Freeways connect communities and are responsible for historic urban expansion and economic growth. They make it possible for an executive to work downtown and make it back to their suburb fifty miles away in time for dinner. They also split and destroyed neighborhoods and contributed to white flight and sprawling suburbs.These days, urban freeways might be more of a burden than a help. Cities across the world and country are removing inner-city freeways due to high maintenance costs and new developments in urban planning.
Another crazy idea. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap, but for a moment let’s consider removing all Detroit freeways surrounding Downtown and Midtown east of I-96 and south of I-94. The city is already in the works to remove I-375, so why not more? Downtown, Corktown, and Midtown are arguably the hottest neighborhoods in a quickly rebounding city, but they’re completely cut off by freeways. If you’ve ever walked from Corktown to Downtown on Michigan Avenue, you know what I’m talking about.
Blocks and blocks of packed bars and trendy restaurants give way to concrete and semi-truck exhaust as you walk over The Lodge freeway. Corktown and Downtown both taper off as they reach The Lodge, but imagine how three new blocks of Michigan Avenue in place of the freeway could transform both neighborhoods.
Imagine how much stronger the border between Downtown and Midtown could be with the removal of I-75 east of I-96. Removing the inner ring freeways would also reconnect Corktown and North Corktown and Woodbridge and Midtown.
Some car-lovers are already bemoaning the loss of their speedy getaway to the suburbs after Red Wings and Tigers games, but do some research on Induced Demand and Reduced Demand and how they relate to freeways, and you might be surprised to learn that removing these freeways actually eases congestion and decreases drive time. And in any case, driving to Campus Martius from I-96 only takes seven minutes on Michigan Avenue, and it only takes 9 minutes to drive to Campus Martius from I-94 on Woodward Avenue. Seattle, Portland, and Milwaukee are just a few of the American cities that have removed freeways in favor of more unified city centers. Let’s at least consider starting the conversation in Detroit.