RPUS turned my attention to this these three websites dedicated to removing urban freeways as a catalyst to creating better cities. These freeways, they argue, should be replaced with "boulevards" - at-grade, tree lined roads with slower traffic - but greater mobility, and greater utility for cyclists and pedestrians. The Central Freeway in San Francisco was knocked down and became Octavia Boulevard, which
is 133 feet wide, with four lanes for through traffic, a landscaped median, and two service lanes for slower traffic and bicycles, separated from the through lanes by a landscaped median with a sidewalk. In this type of boulevard, the service lanes buffer the adjoining housing from the noise of through traffic, so the boulevard remains a pleasant place to live, even if it has heavy traffic.
In June, 2006, Octavia Boulevard was awarded the Freeway Project of the Year award by the California Transportation Foundation.
Despite not making it on the list of freeways being considered, there are several freeways, or freeway-like roads, in D.C. that may be "boulevarded" soon.
South Capitol Street - This is in the process of happening. With baseball, the radical redesign of near SE/SW and the lowering of the Frederick Douglas Bridge this street is next in line for a major overhaul and will change from a high-speed freeway to a slowed down Boulevard. Several key intersection would be changed to circle intersections. It will become significantly more bikeable.
New York Avenue NE - A study was done on the New York Avenue Corridor back in April 2005. Five options were considered (a minimal, almost no build; a boulevard; a super-arterial (freeway); a boulevard-freeway hybrid; and a median-less 7 lane road). From the report:
With the provision of a wide center median, virtually all intersections (with the possible exception of Bladensburg) would be modified, either by creating additional lanes for turning vehicles, reconstruction of at-grade DC-style traffic circles, or reconstruction as grade-separated DC-style traffic circles. In addition, driveways and curb cuts would be limited, and two minor intersections would be eliminated (Fairview and Fenwick), by dead-ending the side streets. If the Florida Avenue intersection were to be reconstructed as a grade separated traffic circle, a new at-grade intersection could be created at North Capitol Street, replacing the existing diamond interchange. Finally, a depressed left-turn lane, intended to carry traffic from westbound New York Avenue onto I-395, could be provided. The net change in vehicular traffic-carrying capacity would depend upon the final configurations selected for key intersections. On balance, however, the change would be expected to be an increase in capacity, perhaps a substantial increase. Non-motorized modes would benefit from improvements in facilities alongside New York Avenue, and from improved facilities to cross major intersections.
The Study Team recommends construction of a dedicated bikeway on the north side of the Corridor (pictured to the right of the picture above) east of Florida Avenue to connect the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the Anacostia Trails. This would create a seamless bike trail loop linking to Union Station and The Mall, through East Potomac Park, along both sides of the Anacostia, to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and National Arboretum. Linkages for the trail from New York Avenue to the Anacostia need further study but could potential include routes through the Arboretum, across the un-used railroad overpass west of Montana, or by some other method.
Whitehurst Freeway - This is probably what prompted Richard Layman to post about this in the first place. I've become more of a believer in tearing it down since I wrote this post over a year ago, but I don't think it's a high priority.
Kennilworth Avenue NE - DDOT studied this too. Want to check out the reports? Me too, but DDOT let the website expire a few weeks ago so we're SOL. But the plan, as I recall was to make this into an at grade Boulevard with tree line sidewalks etc....
SE Freeway - The vision, it isn't really a plan at this point, was to build a tunnel under South Capitol connecting the SW freeway (I-395) to the Anacostia Freeway (I-295), then remove the SE Freeway east of South Capitol. That would be replaced with a new, boulevard-style Virginia Avenue. The CSX line would also be rerouted and buried so that Virginia and Maryland Avenues could be connected and contiguous from the river to Capital Hill. None of this is likely to happen.
When New York tore down the West Side highway they didn't replace it, "they simply added new medians, a waterfront park, and a bicycle path to the surface street." The trick to making this work is Transportation Demand Management:
- Parking Cash-Out:Businesses could be required to give employees commute allowances instead of free parking. Employees could use the allowance to pay for the parking they used to get for free, they could use it to pay for transit, they could keep part of the allowance if they car-pooled to work, or they could keep the entire allowance if they walked or bicycled to work. It is estimated that this policy could reduce commuter traffic (and peak demand for road space) by about 20%.
- Congestion Pricing: As in London and Stockholm, drivers could be charged a fee for driving into the central business district at times when roads are congested. The revenues could be used to pay for better public transportation. This policy has been very successful where it has been tried, and the fee can be set at the level needed to reduce congestion to a manageable level.