Hartford is not alone in grappling with the choices presented by aging highway infrastructure and viaducts. Urban areas throughout the U.S. are re-thinking highways built during the post-World War II roadway construction boom to develop more modern solutions. These highways are now over 50 years old, and frequently carry higher traffic volumes than anticipated. Also, design and safety standards have changed since the time these structures were configured, and the construction and placement of many of these elevated structures divided cities and their neighborhoods, creating ongoing barriers.
The challenge in many areas has been how to reconstruct old urban highways that are carrying high traffic volumes. Their operation is generally critical to travel needs, but there are also opportunities to improve both their transportation functioning and also benefit the overall urban fabric by “re-visioning” their design and configuration.
How are other parts of the country dealing with these challenges? What’s important to note, when reading these case studies, is that every situation is unique and there is no “one size fits all” solution.
Boston, MA: Central Artery – The Project replaced Boston's deteriorating six-lane elevated Central Artery (I-93) with a state-of-the-art underground highway, two new bridges over the Charles River, extended I-90 to the airport, and created more than 300 acres of open land and reconnected downtown Boston to the waterfront.
More Information on the Central Artery
San Francisco, CA: Central Freeway – Damaged during the 1989 earthquake, this spur highway was ultimately removed and replaced by Octavia Boulevard. The Boulevard carries about half the traffic volume of the original elevated highway. The project includes a new park and pedestrian walkways.
Cincinnati, OH: Fort Washington Way – This interstate highway, which created a barrier between downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River, was reconfigured to depress the interstate lanes of traffic below grade, separating them from local traffic. This improvement allowed the city to reclaim access to its waterfront.
More Information on the Fort Washington Way
Providence, RI: The “I Way”- Nearing completion, this project relocated I-95 to a new alignment, allowing safety concerns and congestion to be addressed and improved. Removal of the old highway opened up access to the waterfront and spurred new development in the area.
Seattle, WA: Alaskan Way Viaduct - After an earthquake damaged the existing Route 99 viaduct, the roadway is in the process of being replaced with a tunnel beneath downtown Seattle. The existing viaduct is in the process of being removed, which will create greater access to the waterfront.
More Information on the Alaskan Way Viaduct
Syracuse, NY: I-81 Viaduct - The elevated portion of I-81 in downtown Syracuse is the subject of an environmental review to consider options for replacing the viaduct with a new elevated structure, or with an at-grade boulevard. The existing viaduct creates a significant barrier in the city.
More Information on the I-81 Viaduct