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Erase-277 (Charlotte's Downtown Loop)

Should Charlotte demolish I-277?  

143 members have voted

  1. 1. Should Charlotte demolish I-277?

    • Yes
      35
    • No
      97
    • Unsure
      11


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While demolishing 277 would present serious challenges for center city and surrounding areas, had 277 never been built, the road network would have evolved to handle the present type of capacity without the loop.

How did Boston and San Francisco survive demolishing certain freeways downtown? Apparently doing so is feasible, at least in the case of those two cities, which have much bigger CBDs than Charlotte.

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Indeed. They could get rid of just part of it. I've advocated getting rid of just the Brookshire Freeway portion and leaving the John Belk part intact. This will allow for the traffic flow and at some part the John Belk could be capped. The aging Brookshire is an ugly elevated roadway that really is a scar on the city and getting rid of it would go a long way to creating a big revial in the northern neighborhoods of downtown Charlotte. The road is also dangerous with its short pullouts, traffic weaves, left hand exits, and of course it ices up at least once a year causing general mayhem.

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While demolishing 277 would present serious challenges for center city and surrounding areas, had 277 never been built, the road network would have evolved to handle the present type of capacity without the loop.

How did Boston and San Francisco survive demolishing certain freeways downtown? Apparently doing so is feasible, at least in the case of those two cities, which have much bigger CBDs than Charlotte.

I disagree with your first statement. The road network that previously existed did evolve - into 277. It evolved into a freeway because planners realized the amount of surface streets necessary to handle the traffic would have taken up significant amounts of money as well as land. The loop was built for a reason, some guy didn't just say, "Hey, you know what? I want to build a frickin' loop around downtown."

And as for the second part of your post, San Fran and Boston also have many, many more freeways than Charlotte, so demolishing one isn't as big of a deal when you have other freeway options to choose from. And as far as I know, the freeways that have been demolished were done as part of a much larger project that included building new freeways (i.e. the big dig).

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Also, surface streets carrying high volumes of traffic are much more disruptive to the urban development and pedestrian environment. Independence is a prime example. But even the high volume streets uptown, like Brevard near the Convention Center are also very ugly and unfriendly.

277 is the least of the evils in providing auto/bus/truck transportation capacity to the central city.

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And as for the second part of your post, San Fran and Boston also have many, many more freeways than Charlotte, so demolishing one isn't as big of a deal when you have other freeway options to choose from. And as far as I know, the freeways that have been demolished were done as part of a much larger project that included building new freeways (i.e. the big dig).

I'll have to diagree with you about San Francisco. While the SF/Oakland/San Jose metro area has numerous freeways, the city of San Francisco itself has approximately ten miles of freeways, tops, and only one of these (I-80, the Bay Bridge approach) has any real sort of connection to the CBD. Essentially no new freeway capacity has been added in the city of San Francisco in over four decades, while several miles have been demolished and not replaced since 1989. In fact, you cannot cross the city from north to south without relying on surface streets.

Somehow, though, the transportation network manages to survive. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that so much of the local traffic into downtown San Francisco relies on public transport. Chicken or egg? Who knows...

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Here is a map of pedestrian paths into Uptown from over/under I-277 and I-77.

Green = established as a street and/or pedestrian path

Red = other entrance into Uptown (not an established pedestrian path, but people do use them)

193486082_67b1f10643_o.jpg

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Thanks for adding that map. It is a good illustration of my point through this and similar threads that for most of it, 277 is not an impediment to pedestrian or local street connectivity except in one section, between College and McDowell.

The city plans to add sidewalks to the South Blvd interchange in the next few years, and eventually will extend either Davidson St or Alexander across 277 to Euclid. Once those two are done, the situation will be greatly improved. At that point, the maximum length of freeway without a pedestrian crossing will be ~3 blocks (except by the cemetary, where the only people are dead or homeless).

As long as we continue seeking to add connections across it, 277 will cease to be more than just a convenience boundary demarking downtown from neighborhoods nearby.

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I'd like to see Charlotte convert 277 from a highway to a grand boulevard. You can't travel that fast on it anyway and wouldn't it be nicer as a boulevard with plantings and pedestrian features?

