Commuters sitting in gridlock may find it hard to believe, but many smaller and mid-size cities in America have under-used highways. In some of these cities, highways that were built decades ago are now impeding potentially valuable real estate development. And as many highways from the middle of the last century deteriorate past the point of minor repairs to needing to be entirely rebuilt, leaders in these cities are starting to question the cost and efficiency of maintaining certain pieces of their highway systems.
In Seattle, Cleveland, Syracuse and a number of other cities across the country, leaders are debating the merits of removing portions of their underused, crumbling highway systems to allow for economic development instead. As older highway segments meet the end of their useful life, civic leaders are presented with a rare opportunity to reduce expenses on underused infrastructure and create new opportunity for development at the same time. (editors note: according to transportation engineers, a road or bridge’s “useful life” is determined to be over when repairs are so expensive and the conditions are so bad that it would cost several times more to rebuild the road or bridge than to tear it down and build something different.)