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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Freeway Freakout

Like most Winnipeggers I have complained about the "traffic" here only to rejoice when I return from another city with a realization of what traffic actually looks like !

Winnipeg never got into the freeway craze that the States had in the 50's and 60's and Canada saw a decade later.

1938 Plan for the Disraeli Freeway

Aside from the Disraeli, which is really a Freeway in name only, past grand plans never made it off the paper.

The Disraeli Freeway

Earlier this year, I did a fair bit of driving between Austin, San Anotnio and Corpus Christi, Texas and marvelled at the concrete towers but also wondered whether some of the freeways were worth it. It was a just a feeling I had seeing dozens of arterial roads spilling into one large vein that would be gridlocked for as far as the eye could see.


When you got off a freeway the land, and whatever remnants of a neighbourhood remained around it, usually looked like a wasteland.

I noticed an interesting article in Next American City looking at the The Fallacy of Freeways. They cost billions, tore down entire neighbourhoods, encouraged longer commutes and now,four decades later, are coming to the end of their lifespans leaving some cities and states with the question of what to do now ? Revert back to roads and simple highways and reclaim the surrounding land, or tear down and rebuild what is already there.

Texas - on the road

UC Berkely City Planning Chair Robert Cevero in a 2006 paper entitled Freeway Deconstruction and Urban Regeneration in the United States looked into some of the issues created by raised freeways and what happens when cities remove them. Using actual examples he found, perhaps surprisingly, that the one thing that didn't happen was traffic chaos in the immediate area.

Texas - on the road

One example he looked at, and can also be found in this Streetfilms video, was San Fransisco's Embarcadero Freeway removal in the 90's.

It's interesting to see in the US the deconstruction of what once was thought to be king - form elevated freeways to downtown shopping malls.

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