Experiences in cities around the world are testament to the change in mindset that is taking place with regard to transport infrastructure. The interests shared by these projects are the transformation of infrastructure into places for people and the reduction of the role of cars. The fact that each one is designed and implemented in accordance with its specific territorial situation, developing its own differentiated strategy, makes them examples to be followed.
The Bonaventure Green Boulevard | Montreal
Montreal, Canada, is preparing for the transformation of its Bonaventure Expressway, which is located at the southern entrance to the city and was constructed from 1962 to 1966 to connect the Champlain Bridge to the city centre. The project is organised around three strategies: first, the creation of an access point to the city centre, strengthening metropolitan Montreal's image on the global scale; second, the creation of a green urban boulevard, with urban quality and optimal design for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and private vehicles; and finally, the reconnection of the residential fabrics of boroughs separated by the construction of the expressway in 1966.
The project proposes the demolition of existing viaduct to level the city's roads linked to the existing road network and a large public space with a longitudinal design of different chained public spaces.
Boston Bids Farewell to the ‘Distressway'
In 1959 Boston built the Central Artery as an access road to the city designed to serve 75,000 vehicles per day. Even though its construction required significant economic and social efforts (more than 20,000 residents lived there and it was necessary to cut off numerous districts such as the North End and the connection between the waterfront and the city centre), in the 1990s it became extremely congested, carrying almost 200,000 vehicles per day, double the capacity for which it was designed.
In the mid-1990s, Boston implemented a plan to replace the six-lane highway—known locally as the Distressway—with an eight-to-ten lane underground expressway, giving rise to a large green open space for the city to reconnect neighbourhoods that until then had been separated. The project was strategically related to the extension of interstate highway I-90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike) from South Boston through a tunnel to the port and airport.
The Big Dig, as the project was commonly known, replaced the Central Artery with a tunnel that ran under the centre of Boston and lengthened the I-90 to the east through a new tunnel from the harbour (the Ted Williams Tunnel) directly to Logan International Airport. This prevented social and economic repercussions on the surrounding districts and companies, while minimising environmental impact on the Charles River and Boston Harbour. Even though the tunnel option required a considerable level of investment, in Boston's case this solution reduced pollution by 12% and congestion and travel times by 62% and, as in other areas with high urban activity, it also provided greater protection against noise pollution.
Reinventing the Seine
In 2012 Paris decided to return the banks of the River Seine to pedestrians and cyclists. Since 1967 France's most emblematic river had been bordered by the Pompidou Expressway as part of a city designed to cater to cars. It was an express route that structured central Paris's traffic for 13 km along the river, connected at each end to the ring road that encircles the entire city.
The Seine, one of the city of Paris's most identifiable locations, was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 in recognition of its immense cultural value. A decade later, in 2001, the city council sought the implementation of the Paris Plage (Paris Beach) project, which proposed the closure of the expressway from 6 am to 11 pm for one month in the summer. It was not until July 2012 that the project was definitively approved and the Pompidou Expressway was permanently closed.
There is now a 1.5 km riverside promenade on the right bank, while a project that would integrate gardens, picnic areas, sports areas, bars, restaurants, floating platforms and even a large cultural space for concerts and events is proposed for the left bank.
The Réinventer la Seine project explores new solutions with the aim of recovering the river's value as a resource along its entire route to the port of Le Havre.
An Earthquake Opens San Francisco Residents' Eyes
San Francisco's interstate highway I-280 has been a subject of debate among institutions and the public for decades. Urban development work undertaken in the 1950s focussed on highways to cater to the growth of car usage, but an earthquake in 1989 destroyed two stretches of a major viaduct that crossed the city. This proved to both the public and politicians that San Francisco's existing road network was not structured well enough to cope with the city's everyday influx of traffic. If before the earthquake public opinion was already in favour of the demolition of the I-280, then this natural disaster finally convinced the population of the need to demolish the two-storey viaduct that fragmented the city and divided its neighbourhoods.
In 2002, the Embarcadero Freeway was replaced with a plaza in the form of an urban boulevard with a streetcar line that connects the docks to the centre and the Castro district. A large 40 ha park has been created in the zone from the docks to the city centre and the district has been regenerated with new housing, new activities and mixed-use buildings. Today there are still some sections whose demolition is subject to political will. In 2013, the 280 Freeway Competition was held to receive proposals from the public to redesign the northern section located on 16th Street, to which the section next to Mission Bay was added some months ago.
From the Third Ring Road to Madrid Río Park
Madrid, a capital whose planning was based on centrality and infrastructure to facilitate access to and from the city, has also seen numerous cases of urban integration of major infrastructure. Its streets, which were expanded in the 1930s and '40s, quickly became too small and it was not until the end of the 1970s when a definitive solution, the third Madrid ring road (M-30), was urgently implemented to redress the congestion problems being suffered at the time.
In the 1990s, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport focussed its resources on the construction of a new ring road, the M-40, to decongest supramunicipal traffic. Ten years later, efforts centred on the urban integration of the M-30, under the name of Madrid Calle 30, through a mixed public-private company established to be responsible for the reformation of the M-30 and subsequently for its management and maintenance.
In May 2007, work was completed on the southern tunnel of the M-30 forming, along with its route under the Manzanares River, a tunnel of more than 12 km in length. All the river banks were transformed into a large linear park, known as the Madrid Río project, a metropolitan green corridor designed to recover all the natural spaces and urban heritage that have forever been associated with the river. It is a major metropolitan project that forms a backbone linking the Prado Museum to the town of Getafe with green spaces, gardens, urban parks, woods and streets, recovering the city's relationship with the river.
Seoul, Nature Reconstructed
After the Korean War (1950-1953) major infrastructure became a symbol of economic progress in South Korea. Seoul is a special case due to the significant environmental repercussions brought about by the construction of an elevated motorway some 5.6 km long and 16 m wide over the Cheonggye Stream. The project was completed in 1976, becoming an exemplary case of South Korea's industrialisation and modernisation, even though it is a heavily congested area with seriously high levels of contamination and noise pollution.
Twenty-five years later, Lee Myung-bak, the former CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction, was elected mayor of Seoul based on campaign promises to transform the city into a major tourism and business centre in north-east Asia and to remove the motorway viaduct over the Cheonggye. From 2003 to 2005 a highly complex restoration project was undertaken in the area to recover the former course of the stream, using water diverted from the Han River and from the area's subsoil. At the same time a BRT line was constructed along the route of the former motorway to complement the subway network and help absorb the 120,000 daily users of the expressway.
The project represented a change in mindset in relation to frenzied progress and industrialisation, now with new identity recovery concerns, not only with regard to the environmental value of the stream, but also the recovery of its history and culture, in addition to the heritage value of the ancient bridges that crossed it. The resulting urban centre, now known as Cheonggyecheon, includes the CCB (Cheonggyecheon Culture Belt) pedestrian-friendly road network and is replete with retail outlets, business and innovation centres for a wide variety of international digital industries, and historic culture and nature sites.