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Just something to throw out there....probably off-topic but I always wondered how in the world all of these people were getting on the highways the wrong way until I had the pleasure yesterday of seeing first hand how some of the roads are confusing.

If you are traveling on East Stonewall St. and need to take a left onto the South Blvd Connector...it's very confusing which route to go and I would say especially so for out of -towners.

By the way, I am not making a mistake for the person drinking and driving at 3am but some of the roads do concern me.

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Just something to throw out there....probably off-topic but I always wondered how in the world all of these people were getting on the highways the wrong way until I had the pleasure yesterday of seeing first hand how some of the roads are confusing.

If you are traveling on East Stonewall St. and need to take a left onto the South Blvd Connector...it's very confusing which route to go and I would say especially so for out of -towners.

By the way, I am not making a mistake for the person drinking and driving at 3am but some of the roads do concern me.

While road spikes are a nuisance and a little drastic in their method (they potentially wouldn't give a driver that had already realized his mistake enough time to stop and turn around,) they may be the only thing that can remedy this problem, especially at night when signage is less informative. Medians and cones can only guide traffic so much without impeding opposite flowing traffic.

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As for the subject at hand, how could demolishing the means for people to get from one side of uptown to another without dealing with lights be good? If you tear down an interstate, you put an exponentially larger ammount of cars on normal roads alongside pedestrians. The more cars on standard and city roads, the more need there is to widen them, and thus destroy any walkability you would have helped to begin with. What do cars sitting at a standstill cause? More cars at a standsill behind them. I believe a car that takes two hours to get to work would create close to twice the ammount of smog compared to a car that only took one hour. With Charlotte already very hard pressed to get air quality up, this would in fact destroy any chances of the city making the state deadline.

I wish we had the money to cap 277 as it is far more eco-friendly and destroys any complaints people have about connections to southend. Not to compare Charlotte to Sydney once again, but they have several capped freeways and tunnels, some with parks on top, some with water on top, and some with buildings on top. It makes sense. It would do wonders more to the city's landscape than say, widening 485. And maybe, just maybe, it would cause more people to walk, freeing up that little bit extra on the freeways.

While I know capping a freeway costs an enormous amount of money, what is that price compared to the price of demolishing an entire freeway?

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I'll have to diagree with you about San Francisco. While the SF/Oakland/San Jose metro area has numerous freeways, the city of San Francisco itself has approximately ten miles of freeways, tops, and only one of these (I-80, the Bay Bridge approach) has any real sort of connection to the CBD. Essentially no new freeway capacity has been added in the city of San Francisco in over four decades, while several miles have been demolished and not replaced since 1989. In fact, you cannot cross the city from north to south without relying on surface streets.

Somehow, though, the transportation network manages to survive. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that so much of the local traffic into downtown San Francisco relies on public transport. Chicken or egg? Who knows...

There was a 'freeway revolt' in San Fran - the map shows the freeways proposed in 1948 and 1955, on a planning department (SF) map. When construction began on the Embarcadero Frwy in 1958, protests erupted, and a petition was presented to the SF Board of Supervisors to halt the planned network of freeways to be built in the city. With three exceptions, all work was stopped; the stacked I-480 frwy between the Embarcadero and the Golden Gate Bridge remained 'proposed' until 1968, but the others (including a series of tunnels under Golden Gate Park) were killed immediately. The 480 was re-signed as a state highway, until the 88 quake cause part of it to collapse, and the remainder was dismantled.

The '58-'59 SF Freeway protests inspired similar movements in Boston (crosstown I-95, I-695), Washington (I-66, I-95 [re-routed along the beltway], I-695, I-266, I-595, I-70S), Cleveland (I-480 east), Atlanta (I-485, I-420), New York (I-78 through Manhattan and Brooklyn, I-495 through Manhattan, I-878, I-278 between Staten Is and Springfield NJ) and other cities.

post-10268-1153425979_thumb.jpg

post-10268-1153425979_thumb.jpg

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So let me get this straight, we didn't get the ped. bridge with the lite rail, so we demo the freeway?

