6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

It seems counterintuitive, right? Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you'll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities? But it's true, and it's happening in places all over the world.

Many freeway systems were overbuilt in an auto-obsessed era, only to realise later that cities are actually healthier, greener, and safer without them. Like freeway cap parks , which hope to bridge the chasms through severed neighborhoods -- Boston's Big Dig is a great example -- freeway removal projects try to eradicate and undo the damage wrought from highways, while creating new, multifunctional shared streets that can be utilized by transit, bikes, walkers and yes, even cars.

OK, you're thinking, but where do all the cars go? It turns out that when you take out a high-occupancy freeway it doesn't turn the surface streets into the equivalent of the Autobahn. A theory called "induced demand" proves that if you make streets bigger, more people will use them. When you make them smaller, drivers discover and use other routes, and traffic turns out to be about the same. Don't believe it? Check out these freeway removals in cities all over the world and see for yourself.

Embarcadero Freeway, San Francisco

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Looking at San Francisco now, it's hard to believe that a massive, stacked freeway ran right along what is now one of the most scenic views of the bay. But there it was, State Route 480, until the 1989 Loma Prieta quake damaged it. There had been talk about removing the freeway since the early 1980s, but the earthquake spurred the conversation along, and demolition began in 1991.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

The result was a triumph for downtown San Francisco, which now had miles of public space, walking and bike paths, plus new transit routes where the double-decker freeway once was. The city also helped prove to the rest of the world that freeway removal was not only possible but could be an economic boon for the city, since San Francisco both saved money on construction -- installing the wide boulevard was cheaper than fixing the freeway -- and the new development increased property values. San Francisco actually got two great removal projects out of this earthquake: The city's damaged Central Freeway also became Octavia Boulevard.

Cheonggyecheon, Seoul

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

One of the most transformative freeway removal projects not only tore out a dirty highway from a city center, it actually daylighted a lost waterway. An elevated highway had been built through Seoul in 1976 as a way to boost economic prospects in a low-lying area which had become a slum. In 2003, the city's mayor proposed to remove the freeway and and turn the site into green space, which also required naturalizing the creek that once ran there.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Not only has the greenway become a well-loved part of the city, it has proven to benefit the city in many different ways. The temperature of the inner city has dropped several degrees, and birds, fish and other wildlife have returned to the urban core. Also, since the freeways were removed, fewer people are driving into the city, choosing to take public transit or other options.

Harbor Drive, Portland

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

In the 1950s, the six lanes of Route 99 ran along the Willamette River as a major thoroughfare, but as other freeways were built, it became less popular with drivers, who could get across the city faster using one of the newer roads. In the 1960s the mayor proposed transforming the highway into open space, and the freeway was closed for good in 1974. The ensuing open space stretches along a long portion of the riverfront.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Portland remains one of the best cities for river access thanks to this important decision. In addition to the several parks that were created, other ageing buildings were also removed to allow for additional public space, and the revitalized river also helped to spur development in the now very popular industrial areas just to the west of the banks.

Park East, Milwaukee

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

The downtown area of Milwaukee was supposed to be completely surrounded by a freeway, and construction had even started in the 1960s, when opposition began to mount, halting part of the project from being built. Luckily, a few decades later, the city began development of its Riverwalk project, and realised the benefits of having open access from the downtown area to the river. The Park East Freeway was seen as a barrier to increased development and was demolished starting in 2002.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

McKinley Avenue replaced the freeway, and renewal plans began to lure new tenants to the area and connect it to the Riverwalk development. Property values have gone up and the area is now a desirable place for people and companies, although some say the increased interest in the area took longer than expected.

Rio Madrid, Madrid

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Like many urban rivers, Madrid's Manzanares River was an important part of the city's history, but had been completely neglected after two large spans of the M-30 freeway took over its banks. A plan to revitalize the river was set in motion in the early 2000s and opened to the public in 2011. Traffic was rerouted through several underground tunnels, and the land adjacent to the river was completely redeveloped into a 300-acre park that includes running and biking trails, skate parks, recreation centres, 17 (!) playgrounds, and even an urban beach.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

The impact of the Rio Madrid project has been astounding for the city, with studies proving that residents who live close to the park and access it frequently are becoming healthier.

Alaskan Way, Seattle (in progress)

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Up in Seattle there's another removal project that was launched into action by an earthquake. The Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle was damaged in the 2001 quake and needed to be completely rebuilt to new seismic standards. So engineers decided to take the road itself underground, and they're building a smaller, two-mile, four-lane tunnel through which to reroute cars.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

In addition to tucking cars below grade, the project will create a connections between the local neighborhoods and the waterfront, bringing public space and pedestrian walkways to these residents. The project should be completed next year.

And one to come? I-345, Dallas (proposed)

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

The latest city to jump on the freeway removal bandwagon is Dallas, where a hunk of Interstate 345 separates downtown from the popular Deep Ellum neighbourhood. It's still early in the game, but the Texas Department of Transportation has agreed to a study of the project, even though it's already planning a $US100 million renovation of the freeway.

