In an effort to heal the wounds inflicted on their urban fabric and historic neighborhoods by highway projects of the last century, several cities in Southern California are exploring the possibility of covering their below-grade freeways with parks and redevelopment. The latest city to jump on the bandwagon is Ventura, located 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Funded by a grant from the regional metropolitan planning organization, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), a design team has proposed capping a two to three block stretch of U.S. 101 through the Ventura's highly-visited downtown. As Arlene Martinez of the Ventura County Star reports, the newly available land on top of the freeway cap could possibly contain "...a conference center, a transportation hub for trains and buses, and a mix of retail and commercial uses..." Tentatively priced at $400 million, the proposal is still very much a "concept," with the exact price contingent upon various other factors.
"To be able to reorganize and restore the urban fabric that we used to have would be unbelievably huge to the city in so many ways I can't even count them," said Bill Fulton, the former Ventura mayor who now is vice president of Smart Growth America, a Washington, D.C., urban planning think tank. "The question is, if we can pull that off."
The cap in Ventura echoes similar efforts in Southern California to cap the 101 Freeway, such as the much larger mile-long Hollywood Central Park and half-mile downtown L.A. cap, estimated to cost $1 billion and $700 million, respectively.