I know this is just for discussion but is this at all a realistic topic?

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Roads, like buildings, should not be sacrosanct. Current Charlotteans should not be imprisoned by the mistakes of previous planners or paradigms. We need to get creative and vocal in our opposition to the inner-loop.

http://www.8664.org/

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I wonder what percentage of people who live in uptown or adjacent neighborhoods would want 277 erased. I think I only hear this from people who live far from it.

People who live in the neighborhoods in and around uptown use 277 and they also use the many streets that cross 277 without any difficulty. I think they don't perceive the barrier effect in the same way as people who live farther away, as we cross it so many times a day. Tryon Street is much harder to cross than 277, and acts as much more of a barrier. It is far harder to go from First Ward to Fourth Ward crossing Tryon than First Ward to Elizabeth crossing 277.

The only exception is that in 2nd Ward, they didn't build enough cross connections. That is fine now, as there isn't anything in 2nd Ward. But eventually, when people and stuff are there, they will need to build more connections.

The reason that Charlotte does not have a dozen square miles of developed density has not much to do with 277. It was due to the era in which Charlotte grew, where surrounding neighborhoods were developed with suburban housing rather than urban density. Then the urban density was removed from downtown due to race-based policies of urban renewal, and rules allowing land owners to raze the buildings on their land to reduce taxes.

The freeway is now fundamental infrastructure to the businesses and residents of the inner city. You can erase that without doing damage to the growth we have experienced.

Certainly I might not be for the creation of 277 if it were in the future, but now that is there, woven into the fabric of downtown, it would be extemely problematic to remove it. Would it have been better to have urban growth based on pedestrian lifestyles, a century old subterranean rail system, and 19th-century architectural and development patterns? Yes. But instead, we have a city that is developed primarily in the late 20th Century.

I mean, would northern Mecklenburg have developed better without the interstate? How about with the manmade lake and dams? Probably so. But right now, most everything up there relies both on the interstate and the lake. You cannot remove that infrastructure without gutting the economy and lifestyles of the people there.

In the future, the net reliance on the interstate will be reduced, as the freeway capacity will not be grown much, while other infrastructure is. So future growth will learn to rely more on pedestrian lifestyles, rail transit, and local streets. But removing the interstate will remove the regional importance of central Charlotte. Pineville would then have more regional transportation infrastructure than downtown.

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Jumping into the discussion a little late here, but I echo dubone's sentiment that 277 is actually a great help for those who live in or near uptown. I use it nearly every day to move around and away from the center city, without having to cut across the street grid. While I'm generally in favor of forcing drivers to use secondary gridded streets, in this case it doesn't make any sense to do that; since I'm not going to be bringing any economic benefit to the district at that moment, all I would do is clog up a parcel of the streetscape. Instead, I can zip around the grid, decreasing congestion and making my daily commute at least 10 minutes shorter. Multiply that experience by 11,000 and you can see why residents don't have such a harsh view of the loop.

I think the concern with pedestrian connectivity is not so much a reflection of the actual pedestrian options (there really are plenty, as dubone has shown), but with the way those options are presented. By far the most often-used pedestrian connection is the overpass adjacent to BoA Stadium, which sees tens of thousands of people cross under each time the Panthers host a game. However, I can't imagine that any of those people come away with a favorable view of that walk; it's dark, extremely loud (especially the way the bridge amplifies people's drunken cheering), right next to four lanes of traffic, and enclosed on both sides by concrete walls. The oft-used overpass at N. Tryon is much the same, with the addition of panhandlers and shady-looking vagrants. A bit of landscaping would go a long way toward improving the loop's image at the pedestrian level.

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I feel the best option for 277 comes from a hybrid of many of the ideas discussed here.

Some additional problems with 277 that have not been discussed are:

- The safety aspects of having such a large number of entrances/exits along a portion of freeway. I don't believe I have ever been anywhere with more exits crammed into one stretch of highway

- The traffic issues created at the intersections of 77 and 277

- The walkability of existing pedestrian crossings of 277. Loud noise was given attention, but what about traffic volumes and multiple, mulit-lane crossings...not to mention the land-comsumption issues that go along with clover-leaf intersections.

