Friday, January 17, 2014

Norquist Backs Interstate Segment Removal In Downtown Detroit

Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist explains why removing a short piece of Interstate highway that distorted Detroit's downtown could help the city's revival:

Fifty years after it was built, a highway in downtown Detroit is in fairly dire need of replacement. Rather than rebuilding the whole thing, though, the Michigan Department of Transportation is considering following the lead of other cities that have torn down old freeways and turned them into walkable boulevards.
Interstate 375 is one of the shortest interstate highways in the country, at just over a mile long. But building it effectively chopped the eastern side of the city off from downtown Detroit, and helped turn tree-lined avenues into places where no one wanted to go.
Sounds like the piece of Park East freeway which Norquist got removed with state funding and approval because it was am ugly and noisy physical and psychological barrier that separated the North side, Brewers Hill and access to Milwaukee River from the Downtown.

Healing the Detroit Downtown is a good step. One alternative to Detroit's Interstate anachronism: a boulevard and park land - - amenities that attract, rather than repel, and serve more people than high-speed commuters only. 

Says Norquist: 

Detroit is already starting to move towards walkability in some other ways, like a new privately owned streetcar route that will begin construction in a few weeks on Woodward Avenue, the main street downtown. The city also recently built a new bike and pedestrian path by the downtown riverfront. 
Detroit's future can't be as focused on the automobile as it used to be. Everybody says that, but what should it focus on?" asks Norquist. "They need start thinking about how they attract commerce, not how to move people in vehicles. The city can be a destination, not just a place to drive through." 
Full disclosure: I worked for Norquist from 1996-2004. 

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