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Have They Lost Their Mind?

The City of Philadelphia is talking about digging up I95 from the Ben Franklin Bridge down to the airport… and replacing it with?  Nothing:

“The question we should be asking right now is: Do we rebuild I-95 as is, or do we rethink the whole thing?” said Harris Steinberg, who runs the nonprofit consulting firm PennPraxis, which developed a waterfront policy for the city in 2007. The Obama administration’s interest in urban areas, he said, “has given the city a license to do something bold.”

Actually, what Hack and Steinberg envision is less a Big Dig than a No Dig.

Instead of burying the highway in an expensive tunnel, they would entirely rip out a stretch of I-95 that runs south of the Ben Franklin Bridge and I-676. Traffic volume drops off there, proponents argue, because the bulk of the highway’s users are commuting into Center City from the north. Airport travelers, they point out, can take I-676 to I-76.

I think we probably ought to take all these “Urban Planners” and launch them into the sun.  And once you have this delightful waterfront, what then?   The Rainbow Farting Unicorns are going prance along and suddenly Philadelphia will renew itself?   No.  It won’t.  It’s a crappy place to live, and a crappy place to do business or spend money.  Fixing that is easier, and will do a lot more to revitalize the city than any crazy notion that if we just jackhammer enough highway, and inconvenience enough people, prosperity will return.   If I were paying taxes to that city, I’d be furious they are wasting time and money on this nonsense.  The Underpants Gnomes would be proud.

UPDATE: Here’s the section of highway they are talking about digging up.  I wonder how UPS, the City’s 12th largest employer, who’s east coast hub is Philadelphia International Airport, will think about this.  Oh, but who cares about working class stiffs with jobs when yuppees want a better view of the waterfront.

12 Responses to “Have They Lost Their Mind?”

  1. Don’t forget the better view of Camden!!!

  2. They’re talking about ripping out 95 from The Ben Franklin all the way down to South Street or Washington Avenue?

    Making Filthydelphia less accessible will not revitalize the city. Anyone who thinks it will is looking to sell something, probably to the city.

  3. NJSoldier says:

    Let me get this right – a CITY is going to tear up a stretch of a FEDERAL Interstate Highway? And, they want me to pay for it with my federal tax dollars?

  4. Brad says:

    It’ll definitely suck on game day. All of the arenas in the city are in one spot. Take away I-95, and all of a sudden, the Platt Bridge, Pattison Ave, Broad Street, and I-76 get clogged even worse than usual. Now, if there’s a concert going on at the Wachovia Center while the Phillies or Eagles are playing, it’s twice as bad.

    Pure genius.

  5. k.geis says:

    Not with nothing – rather, a surface boulevard, one with nearly as many lanes as I-95 has.

    Or are you so accustomed to your federally-subsidized Eisenhower Freeways highways that nothing with stoplights and cross-traffic qualifies as a road?

    I enjoy that, to you, Federal money to tear down cities (especially the bits inhabited by poor black folks) is A-OK, but god forbid the Feds spend anything on fixing the damage they did.

    I’ll prefer to consider this a cultural blindness on the part of Snowflakes’ author. My gunbloggers and my nancy liberal transit bloggers are colliding today, and I have a wry grin on my face.

  6. Sebastian says:

    Or are you so accustomed to your federally-subsidized Eisenhower Freeways highways that nothing with stoplights and cross-traffic qualifies as a road?

    Roads with stoplights can’t handle the volume of traffic that passes through I-95. It will make the Blue Route, and 76, and 291 even worse than they already are. It will create a traffic nightmare, as well as kill jobs, and make it nearly impossible for anyone North of the City to get South of the City. This is why we built the interstate system.

    I enjoy that, to you, Federal money to tear down cities (especially the bits inhabited by poor black folks) is A-OK, but god forbid the Feds spend anything on fixing the damage they did.

    Where did I say that using federal money to tear down cities is A-OK? If anything, I’ve been an advocate against this kind of abuse of eminent domain.

    I’ll prefer to consider this a cultural blindness on the part of Snowflakes’ author.

    It’s not cultural blindness, I just don’t see the logic in creating more traffic problems for a city that already has a lot of them. Why is it cultural blindness to think cutting the main North/South freeway through Southeastern Pennsylvania might be a really bad idea?

  7. emdfl says:

    With any kind of luck UPS would take a look and move their entire operation out of Phillie and over to one of the airport hubs that used to service AirBorne Express.

  8. Stacy says:

    I was going to partially defend the planning profession as a necessary branch of academic anthropology that unfortunately has a megalomanic streak that results in ideas like this one. Sad to say, though, that essentially all the people who work as planners are dilettantes who love to hang out in places like Adams Morgan, and therefore think everyone would just be happier if everything was configured like that.

    I do, though, maintain that the notion of suburbia as the inevitable result of the free market is a total myth, since even fee-simple subdivisions are micro-controlled by zoning ordinances, and the choice in styles of housing for an average person is about like the choice in colors for the original Model T. If there were a free market, some number of people would choose Adams Morgan, some number of others would choose cookie-cutter SFHs, and undoubtedly a lot of new styles would emerge in between.

    I think that pent-up demand is a big part of the political support for urban planning projects.

  9. DirtCrashr says:

    Hey, it worked for San Francisco…developers.
    Waterfront property by the Bay Bridge was once occupied by the ugly Embarcadero freeway and some flophouse hotels – including the Mars Hotel on the cover of a Grateful Dead album of the same name. The freeway became wobbly and unstable after the Quake and was so removed, along with the run-down neighborhood around it.
    Now with the waterfront un-caged, the broad boulevard sprouts a couple of big condo towers and yuppie “neighborhoods” – with units starting around $1million each. Too bad about the economic collapse and many units remain vacant.

    • Bitter says:

      The same risk applies with Philly, DirtCrashr. They want the land for development, but I fear there’s not much of a market for it. Upscale to luxury units are selling at a fraction of their former prices, condo developers have left buildings partially sold and left the owners to deal with massive problems stemming from building-wide foreclosures. On the commercial front, they just built what is now the tallest skyscraper in Philly, and IIRC, it’s not even full. There are stories about business bailing on their prime downtown real estate. In other words, there’s hardly a shortage. I would imagine that more availability will actually drive prices down even more which is actually bad news for that city.

  10. WebGabe says:

    “If I were paying taxes to that city, I’d be furious they are wasting time and money on this nonsense…”

    Living in DE and paying Philly commuter taxes was a major reason for my departure. Finding work elsewhere yielded an automatic 3% pay raise.

  11. DirtCrashr says:

    It’s like a mass-march of lemmings – we’re doomed.

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