John Norquist interviewed about New Orleans North Claiborne freeway removal

CNU president John Norquist was interviewed for a piece this past weekend in the New Orleans Times-Picayune about the possibility of tearing down the I-10 Claiborne Avenue Expressway. As mentioned in the article, the freeway is number 5 on the CNU's list of Freeways Without Futures, which includes other roads that have since been marked for removal, such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.

Very few things tear up the urban fabric as thoroughly as an expressway, but removal offers an unprecedented opportunity for mixed-use urban development and resurgence for once-vibrant neighborhoods decimated in the name of urban renewal. Although the dismantling of the expressway was suggested in the city's "Unified New Orleans Plan," the city has yet to come up with funding or a design for the project. But redevelopment along urban lines is often more affordable than refurbishing a creaking flyover. "In Milwaukee, it would have cost about $80 million to rebuild the highway," John Norquist says in the piece, "It cost about $30 million to tear it down and put a surface street in its place."

And despite the common fear that congestion will worsen when traffic is rerouted onto surface streets, the aftermath of past removals such as the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco indicates otherwise. From the Times-Picayune piece:

"The street grid is very rich and complex. There are lots of choices for the people in New Orleans," Norquist said. "With a freeway, the exits are far apart, so if it congests, you're stuck. Actually, at rush hour, the streets tend to work faster than the freeways."

As more an more cities consider what to do with their aging urban expressways, there is a great opportunity for government and planners to implement infill that respects the historical context of the neighborhood and the urban fabric of the city.

Photo credit: Bill Borah
H/T to the Seattle Transit Blog for links relating to the Alaskan Way Viaduct


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