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Next Steps for the City of Freeways

It is difficult to imagine a time when Los Angeles' freeways symbolized access, efficiency, and modernity. Now that the city's love affair with freeways is nearly spent, what future do we envision for them?
August 19, 2015, 9am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Rafał Próchniak

Christopher Hawthorne reminds us that in the recent past, Los Angeles' freeways heralded a bright future. "This praise had a way of edging toward the religious. [Writer David] Brodsly called the post-war L.A. freeway 'the cathedral of its time and place.' Joan Didion famously wrote that freeway driving offered 'the only secular communion Los Angeles has.'"

Residents still use freeways out of necessity, but they're far from loved. Instead they represent wasted time and polluted air, one of many factors seen as holding the city back. Hawthorne writes, "[The private car] is drifting steadily from the center of the region's self-image.[...] Increasingly the fundamental task Los Angeles faces is one of re-urbanization — of infill development, of reanimating or repairing the public realm."

The article criticizes freeways as an urban monoculture, dedicated to a single use, dividing central areas to favor sprawl. Many agree that L.A. needs to lose its addiction to big roads. But what should happen to the immense freeway infrastructure already in place? Can these aging 'cathedrals' be repurposed?

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Published on Friday, August 7, 2015 in Los Angeles Times
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