Transforming outdated automobile-oriented infrastructure to promote resilience, health, and equity can help support quality of life in communities throughout the United States and beyond.
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Urban highways in the United States have contributed to many of today’s pressing issues, including structural inequities, racial and economic segregation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, elevated exposure to shocks and stresses, and disparities in health outcomes.
Transforming outdated automobile-oriented infrastructure to promote resilience, health, and equity—by identifying community priorities through robust engagement practices, creating new parks and green infrastructure, and employing nature-based solutions while supporting economic activity—can help support quality of life in communities throughout the United States and beyond.
Cities from Pittsburgh to Toronto to San Francisco are retrofitting or removing highways to create connected sidewalks, art installations, and parks. And they are installing features to manage stormwater and mitigate the effects of extreme heat. Community groups, engaged citizens, public-sector agencies, and real estate developers have formed cross-sector coalitions to ensure that new infrastructure supports resilience, economic prosperity, and equitable development.
Examples of the types of investments being made include:
- Stitches are enhanced crossings over highway rights-of-way. Such crossings often include widened sidewalks, bike lanes, seating areas, art installations, and green spaces.
- Caps are full structural covers over highway rights-of-way that include features such as green space, parks, crossing streets, and buildings. Caps can strategically link neighborhoods that a highway separated or divided.
- Highway removals involve taking limited-access roadways and turning them into lower-capacity surface-level boulevards, green spaces, or waterways. This can dramatically increase safety, reduce traffic, and improve the built environment.
- Public space beneath elevated roadways involves creating parks, enhanced public realms, and trails beneath active roadways.
Transportation Transformations: How Highway Conversions Can Pave the Way for More Inclusive and Resilient Places will share promising examples of efforts to reconnect divided communities by converting highway infrastructure to welcoming, people-centered environments that advance equitable, sustainable, resilient outcomes.
Expected publication: September 2023