6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

A group named A New Dallas is leading the cause, hoping to reclaim the freeway land for real estate opportunities, pedestrian connections and parks.

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    Brisbane Riverside needs this. Need to tunnel that s##t up and reclaim the riverside for something similar to Southbank parklands. Maybe call it Northbank parklands?

    Last edited 27/03/14 3:16 pm

      I was just thinking the exact same thing about the M1 in melbourne that runs along the Yarra near the CBD.

      The idea of removing a heap of cars from the city is an awesome idea as the article states, people might think a whole lot more seriously about public transport as an option for getting in and out of the CBD rather than driving each day.

        I saw recently that there's plans to link 2 malls, and make a "U-shaped" mall from.. umm.. Bourke, Elizabeth and Swanston? Something like that. Other cities that increased malls and decreased cars saw "liveability" increase, and the store owners actually saw higher sales, because of the extra foot traffic. I like the idea, actually..

        Never gonna happen because:
        1) We're too freeway obsessed.
        2) Public transport is still woeful.

          Take out the roads and see how fast PT improves; the whole article is based on supply and demand.

            Except that this is real life. People need to get to work and, at least in Sydney, the freeway is literally the ONLY option. Our population is too spread out and the job markets too centralised in the cities for these types of ideas to work. Even with public transport improvements it would literally take decades to get to the level that the western Sydney population would require, just to get to work.

            Supply and demand is a stupidly simplified way to look at it.

          in order for public transport in melbourne to be viable for the 90% of travel nessisary to negate the car we need to increase soooooo much more than just transport around the CBD. melbourne is stupidly crazy spread out. for instance my friend takes more than an hour to get from her home in diamond creek to ivanhoe.....thats more than twice as long as by car even though those suburbs are on the same train line. the fact is to tempt people away from cars you dont just need better links into the city you also need to triple the links between the various major systems. just adding the doncaster line will do bugger all...expecially seeing as the buses dont start until 730 which is useless if you start at 8 anywhere except directly in the cbd.

          fact is the system needs an overhaul from scratch but we dont have the population to afford doing what itll take to make it viable for most of us and noone is going to want to give up their companies to a centralised control system nessisary to make it work.

      Yeah, Brisbane really needs more tunnels. None of its multi-million dollar projects are being used anywhere near to capacity. And now the city is putting in another, despite the Clem Jones and Airport Link being on the verge of going bust.

      There's an awesome highway already running straight through the city - it's the Brisbane River and it's heavily under utilised.

    Excellent. I wish Australia was as up with the times.

      I think you're crazy man. As someone who moved to Australia less than a decade ago after living all over the world, I can say without a doubt that Australia has some of the most walk-able and scenic big cities that I have ever seen.

      Sydney, is obviously the worst out of the bunch, but even the bad parts of Sydney are nothing compared to most major American cities and the "non historic" urban areas of Europe.

      Australian's should really appreciate more how nice their cities are!

        We do. It's just that more often than not, we don't have cost effective or environmentally friendly way's of getting to and from them. Public transport in Australia's capital cities is still pretty sub-par.

        They can be improved - The more public space, parklands etc. - the less people feel the need to leave the location (ie: use cars) as the local environment is more liveable.

        A lot of the traffic is people travelling to more pleasant locations to spend their day/evening.

        I think Melbourne could become a true bike-city similar to some European cities if we took out the car-centric prerogative and city planners added more walking/riding access.

        If you build it, they will come.

    In Perth we have removed/diverted Riverside drive for the new Elizabeth Quay - so many people complained about losing the road and they can't see the benefits of bringing the river and city together again. Luckily enough its going ahead!

      The temporary traffic redirections have been pretty terrible though, so it isn't too surprising that people are complaining. I'm not sure why they didn't just test out the diversion before ripping up the road: it would have been really simple to place road blocks over the section to be closed to see how the other roads would cope.

      The current diversion isn't that great when cycling either. Whereas before you'd cross two low traffic roads at Barrack Square as part of the river circuit, now you need to cross busy roads twice (Esplanade/Barrack St and Barrack St/Riverside Drv), where traffic will never stop unless someone presses the crossing button. The wait times at these crossings are pretty long (I've waited ~ 2 minutes on occasions), which encourages people to take their chances.


    Have some respect for the English language.

    Sydney's getting something like this with the George Street redevelopment and the new light rail system, not to mention parts of the old monorail track.

    trains are packed already, clearly these places did not have a public transport issue, and im sure the money saved from removing roads would be moved towards public transport

    I quite like the daylighted creek - the photo looks a lot like the renders of a similar proposal for the Fleet River in London.

    Fine. Nice idea. As long as you don't mind waiting 5 hours for your tradie to arrive (who most likely lives in an outer suburb). Blow your brains out for all I care. But next time you're standing on a jammed packed train/tram/bus, say to yourself, geez, Id love more of this!!! Not everybody who drives a car on a freeway works in an office in the city, ok.

    Madrid Rio is now a very beatutifl place.



    But this is not the only one transformation in the city. The URL below is the Portugal Avenue (In Madrid) after and before



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