by Max Brantley
Today, many of those highways are reaching the end of their design life and cities are facing what CNU calls a “watershed moment.” Instead of rebuilding and repairing old highways, the report suggests cities should replace them with infrastructure that is pedestrian friendly, density prone, and extremely profitable. “Cities are waking up to a simple solution: remove instead of replace.”Yes, tearing down freeways cost money. And it requires long-range planning, something in notably short supply in Arkansas, where the $600 million-plus 30 Crossing Project is going to create billions in new demand and costs elsewhere, all nowhere on the planning table at the moment.
Tearing out a highway is costly on many levels. Coordinating various agencies requires political flexibility. Fiscally, replacement proposals cost millions of dollars and require an ability to focus on long-term over short-term gains. Culturally, they require a shift in design priorities: fewer cars on the street, more people. The report explores these struggles, yet also emphasizes the many benefits of replacement.Nothing to see here. Visionarkies like Scott Bennett and Lance Hines and Co. know that there isn't a city-rending freeway that can't be improved by more traffic lanes to get people out of urban hellholes faster.
First, there’s the potential of significant economic gain. In Dallas, researchers found that replacing parts of I-345 would generate $4 billion for the city over fifteen years and bring 22,550 jobs to the area. In Trenton, if efforts to replace Route 29 with a riverwalk are successful, the city’s downtown could attract up to $2.25 billion of investment. Replacing highways could also make possible more mixed-use development and affordable housing, desperately needed in places like San Francisco. It could also improve neighborhood safety and decrease pollution.