Our team readily admits that the first alternative is not our recommended approach. A seven (7) lane, high-speed highway that focuses on traffic flow over others safety, economic development, and ultimately waterfront access solves only one of our four stated goals. Therefore, it is a one-size-fits-all approach to a more complex site (See What We Saw section above). While the parking garage is viable and still a benefit, our collective knowledge believes widening the highway will continue to make the developable lots along the harbor front more difficult to access, as well as the bay and waterfront walkway.
As Federal and State Departments of Transportation confront shrinking budgets and cities look for ways to increase their revenues, replacing freeways with surface streets has gained recognition as both a practical alternative to rebuilding expensive expressways and as a means to restore and revitalize communities. Cities as diverse as Portland, San Francisco, and Milwaukee have successfully replaced urban highways with boulevards and surface streets, saving billions of dollars in infrastructure costs, increasing real estate values on adjacent land and restoring urban neighborhoods decimated by highway construction.
For example, in 1999, Milwaukee’s Park East Freeway carried an estimated 54,000 vehicles on an average weekday. It limited access to downtown and interrupted the street grid–funneling north-south street traffic to three main intersections. The freeway was replaced with McKinley Boulevard, and the previous urban grid was restored. New redevelopment interest is proving the value of converting this area into a walkable urban space. Between 2001 and 2006, the average assessed land values per acre in the footprint of the Park East Freeway grew by over 180%, and average assessed land values in the Park East Tax Increment District grew by 45%. This growth is much higher than the citywide increase of 25% experienced during the same time period.