Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Before Austin was sliced in half

The Austin Contrarian linked to an article the other day about how Oklahoma City has decided to re-route its primary highway away from downtown and redevelop that area:

In Oklahoma City, the interstate will be moved five blocks from downtown to an old railroad line. The new 10-lane highway, expected to carry 120,000 vehicles daily, will be placed in a trench so deep that city streets can run atop it, as if the highway weren't there.

The old highway will be converted into a tree-lined boulevard city officials hope will become Oklahoma City's marquee street.

By tearing down the Crosstown Expressway, the city hopes to spur development of 80 city blocks stretching from downtown to the Oklahoma River — an area that contains vacant lots, car repair shops and a few small homes.

"We've always been a good place to live, but we've never had a city we could show off," Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett says. "Moving the expressway makes it possible for a day to come when hundreds or thousands of people will live downtown."

The project will cost $557 million, mostly federal and state funds. The city will pay to spruce up the boulevard, build parks and put a pedestrian bridge over the new below-ground interstate.

The Contrarian goes on to outline all the benefits to Austin if it were ever to decide to get into the 21st century and do the same thing for I-35, a major eyesore and detriment to the city, and what many claim created, and still fosters, Austin's ridiculous segregation and racial inequality.

If you want an idea of what Austin looked like pre-35, or what it could maybe look like again someday, check out these photos of East Avenue, which was destroyed to create I-35 (it's shocking sometimes, isn't it, to look backwards and wonder how people could have possibly thought certain things were a good idea...?):


bryan h. said...

I've got no love for I35, but I think that dude overstates how easy his proposal would be.

First, as far as I understand it, it's not really something Austin can do. Austin can propose something via CAMPO, but wouldn't TxDOT would have to make the decision?

It's also not clear to me where this $557 million dollar price tag comes from, but it seems pretty low. That aside, though, he thinks it's going to come from "mostly federal and state funds"? There's not money in either of those places to keep up with maintenance to existing highways, let along building new ones (which brings me back to the theme of the overall uselessness and wastefulness of the gasoline tax at its current rates: http://interestingdiscussions.

I like his point about toll roads. They are a plausible source of revenue for such things (and certainly a more equitable one than the gas tax).

bryan h. said...

Those pictures are pretty awesome, too.