NOTE: You can read a different version of this on Streets.MN!
In the Twin Cities, skyways have worked their way into the cultural vernacular probably more than was intended by their original designers. A few connections quickly turned into a culture of second level retail that eventually pulled retail away from the street; and whether we like it or not, skyways have become a staple of our urban culture. We have this contradictory relationship with them in the sense that we willingly accept their shortcomings, but can’t do anything about them. The psychology of previous investment hits home; it’s infrastructure that we’ve invested in! We can’t just throw it away? Can we?
Enter: the urban highway.
Cities across the country (and globe) have decided that urban freeways could be turned into parks and development opportunities. In American urban planning circles, freeway destruction seems to be becoming ever more popular. TED talks have been dedicated to the topic. But – can it be done in the Twin Cities?
If the Twin Cities were to rid themselves of one highway, what one would it be? Or, what segment of one highway could be removed?
I – 94:
While Interstate 94 through the core neighborhoods caused tremendous damage, it is a major artery that would probably be unwise to remove. Too many issues would arise from removing 94; both politically and economically. It is an interstate and would require the cooperation of the Federal government and problems of traffic re-routing would be difficult, if not impossible. Even if it were torn down, there might not be a good ROI in respect to the cost of a tear down. Unfortunately it appears as if we are stuck with 94 and its current alignment.
I – 35W/E:
Similar problems that arise with 94 are present here. 35W and 35E have turned into high-volume traffic corridors. However, a case could be made to re-route traffic from 35E between the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul on Shepard Road. Although this section of 35E could be turned into an amazing park and add associated development (to increase ROI), it might be difficult due to the topography.
I – 394:
Like the others, difficulties present themselves in removing I394. Yet, there is one small segment that looks like a near-perfect candidate for removal:
There is a small stretch of 394 that leads into the Warehouse District (and into parking garages). Many options are available for this segment: parkland with bike path, development opportunities or a possible park/re-route of the proposed Southwest Corridor light rail. This section however, doesn’t have one thing that makes most urban highway tear downs successful: water.
It appears as if most all success urban highway removals add connectivity to waterfronts. This highway removal wouldn’t be adding that connection. Now, imagine how cool this could be if someone with graphic design skills could whip it up!
While I have limited this short analysis to the local interstate system, highways and other large roads could be candidates. What are your thoughts? Is urban highway removal possible in the Twin Cities? If so, where?