In the case of urban highways across the country, the answer residents and advocates have been giving is “Get rid of it!” (or “Turn it into a boulevard”).
Tri-State Transportation Campaign has been working on this issue since 1999 as a founding member of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance, a group of four community-based and two city-wide organizations who have partnered for nearly 20 years to advance a dramatically different future for the Sheridan Expressway in the South Bronx. Over the last few years, momentum has picked up in the Bronx and elsewhere in New York State to transform urban legacy highways. Communities have asked for resources and guidance on how to manage highways that are outdated or eyesores, and how to revitalize economies, increase safety, address blight, create recreational opportunities and attract business, residents and visitors to communities adversely impacted by road infrastructure.
In an effort to capitalize on that demand for resources amidst growing interest in converting highways to boulevards and to fill a gap in guidance provided by local and state departments of transportation, TSTC convened the Urban Freeways to Boulevards Summit in 2014, which brought together agency and advocacy partners from Albany, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse to discuss their ideas and efforts to transform their highways. With many similar goals and experiences discussed, a seven-city, statewide working group was subsequently created as a network of support for municipalities and cities throughout New York State seeking answers to the same questions.
After one year of input, ideas and feedback from these formal working group meetings, TSTC is launching a new Highways-to-Boulevards Toolkit as a resource for advocates, agency staff and local officials to reference when re-imagining highways throughout New York State and across the country. The toolkit includes sections on Debunking the Myths, Case Studies from each of the seven working group cities and a Resource page.
The working group and toolkit were made possible with a generous grant from the New York Community Trust and with support of the Ford Foundation. Both foundations have supported civic groups in their efforts to strengthen their communities through improved transportation planning, such as the “boulevardization” of the Sheridan Expressway in the South Bronx. Additionally, we owe our thanks to Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo, for his support of this project, and to our dedicated colleagues in the working group.