Dallas makes dubious national top 10 list of highway teardowns
Dallas has earned a spot on a new national report. Yay us! Wait a minute: This list identifies the top 10 highways in the United States that should be torn down.
Called Freeways Without Futures 2017, the list comes from the nonprofit Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and identifies urban highways that have inflicted damage on cities by isolating neighborhoods and creating barriers to opportunity and connectivity.
Dallas' list-maker is I-345, which separates downtown Dallas from Deep Ellum. Other highways named include I-70 in Denver, I-375 in Detroit, I-980 in Oakland, and the I-280 Spur in San Francisco.
The list was compiled by a panel of national transportation experts who identified the candidates for teardown based on their negative impacts, the possible benefits of removal, and the political feasibility of such a project.
With certain urban freeways nearing the end of their lifespans, the report suggests that cities save the money on replacing and remove them instead. Benefits include fighting pollution, easing traffic, and improving walkability and health.
Lynn Richards, CNU president and CEO, questions the merits of rebuilding crumbling and aging highway infrastructure versus removal.
"Do we sink another 50 years of our resources into concrete and asphalt?" he asks in a release. "Or do we invest in a beautiful, accessible, people-friendly alternative — and seize this opportunity to improve air and water quality, reconnect people to opportunity, reverse urban blight, and save millions in taxpayer dollars?"
Sounds like he's voting for removal.
Though cities have successfully removed urban highways dating back as far as the 1970s, the practice has gained momentum in recent years. In 2016, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the Every Place Counts Design Challenge, an initiative designed to help cities reconnect neighborhoods and rebuild connectivity around urban transportation infrastructure.
"Replacing urban expressways with surface boulevards improves traffic distribution while saving tax dollars and adding value to local tax bases," says John Norquist, former mayor of Milwaukee, a city that successfully replaced an elevated downtown freeway. "Research has shown that removing in-city freeways makes residents healthier, strengthens local economies, opens up land for parks, creates opportunities for development, and can even ease local traffic problems."