Friday, September 10, 2010

Deconstructing an Interstate, The Claiborne Expressway

“The timing… should be perfect,” claims Neil Peirce, a member of the Washington Post Writers Group. In his recent article, Time To Accelerate Freeway Teardowns?, Peirce dives into New Orleans’ desire to deconstruct the Claiborne Expressway. Along with the Center for New Urbanism (CNU), citizens alike want to deconstruct the dilapidated 2.2 miles of elevated expressway bifurcating their city.

The portion considered for demolition is a spur highway and nonessential. The elevated Claiborne Expressway was constructed over the once culturally vibrant Old Claiborne Avenue. With its construction, business suffered and communities on either side segregated. Old Claiborne Avenue linked walkable neighborhoods and had a tree shaded median. Businesses flourished from 132 in 1960 and then dwindled alongside the interstate to a mere 35 in 2000. And typical of elevated roadways, “poverty and decay reigned, the stark expressway section creat(ed) a hostile no-man’s land around it.”

The Claiborne Expressway is aging and many are analyzing the costs and benefits to maintain the infrastructure. $50 million are needed just to repair the interchange ramps. The choice to deconstruct elevated interstates may become more prevalent as they approach their 50-year lifespan and financial support dwindles. The co-chair of the Claiborne Corridor Improvement Association, Jack Davis says “elevated roadways… are far more expensive to maintain than surface boulevards.” Not to mention the social costs of a deteriorated community. In research provided by the CNU, “regular urban grids, minus the expressways, raise property values, increase mobility, restrain sprawl, and make for far more successful cities.”

The CNU’s Highways to Boulevards Initiative is also examining the take down of ten interstates including:
1. Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle, WA
2. Sheridan Expressway, Bronx, NY
3. The Skyway and Route 5, Buffalo, NY
4. Route 34, New Haven, CT
5. Claiborne Expressway, New Orleans, LA
6. Interstate 81, Syracuse, NY
7. Interstate 64, Louisville, KY
8. Route 29, Trenton, NJ
9. Gardiner Expressway, Toronto, ON
10. 11th Street Bridges and the Southeast Freeway, Washington D.C.