Monday, February 26, 2007

Another Highway?

In Chicago last week, there was talk again of building the Crosstown Expressway. This is a plan to divert trucking traffic away from the downtown area, thus relieving congestion on the Kennedy and Dan Ryan. Building this expressway would affect me directly because the plans incorporate parts of the city very close to my neighborhood.

Then, this morning on the radio I heard a story about the Heartland Expressway, a four-lane highway to be built between Rapid City, South Dakota and Denver, Colorado. This highway was conceived to spur economic development and improve homeland security in the Great Plains.

Critics of both these highway construction projects say they will destroy something of value to people. But both projects make me think of New York City and the Lower Manhattan Expressway that was never built. Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), who fought that project before I was born, wrote a book called The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I have yet to read it, but I put a hold on it at the library this weekend. Jacobs believed that cities thrive on the energy of the people and neighborhoods, and that people's lifestyles matter.

Jacobs might be out of style now, nostalgic or old-fashioned.

But she might be right.

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