Syracuse is yet another city where advocates are pushing to tear down a section of elevated interstate highway (in this case I-81) and turn it into a boulevard. “What we’ve done is take an incredibly important piece of this city off of the development map,” developer Robert Doucette tells Governing magazine. “This highway runs through the part of the city that should be some of the highest-producing parcels of land in the region.” (See Why Would You Have a Highway Run Through a City?)
The article lists New Orleans, which got federal funds to study removing the Claiborne Expressway, Cleveland, New Haven and Detroit as either moving toward or studying urban highway removal. Among the comments, one mentions Buffalo as also discussing the fate of its skyway, which cuts through a waterfront area. (The whole comments section itself is an interesting pro-con discussion.)
The article notes that one factor in the teardown trend – or more accurately, the teardown wannabe trend – is the age of the highways. Most were built in the 1950s and 1960s and are aging out. Charlotte’s uptown freeway loopwas planned in the 1950s, and many of its interchange designs are notoriously outdated. The first leg, the Brookshire Freeway, opened in 1971. The other leg, the Belk expressway, finally completed the loop in the 1980s.
City planners and uptown boosters have puzzled over creative ways to try to turn those bleak underpasses below I-277 into something more welcoming than the current concrete spaces. (The one near Johnson C. Smith University has some colored lights.) And the gulch where the Belk expressway goes below grade, between uptown and South End/Dilworth, cries out for a freeway cap.
Before anyone moans about there being no place for the traffic to go, remember that when cities tear down elevated freeways, they usually replace them with other high-volume streets, designed for use by pedestrians as well as motorists. In other words, folks, there WOULD still be streets to carry the traffic.
Despite intermittent grumbling among planners and a study by Charlotte's DOT during the Center City 2020 Vision Plan process of whether the Brookshire section could be boulevard-ized (CDOT was dubious), there's been little push to tear down the loop highway strangling uptown Charlotte. Too bad. That's one list it would be great to get on.