Freeway Removal Movement Slowly Gains Steam

Although the concept has recently received more national attention thanks in part to the federal Reconnecting Communities Act, cities have shown reluctance to support highway removal projects.

Read Time: 1 minute

August 15, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Embarcadero

San Francisco's Embarcadero is one successful example of transforming a former highway into a pedestrian-oriented thoroughfare. | Oscity / Shutterstock

Although the concept of freeway removal is picking up steam as more communities call for a reversal of the car-centric policies that led to rampant highway construction over the last half century, the movement still faces some challenges. Pointing to an example from Dallas, Texas, Jared Brey writes that some cities and transportation departments are still less than willing to support full highway removal. Meanwhile, the $1 billion program for highway removal in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is “much smaller than originally envisioned, when it was included in Biden’s Build Back Better proposal with $20 billion of funding.”

Maintaining highways is a costly and time-consuming physical feat, but so is removing them. And it leaves open tough questions about what should be done with the new space that it creates: How it should be used and by whom, for whose benefit and profit.

As Brey writes, “In Dallas, TxDOT is hoping to move ahead with a plan to sink portions of I-345 but keep the highway intact,” citing the potential for additional congestion if the highway is removed altogether. “But there’s much more at stake in highway removal, from potential health benefits to adjacent communities to the possibility of ever-more-rapid gentrification.”

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