USA Today reports on Oklahoma City’s plans to demolish an aging highway that cut through its downtown section. Removing the aging and unsightly highway is part of an effort to spur construction of new neighborhoods downtown and to develop a thriving center city that Oklahoma can be proud of.
The article goes on to report on similar plans or proposals by a number of cities, all across the U.S.
Looking at this topic from a broader perspective: during the 1950s and 60s, many cities built highways directly adjacent to their waterfronts, in the process blocking access to and views of the water. When San Francisco tore down the Embarcadero Freeway, it entirely transformed the area. Previously, it had been a dark and forbidding area, where people parked under the Freeway, but didn’t do much else. Now, there is a great farmers’ market and shops in the renovated Ferry Building. It’s a wonderful place to stroll by the water.
I’d go a step further and say that car traffic in all its forms should be separate from pedestrians and bicyclists. If you think about it, a car is a kind of industrial machine, and walking on a city street isn’t really that much different from walking through a factory, dodging potentially-hazardous assembly line machinery. Of course, it would be impractical to retrofit cities today to have cars below surface level, like the subway is in New York. But how much better it would be for citydwellers’ quality-of-life.