|I-95 at Washington Street, in Providence.|
I-95 has a lot of surprising advantages, when you stop to think about it:
*It's a giant land-bank.
*The tremendous width of the corridor means that it is (sun-bakingly) open to light. There are no limitations to what we can build there.
*The man-made ravine where the highway is located also adds visual interest: the embankments could have buildings built right into them, which (like the RISD Museum) would have the advantage of active street entrances at the top (the service road) and the bottom (the highway bed).
*The ravine also creates a natural place to send overflow water: I-95 could become a land feature that helps us deal with climate change, naturally watering plants instead of overflowing our sewer systems.
*The right-of-way is centrally located and a perfect place for transit.
death of Cyclovia (with a Y) and the birth of Cíclovia (with an Í).
This isn't just a replay of the 6/10 Connector idea: with 6/10, we've been talking about removing infrastructure that is about to fall down (and we may-- fingers crossed-- succeed). With I-95, some of the infrastructure is nowhere near ready to be replaced or torn down, but envisioning a different highway on our own schedule presupposes that we don't have to wait for that day.
And the purpose of this isn't to imagine what a great idea it would be to cap the highway, either. It's true that putting a cap on a small portion of I-95 could reconnect neighborhoods, but that proposal would also be expensive, and would leave in place a pollution spewing, parking-gobbling, traffic-creating highway. Our festival should be coordinated with better transit as a means of modeling what will come to replace the highway in due course.
|Our first test area: Atwells to Broad Street. The festival could grow beyond this as we become ready.|
Seems pretty simple to me: Make one side of the highway a boulevard with periodic roundabouts near the exits. The ramps tend to be wide already, to give people "forgiving design" to safely leave, and adjust their speeds up or down. So the ramps have plenty of room to become two way streets into the roundabouts.
Wissihickon is a narrow park in Philadelphia, but is 7 miles
long. It's an overgrown former mill area, with the Wissihickon
Creek running down it.
What comes to mind for me is Wissihickon Park. I'm not sure if the water table would be high enough to allow an overgrowth of woods, but if it was, I-95 could go the way Wissihickon did: in the 19th Century it was abandoned after its mills became obsolete, and over time it just returned to nature. Someone who knows more about what the possibilities are flora and fauna wise should research this.
Finally, what would it mean to commit ourselves to a plan that maintains a gash in the urban fabric? Thinking of highways as something that can be taken over small piece by small piece allows us to work on a schedule designed by people, and not by the time tables of DOTs. But it also leaves us with thorny questions of how to deal with the infrastructure that fails when it does go.
|Pronk: Today beside the highway. Tomorrow: on it.|
Why believe in this vision? Because it's not that hard to imagine Providence residents reclaiming a highway. If we imagine I-95 as just another piece of land (one that currently has a bunch of cars on it) then we can decide to do with it what we want, when we want. Columbians close much of their highway system on Sundays. Why can't we? And from there, it's just a matter of time before we add better bus service on the highway to connect people to those festivals, and then build permanent kiosks or planted areas, and finally just close the whole thing and acknowledge that it's an outmoded idea.
Cíclovia Providence with an Í: not a glorified block party like Cyclovia. A real social movement that calls for a better landscape for our cities.