the advantages that Ann Arbor has over GR is that US 23 wasn't bulldozed through the center of town in the early 1960s the way that US 131 was. It is probably too late to undo the damage in Grand Rapids. Or is it??

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San Francisco dealt with this after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake put paid to the worst urban eyesore in the nation, the Embarcadero Freeway. They tore down that concrete abortion and the benefits have been fantastic -- an opening up of the waterfront in the area of Market Street and an extension of a streetcar line south from Market.

Sure, traffic can be dicey, but it is always a fight in "the City."

I think that one of the advantages that Ann Arbor has over GR is that US 23 wasn't bulldozed through the center of town in the early 1960s the way that US 131 was. It is probably too late to undo the damage in Grand Rapids. Or is it??

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San Francisco dealt with this after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake put paid to the worst urban eyesore in the nation, the Embarcadero Freeway. They tore down that concrete abortion and the benefits have been fantastic -- an opening up of the waterfront in the area of Market Street and an extension of a streetcar line south from Market.

Sure, traffic can be dicey, but it is always a fight in "the City."

I think that one of the advantages that Ann Arbor has over GR is that US 23 wasn't bulldozed through the center of town in the early 1960s the way that US 131 was. It is probably too late to undo the damage in Grand Rapids. Or is it??

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Maybe not 131, but I had an idea of turning I-196 into an at-grade boulevard from the Coit Ave bridge all the way to maybe Seward or Lane. Then all that land bordering I-196 (Press parking lot, County lots, post office, and the parcels on the West of the river) would become prime development opportunities. And talk about a "gateway" into downtown, coming over the hill at Coit Ave and it slows down to a boulevard lined with developments on both sides, stretching down to the river and beyond. :hi:

But Grand Rapidians are too afraid to try something so "radical".

I'm going to research some of these decommissioned elevated highway projects and find out which ones ended up in disaster. I'll get back to you guys with my findings. ^_^

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Hmmm -- I like that. I-196 is not really a through freeway anymore, now that M-6 takes traffic from I-96 to I-196 in eastern Ottawa County. You would still have a significant interchange with 131 on the West Side, however.

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I think that cities that choose this option of decommisioning their elevated highways in their downtowns already have an outer beltway loop or other such highways capable of absorbing the re-routed traffic. I think it's a great idea to get rid of either 131 or I 196 and have an outer belt, however, convincing businesses of that is another story. GRDad, I believe, has the right idea that West Michigan doesn't like things too "radical."

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If I-196 were turned into an at-grade boulevard like what GR Dad suggested, then one could do a SPUI interchange at US-131 which would be significantly more compact than cloverleaves and stack diamonds and would be way smaller than the current interchange freeing up a bunch of space for other uses.

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That's good then that the grid absorbs it more than an outer loop. That could translate to more profit for downtown businesses. I just think convincing the businesses of that may be difficult unless there are a lot of case studies on the issue. Then there would have to be a big grass-roots campaign to prove to them its viability. From what I have heard, there hasn't been a huge outcry due to the loss of a downtown highway in any city who removes theirs. That's a positive.

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There is one major difference between 196/131 and the freeways mentioned is that our freeways have a lot more through traffic. 196 comes all the way from Saint Joseph and 131 goes from Kalamazoo to Cadillac. Through traffic won't want to wind its way through GR stoplights - avoiding that is the one major success of the interstate system.

By contrast, the Embarcadero and Alaskan Way are/were little spurs along waterfronts - bad ideas to begin with and not nearly as crucial to through traffic. Hartford is thinking about messing with I-84 (either eliminating or re-routing it). That would be much more like we are talking about here.

One freeway I would like to see disappear is I-375 in Detroit. It's pointless, cuts off the city unnecessarily and the social history associated with it is awful.

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There is one major difference between 196/131 and the freeways mentioned is that our freeways have a lot more through traffic. 196 comes all the way from Saint Joseph and 131 goes from Kalamazoo to Cadillac. Through traffic won't want to wind its way through GR stoplights - avoiding that is the one major success of the interstate system.

By contrast, the Embarcadero and Alaskan Way are/were little spurs along waterfronts - bad ideas to begin with and not nearly as crucial to through traffic. Hartford is thinking about messing with I-84 (either eliminating or re-routing it). That would be much more like we are talking about here.

One freeway I would like to see disappear is I-375 in Detroit. It's pointless, cuts off the city unnecessarily and the social history associated with it is awful.

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What is I-375 and what is its social history? (I confess, I don't know anything about Detroit freeways other than to get impossibly lost of them every time I ventured into the Motor City.)

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375 is a spur off of I-75 that runs down the east side of Downtown Detroit from Ford Field to the Ren Cen. The social issues associated with it are that it was built right on top of Hastings Street, which was the main african-american business district. The formerly vibrant district was torn down and its residents were mostly relocated to projects. The lingering resentment from this was one of the causes of the riots.

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