Those good folk over at the Congress for the New Urbanism run an initiative called “Highways to Boulevards,” seeking to reclaim urban environments and revitalise cities by campaigning for highway teardowns. They pay particular attention to elevated highways, yep, the good old flyover.

But not only do the CNU provide a set of model precedents for positive urban change (which include highway teardown projects in Portland, Milwauke, etc), but they also go as far to identify and advocate for specific projects –  and in the plan for revitalising Buffalo’s waterfront, went as far as commissioning a study report to support their proposal.

In the blurb for their ‘Highways to Boulevards’ webpage, they write:

America’s twentieth century highway building era included elevated freeways which cut huge swaths across our cities, decimating neighborhoods and reducing quality of life for city residents.

Which is interesting from a contemporary Wellington point of view, where the campaign isn’t to restore, and revitalise urban fabric that has been negatively impacted upon by a elevated highway, but to actually eliminate the need to do so later because of short-sighted national roading priorities that make no concession to local conditions or wishes. No seriously – NZTA and GWRC (and WCC too, if only limply), are advocating a mid-twentieth century solution, which has proven to have devastating effects for cities and their residents. And not just conceptually – what we are being presented with is the 1963 De Leuw Cather Transport Plan all over again.

They go on to say:

This massive concrete infrastructure had devastating effects on urban economies. It blighted adjacent property and pushed access to basic amenities further out.

It is little wonder then, that the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce came out in support of ‘under-grounding’ Buckle Street for the Memorial Park – and not only that, but went all the way in proposing that the tunnel past the Basin, rather than build a flyover between the two tunnels:

We have learned from the Karo Drive Bypass mistake the costs of taking shortcuts. The decision not to trench that section of State Highway One is one that road users and pedestrians are already regretting due to ongoing traffic delays and environmental costs.

So NZTA/GWRC/WCC – you have international precedence (see CNU above), community groups, urban design interest groups (e.g. us), the general public (by more than 2:1 in the 2008 Ngauranga to Wellington Airport consultation), business groups (see WRCC  above), and even the Mayor no less – all against this current proposal. What does it actually take to be heard in a 21st century democracy?!

New York City, Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Seoul, South Korea have confronted this problem by replacing elevated highways with boulevards, saving billions of dollars and increasing real estate values on adjacent land. The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) believes that teardowns offer an attractive option for cities struggling with aging highway infrastructure…



2 responses to “The great flyover teardown…”

  1. “What does it actually take to be heard in a 21st century democracy?”

    Money. Money talks, apparently. But also: Votes. Votes talk heaps, too. There is an election coming up this year, and Stephen Joyce and old Mr Smile-and-Wave himself could just get voted out.

  2. PS – I forgot to provide a link to the CNU’s top ten wishlist of highway teardown projects (most of which are flyovers): Freeways Without Futures

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