Double deck elevated approach to the San Francisco Bay Bridge
In recent decades there has been an active effort worldwide to remove elevated highways. Many constructed earlier in the 20th century to speed traffic are now seen as obstacles to vibrant urban development.
From the United States to Korea, there has been a new awareness of certain unintended consequences of these projects originally designed to overcome traffic congestion. These expensive and massive highway structures were found to be a medicine more devastating than the congestion disease. Progress in correcting this mistake has been slow but steady since Portland, Oregon removed its riverside freeway and relaced it with a park in 1972..
In Seoul, Korea, the former river that had been placed underground when the elevated highway was originally built was restored to a more natural state. Mayor Lee of Seoul who was responsible for the elevated highway removal and the creation of a riverside park upon the former highway site, was elected Korea's president in December 2007.
San Jose - This elevated highway [here pictured from space] separates downtown San Jose from a primarily Hispanic section of the city. Beneath the highway may be found temporary storage space for various construction projects. Under the imaged segment is a paved street and an unpaved walkway.
There is no sense of welcome to the downtown. Although actual passage beneath the highway at street level is possible, it is not a pleasant experience. Whether conscious or not, the elevated highway acts as a barrier to the flow of energy between the resurging city heart and this neighborhood. There is no attempt to construct connections (such as an open market) that could pull the city together beneath the concrete behemoth.
See the sidelight at the bottom of this page for the presentation of an urban experiment which shows how better use of urban design could create a place where the robust energy of the city could flow through the elevated structure.