Freeway Down! Seoul Removing 16th Freeway

Seoul, South Korea is leading the charge in urban freeway removal, having torn out 15 freeways in the past 12 years. This year, the city will add a sixteenth by removing the Ahyeon Overpass, a 1 km (.6 mile) long roadway constructed in 1968 - the city's first. Today, the overpass is old and ugly, eating up about $25 million annually in maintenance alone.

Leadership in Seoul has realized that elevated highway infrastructure, sold as a "necessary evil" to move traffic and march toward an industrialized economy, actually spoils the urban environment. Today, elevated roadways have become targets of removal for their suppression of development in an increasingly densifying metropolis (nearly 10 million people) and the dangers they pose to urban air quality. Having lived in South Korea for a year myself in 2012, it's clear that air quality in all of South Korea is major concern (If you've ever experienced yellow dust, you know what I mean).

Moreover, many South Korea's harbor concerns over the soundness of construction from the country's post-war construction boom. This Guardian article sites the horrific collapse of Sampoong department store in Seoul's ritzy Gangnam area as an example. In 1995, the collapse was "the worst peacetime disaster in the history of Seoul" and claimed the lives of 502 people.

It's estimated to cost $13.5 million to remove the Ahyeon Overpass. The Guardian reports that when the overpass finally comes down later this year, street-level bus lanes will take its place. Watch the video below to see the final days of the overpass:


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