Large sections of major highways are increasingly being demolished in cities across the U.S. in order to make room for more housing, the Wall Street Journal reported. The trend is evident in metros including Detroit, Milwaukee, Tampa, Rochester and Portland.
Highways that were once part of the interstate system are being either shutdown or repurposed in order to address housing shortages that plague many cities. By removing highways, cities are able to reclaim acres of suitable land that can be used for housing development. In Milwaukee for example, authorities there freed up about 30 acres of downtown real estate after demolishing the Park East Freeway back in 2003.
“Some cities now see the highways as ugly concrete monoliths that divide neighborhoods and hinder efforts to create pedestrian-friendly spaces,” The Journal reported. “The roads are also getting old. Maintaining them would cost more than officials are willing to spend.”
The practice of removing outdated highways is common in New York state, with several projects currently underway or being discussed in Niagara Falls, the Bronx, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester. In the last case, a luxury apartment complex is currently under construction on land that once was part of the Inner Loop, a six-lane sunken highway that surrounds downtown. Part of the highway was diverted in 2014 to make way for the new project, which will provide 519 homes and 45,000 square feet of commercial space.
But there are concerns that demolishing highways might spark gentrification and blur the lines between areas that were once clearly defined as either “low-income” or “high-income”.
Norman Garrick, an engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, told the Journal that freeways were once put in “to divide the black neighborhoods from the white neighborhoods, or they were put straight through the center of the black neighborhoods and basically destroyed them.”
Removing the highways will prompt gentrification in some areas, he said.