...according to a recent article in the Boston Globe.
When Milwaukee tore down the Park East Freeway in 2002, it was the first city to remove a downtown freeway overpass for purposes of what was then called urban revitalization.
Yes, San Francisco had replaced the Embarcadero freeway with surface development a decade earlier, but not as a result of planning--an earthquake had done the demolition. Portland had torn up its Harbor Drive highway in 1974 to create a waterfront park and Boston was in the midst of the Big Dig in 2002. But Milwaukee was unique in purposefully removing and not replacing a key piece of highway infrastructure; and for doing so for the sake of economic development, not green space.
Now other cities like Seattle and Toronto are looking at our experience as they debate removing their aging downtown freeways. When economic development is the purpose, should the surface streets be improved to accommodate the traffic or should the overpass be replaced by a tunnel?
Boston's over-budget, over-deadline “Big Dig” project has caused cities to shy away from similar tunnel plans, while our own Park East experiment is being touted as a planning success. That may be premature, however. The Globe article failed to mention that there is not yet a fully developed Park East business district to affect traffic. After McKinley Boulevard is carrying the volume of traffic for which it was designed may be a better time for other cities to judge whether surface streets or a tunnel is the best way to go in such situations.