Another city contemplates freeway removal | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Another city contemplates freeway removal

Posted By on Sun, Nov 15, 2015 at 3:08 PM

  • Connect Oakland

OK, this is from San Francisco. And we'd NEVER want to be like San Francisco. You know what I mean. A city absolutely crammed with, well, you know — young, highly paid tech wonders working in buildings they paid for themselves, not with poor folks' grocery sales tax. But just the same, from the San Francisco Chronicle, a story in which the lead says it all:

The rebirth of the Embarcadero and Hayes Valley in San Francisco shows how a city and its neighborhoods can flourish after the removal of intrusive, invasive freeways.

Now Oakland has the potential to see such addition by subtraction — a move that, down the road, could even pay benefits for the region as a whole.

The freeway that has outstayed its welcome is Interstate 980, a broad swath of landscaped asphalt that separates residential West Oakland from the city’s downtown. With imaginative engineering and design, it could be replaced by a boulevard lined with housing at all price levels, reknitting the urban landscape.

Another dimension to the what-if scenario: Such a conversion could include space for BART beneath the boulevard, a tunnel that could connect to a second BART tube from Oakland to San Francisco.

None of this will happen overnight, and other paths for BART 2.0 might turn out to make more sense if such an ambitious expansion is pursued. But I-980 is a relic ripe for change, and its future shouldn’t be taken for granted. Instead, a reconceived roadway needs to be part of the discussion as the Bay Area begins to wrestle with the question of how our region will function and evolve in decades to come.

This was a freeway built to move rush hour traffic faster 15 to 20 hours a week. Which it does. But at what cost? Check out Connect Oakland's ideas for a better way. The cityscape looks remarkably like the Little Rock downtown corridor.

Here's the point. When forward thinking people suggested that there might be alternatives to the Arkansas highway department's $600 million -plus plan to widen Interstate 30 in the heart of Little Rock and deepen the neighborhood divide, department officials mocked those who said there might be another way. Tear down a freeway? Rubbish, they said.

Little Rock city directors vote Monday Tuesday night on a resolution that does not oppose the current I-30 plan. Nor does it call for implosion of the I-30 freeway. It merely asks for fuller study. 

And there is the question for Tuesday night. Do we want to be more like San Francisco or more like what we've always been?

CORRECTION: I got my times confused. The City Board is TUESDAY NIGHT. The highway department will take questions about its current plan from 6 to 8:30 p.m. MONDAY at the Clinton Library.

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