Buffalo is not the only city in America that is faced with highways that run through its parks, and freeways that blockade its people from the waterfront. Numerous other cities around the world are faced with similar issues, although there is a growing movement to remove the troublesome roadways that tend to tear urban communities apart. WaPo has posted an article, written by Ashley Halsey III, which recounts the thoughts, recollections and policy wishes of US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx who discovered firsthand the pitfalls of freeways after being physically torn away from the urban fabric of his hometown Charlotte, NC.
Like Buffalo’s East Side, this is a story of a man and a people who were divided from the fruits of city. Today Buffalo’s East Side continues to reel from the archaic transportation decisions that made it easier for people to get in and out of the city, at the expense of those who were currently living in it.
Now Foxx is on a mission to right some of these wrongs. He’s talking about doing away with the freeways and bringing back sidewalks and bike lanes to people who have gone without long enough. He’s looking at longterm population growth, and a need to accommodate people who want to walk to a store rather than driving across town.
Foxx is reaching out to city and state leaders, to impress upon them the need to reconnect their cities by tearing down the sunken walls. When these freeways were built, the poorest communities suffered the most thanks to urban renewal measures. Neighborhoods were ruptured and demolished, leaving in their wake public housing and isolated neighborhoods.
Buffalo should invite Foxx to come and examine this city’s past urban freeway mistakes. Enough pain has been endured. If one is to take into account that Buffalo is the third poorest city in the nation, and half of the city’s geography is disconnected from the neighborhoods that are experiencing a renaissance, there is an urgency at hand that must be addressed.
The freeways in question are all interconnected, calling for a sweeping plan to reconnect a disenfranchised people to the heart of the city, and an entire populace to one of the world’s greatest assets – Lake Erie and the Niagara River.
Lead image: Neighbors living around Humboldt Parkway/Kensington Expressway are rallying together in hopes that one day they might see the revitalization of their neighborhood, with a transition from freeway to “Green Parkway”.