How An Inner-City Freeway Disappeared

A "crazy idea" to remove an inner city freeway in Seoul, South Korea turned to reality. This piece tells the story about how this unlikely event came to be.

Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang led the effort to remove the freeway simply by wondering -- and modeling -- whether traffic would be any worse if the freeway were not there.

"But the model was the easy part. Getting public and political buy-in was going to be harder -- not to mention that people kept telling him this was "suicide" as a transportation planner and that if the project were built it would create "gridlock!" and "traffic chaos!" (Yet another familiar refrain heard in Seattle when mention of the "Transit and Streets" proposal for replacing the Viaduct is made -- not to mention other successful freeway removals in Portland, San Francisco, New York, and Milwaukee).

With a mayoral election coming up, Dr. Hwang and his "crazy" colleagues decided to shop the idea around to the candidates and found one willing to make it part of his central campaign platform: Lee Myung-bak. He ran on tearing down the elevated freeway and restoring the river -- and won. There's an ironic twist to the story at this point that made me happy to sacrifice all those stats in order to hear this fascinating tale: Lee Myung-bak had been the president of the construction company that built the freeway. Who better than he to admit it was a mistake to have been done in the first place?"

Full Story: Seoul tears down an urban highway and the city can breathe again

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