The 20th Century saw major changes in how we move about in our cities and towns. With the boom of the automobile, vast stretches of land became high-speed corridors with one goal: to move people from point A to point B in the least amount of time possible. Unfortunately, this singularity of focus for our highways allowed them to cut through cities and towns with little regard for their local impacts. Across the country (and world) people are now faced with the task of retrofitting roads to be more sensitive to their context and the many effects transportation has on our lives.
Michigan’s Department of Transportation has been showing some real progress in understanding this potential over the last decade. They seem more open to transportation alternatives and strategic planning, acknowledging that transportation plans don’t exist in a silo—their decisions affect quality of life, should consider more than just cars, and have a significant impact on economic and community development. We want to encourage them to stay on this strategic path.
MDOT has been in the news recently for a couple of plans related to highways. One, which was approved as part of SEMCOG’s 2040 Regional Transportation Plan for Southeast Michigan states that its goal is to “make our communities more desirable, protect our environment, and improve Southeast Michigan’s quality of life.” (Unfortunately, it includes some elements that we think will have the opposite effect, but more on that elsewhere. We still applaud the goal.) In addition, there is the more exciting and creative idea MDOT has been kicking around to turn I-375 in downtown Detroit into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. Gadzooks, we love it!
So, in an effort to encourage their—and your—creative juices to flow, we’re running a transportation series on how to make roads that must serve the purpose of moving people and goods through communities (state trunk lines and highways) simultaneously work better for the communities they bisect. We’ll be featuring projects from around the world where creative transportation solutions truly harnessed the power of transportation to support healthier communities.
The projects in this series all bring something to the table, whether in advocacy, strategy, or design. We hope this series will serve as a reference catalog for people participating in their communities’ futures when addressing road and transportation planning projects.
A list of project posts:
The conversion of the Pompidou Expressway to an auto-free zone will provide Parisians with a public waterfront park to enjoy their city.
The addition of a diamond interchange and a multi-use trail in Perham, Minnesota have contributed to the health of its downtown.
Residents stood up for what they wanted in their communities, and got it – a 37-acre waterfront park.
Covering Route 29 with a tunnel and placing a riverfront park on top kept cars moving while providing residents with a connection to the Delaware River.
Streetscape enhancements provided through funding partnerships brought new life to Heppner’s downtown.
The elevated freeway became a lovely, pedestrian friendly, landscaped at-grade boulevard, and the surrounding areas were rejuvenated.
Downsizing Chattanooga’s Riverfront Parkway sparked waterfront development and a vibrant downtown.
The use of roundabouts instead of traditional intersections provides many benefits to residents, and Carmel, Indiana shows us how it’s done.
Making the McKinley Boulevard out of the Park East Freeway was a smart land use.
A linear community along Evergreen Way hopes to provide a more connected lifestyle.
The construction of a retail district on a freeway overpass provides connectivity and economic growth opportunities for Columbus.
Seoul reclaimed its main waterway and its history by destroying a major freeway and constructing a public space that weaves through the city.
The town of Sisters, Oregon used simple solutions to address their traffic issues.
The redesign of Raymond Avenue through Poughkeepsie, New York created a safer corridor.
The Embarcadero boulevard is the face of San Francisco’s Bay area.
The town of Bridgeport has a rightsized Main Street after a community engaging planning process.
The Big Dig project in Boston moved the freeway underground and opened up prime real estate for development and public spaces.
Downsizing of the East Boulevard in Charlotte provided a healthier balance for pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The proposed Opportunity Corridor sparks debate in the neighborhoods it travels through.
St. Louis’ upcoming Park Over the Highway works for some, not for others.
Oklahoma City residents seek a solution for Interstate 40 in which pedestrians are given the same consideration as motorists.
The plan for the South County Connector sparks debate in a city shifting towards multi-modal transit.
Hamburg’s Route 62 redesign sparked a renaissance for the downtown area.
The planned Zoo Interchange outside Milwaukee causes debates around the social implications of the construction.
The I-195 relocation project opened up the potential for new life in its stead.
Maine’s highway debate focuses on the notion that low cost transportation is key to a strong economy – but at what cost?
The options for the future of the Gardiner Expressway are being considered as its repair begins.
The City of Rochester recently secured funding to convert its sunken freeway into a complete street.
The plan for Interstate Highway 35 must move forward, and maybe down.
The future of the Claiborne Expressway and the neighborhoods it drives through will be decided soon – will New Orleans move towards a sustainable, multi-modal system?