November 13, 2002

Urban Freeway Demolition

Category: Urban Planning

Milwaukee: During the 50s and 60s, it was in vogue to cut enormous swaths through cities to build freeways, which, though intended as boons, invariably wound up doing irreparable harm to the neighborhoods they passed through and over. Fortunately, many of the least important ones were stopped in their tracks, which resulted in largely useless spurs of freeway such as the Central Freeway in San Francisco, and the Park East freeway in Milwaukee.

Once built, however, it's not easy to reverse what's been done, despite the minimal amount of use some of these freeways got. In San Francisco, it took the 1989 earthquake to render the freeway unsafe. It was then demolished, and the neighborhood of Hayes Valley has since blossomed into one of the most enjoyable and prosperous in town. (see article below) In Milwaukee, years of work are finally paying off. Drawing from the fact that keeping the hardly used freeway intact would require millions in repair work, the city has begun demolishing the structure instead. It is a truly brilliant and farsighted decision.

When complete, the demolition will remove a barrier between downtown and the neighborhoods to the north, as well as open up dozens of acres of land for redevelopment, much of which is already planned. A pleasant boulevard will replace the freeway, preventing any adverse effects on auto mobility. It will be interesting to watch what develops in the next ten years in the freeway's wake. My guess is good things.

Links: [Hayes Valley, San Francisco][Article on Park East][New Article Nov. 15]

Posted by Nick at November 13, 2002 07:19 PM

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