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. This massive concrete infrastructure had devastating effects on urban economies. It blighted adjacent property and pushed access to basic amenities further out. With the Federal and State Departments of Transportation confronting shrinking budgets and cities looking for ways to increase their revenues, it is an ideal time to offer less expensive, urban alternatives to the reconstruction of urban expressways.
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. The strategies are proving themselves in adding value and restoring urban neighborhoods decimated by highway construction.
The Reclaiming Our Community Coalition is proposing that a cover be built over a portion of the Kensington Expressway complete with trees, shrubs and flowers. This project would restore the visual quality and natural environment of the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood by recreating Humboldt parkway over the section of Route 33 from east Ferry Street to the Best Street exit. This project would promote an aesthetically pleasing physical connection across the existing below-grade expressway, reuniting communities. In implementing this project, it should be noted, there would be no impact on existing traffic patterns.
In sum, this project would restore the treasure envisioned by Olmsted. A majestic tree-lined parkway would be restored which would improve the looks, health and benefits of the neighborhood. Specifically, with regard to looks, it would: return the beauty and elegance of the parkway; change the aesthetic perception of the community; and affect the curbside appeal thereby encouraging investment and attracting potential home-buyers. Regarding health, it would improve air quality and impart all the benefits of trees and green space. And, in terms of benefits, it would: stimulate the repair and improvement of existing structures economically, which would appreciate property values in a real way; stimulate commercial interests in the community, monetarily restoring needed vitality; highlight the City of Buffalo as the city of solutions for improvement; and show the community’s children the possibility of a better way of life.
Known as the Somerset Freeway, it was the original planned route for Interstate 95 in New Jersey. Besides offering a direct route between New York City and Philadelphia, it would have also offered a bypass of New York City for those traveling to Upstate New York and New England. The plan was killed in 1982 when it faced fierce opposition from communities along the route fearing sprawl and development. Today the sprawl and development is well in the region nearly thirty years later.