The Bronzeville Gateway that’s hidden or shrouded on its north side by the Stevenson Expresway. Photo by Curtis Locke.
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) asked an unusual question on its Facebook page on Friday:
The Chicago area has a lot of expressways. In recent years, more new expressways have been built. If you were given as much money as you needed and were given the green light to implement any plans for the expressway system, what would you do?
Yesterday I was reading an article on Streets.MN, a land use and transportation blog, about removing urban highways in the Twin Cities (Minnapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota):
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?
It noted that highways around the country have been removed over the past couple of decades, including the conversion of two elevated highways in San Francisco to boulevards (each was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989). It also linked to this list of 10 highway removal projects that may happen in the near future.
Then also on Friday, Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) president John Norquist (whom we interviewed in November 2011) presented a paper with Caitlin Ghoshal (also from CNU) titled “Freeways Without Futures: Possibilities for Urban Freeway Removal in Chicago“.
This white paper examines factors that make Chicago’s I-55/Lake Shore Drive and Ohio Street candidates for urban freeway removal.
A 15-minute video of Norquist’s presentation at the Transport Chicago conference.
I went back to the interview to find out what he had said about I-55 – Stevenson Expressway – and Ohio Street feeder ramp on the Kennedy Expressway:
The city collects no money from the Stevenson [whereas it collects taxes from retail-filled streets], and the buildings that are along it are depressed in value because it’s there. If the Stevenson east of I-94 was converted to a street more like Congress, a boulevard that connects to the street grid, that would add a lot of value to the city.
That’s until you get to Ohio, where the traffic engineers had their way and rammed a grade-separated highway all the way up to Orleans, which suppresses the property value all along it until you get to Orleans. So anything like [turning the Stevenson east of I-94 into a boulevard] will create the kind of urban complexity that people like.
I liked that idea so I responded with a brief answer on the MPC’s Facebook page:
We would replace the I-55/Lake Shore Drive connection with a boulevard so that the northern entrance to Bronzeville at King Drive is no longer in the shadow of a monstrous viaduct.
We would also convert the Ohio Street feeder ramp that connects the Kennedy to River North and points beyond with a similar boulevard so that traffic is calmer.
How would you respond to MPC’s original question about changing expressways in Chicago?
Updated June 4, 2012, at 16:55 to embed the video of Norquist’s freeways presentation from June 1, 2012.