Freeway Removal

Lessons Learned – Freeway Removal

A growing number of urban freeways have been removed in North American cities. While no two are exactly alike. there are several important lessons that can be learned from the experience in other cities:

  • Freeway removal does not require a major shift to transit. Removing an urban freeway will in and of itself change travel patterns significantly. Traffic will find alternate routes and travelers will choose the most convenient mode for their trips or travel at different times or to different locations.
  • “Spillover” traffic can be absorbed. Experience to date suggests that the “ceiling” of traffic volumes that can reasonably be accommodated through alternate routes, on all modes, with appropriate demand management and land use strategies is higher than previously believed. Gridded street patterns are especially effective at accommodating whatever traffic remains once freeway capacity has been reduced. Studies have shown that the addition of freeway capacity can actually increase congestion by “funneling” traffic into a single direct route, rather than distributing it over a network.
  • Reducing roadway capacity reduces the number of auto trips. Reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled results in several social and environmental benefits: decreased energy usage and carbon emissions; improved air quality and public health; increased safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists; a reduction in fumes and noise pollution; and more cost-effective use of existing transit capacity.

Source: Department of Transportation, City of Seattle.

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