Inga Saffron brings us what could be excellent news on Philadelphia‘s stretch of I-95 at Penn’s Landing. After seeing the success of Boston‘s Big Dig in improving congestion, providing greenspace, and reattaching a variety of districts and Boston’s waterfront, Philadelphia is investigating the feasability of dismantling this stretch of I-95. With inspiration from the urban- and redevelopment-focused leadership of Obama and Mayor Nutter, some want to take the opportunity to redevelop this area, fronting the Delaware River, into something more useful than an under-used freeway needing renovation. Unlike Boston, Philadelphia has no intention of digging a big trench to reorient traffic; instead, they simply need to tear down the freeway and reroute traffic onto city streets, which means that it will be much less of an engineering marvel (and much less expensive) than the Big Dig. In fact, it may be better compared to San Francisco‘s Embarcadero than Boston’s Big Dig. The freeway is about a block wide and would allow the city to expand into this area, creating new real estate. CNU’s John Norquist, who has been heading up the initiative to turn freeways across the country into boulevards, has encouraged Philadelphia leaders to “Get rid of it.” There is some opposition, mostly based on how much it would cost to tear down the freeway (which wouldn’t be expensive and would easily be offset by new tax revenues) and on whether traffic would be managable, and as I’ve said, I think we should subject the car to pedestrain traffic, not the other way around. I think this is a wonderful development for the future of Philadelphia and I hope that it actually does happen within the next few years.
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