- I like the previously mentioned idea of re-designating Independence to 485 as I-277 and connecting through the existing northern portion of 277. A controlled-access southeastern spoke is desperately needed. If and when this happens it should coincide with the construction of a rapid transit line to serve the Southeastern part of town. Denver has had success with this as part of their T-REX project south of downtown. LRT was constructed to run alongside the reconstructed freeway.

Additionally, such a reconstruction would allow for expanded capacity at the interchanges between the newly designated 277 and I-77 and I-85 to funnel more traffic into uptown along this corridor.

- This leaves the southern portion of I-277 left to be converted into either a capped freeway or a grand boulevard. Being from MN originally I have some experience with the capped freeways in Duluth, which are rather nice and provide some great parkland. Both options have the opportunity to rid the southern portion of 277 of its clover-leafs and intersection problems while further integrating Uptown and SouthEnd.

- An alternative to either method would be to reconstruct all freeway exits to become single-point interchanges that can be controlled by one light. These take either the form of an X pattern with the intersection in the center of the bridge, or depend solely upon left exits meeting in the center.

Freeway erasure is not unheard of and has happened in the past. Plus, if it is sold to the feds and state in terms of losing milage of road they need to maintain, why would they not go for it?

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Considering how it's being "maintained" right now (lights off for several years), I can't imagine they have much money riding on it ;)

But seriously, you have a good point about getting rid of the cloverleafs (cloverleaves?). They are a huge waste of space, and I'm not convinced that they're really necessary in traffic that's usually not moving all that quickly. Not to mention that they uglify the streetscape in an area that's trying to become more walkable.

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"I wonder what percentage of people who live in uptown or adjacent neighborhoods would want 277 erased. I think I only hear this from people who live far from it." - dubone

This is so true. I live downtown and have never even considered 277 a problem. If anything I think if it is a barrier it's a mental one that created a feeling of "safety" that allowed residential development in the Center City.

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"....

This is so true. I live downtown and have never even considered 277 a problem. If anything I think if it is a barrier it's a mental one that created a feeling of "safety" that allowed residential development in the Center City.

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I have to agree with metro and I, for one, believe that 277 is the sole reason why uptown has not spread into southend and even NoDa. It's like the city laid out a square and said towers and high density development could only be built within that square. It seems that with Ghazi looking to bridge that gap between southend and uptown, no pun intended, that development may start to spill over, but still not at the pace it would were there not a barrier.

I believe that capping most of the Belk (in uptown, not including the interchange) and demolishing the Brookshire would be a better idea. It would leave room for North Tryon revitalization and could help NoDa flourish and grow. Covering the loop portion of Belk leaves a connector for 74-77 and would serve the same purpose of the loop as a whole and could feasibly cost half as much as capping the whole thing. Granted, that price is still way more than the city would pay for something that could actually help the city, it wouldn't gain much support from citizens outside of UPers and uptowners. Not for the cost at least.

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Um, Uptown has spread to SouthEnd. Not only is it developing at absurd speeds, but it is now an adjunct part of Center City Partners. There is no freeway between Tryon and Brevard, yet for most of uptown east of Brevard, there is tremendous amount of surface parking with 0 residents or development.

Freeway development occurred at the same time that buildings were being torn down for parking lots, and crack-related crime was scaring the bejeezus out of people that might have been living downtown. It was a coincidence not a causation. Downtown density is coming close to doubling now, and it isn't because they have just erased the freeway, but because other social and economic factors are now creating a demand and the places for those people to live.

The freeway is just a road with bridges. A road without lights instead of bridges does create more crossing points, but also creates a psychological barrier for people who make up place names to consider separate (um, is the term 'uptown' going to suddenly include a 3 mile radius just because a freeway is taken out?).

Anyway, I've stated my peace on this topic, and it isn't going to happen. But if people want to believe in a voodoo magic connection, that uptown will suddenly transform into a hyper-urban place by removing infrastructure, then sobeit.

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