On June 7th, EMBARQ Brazil and ITDP Brazil officially launched the Portuguese version of “The Life and Death of Urban Highways.” Titled “Vida e Morte das Rodovias Urbanas,” The publication brings together examples of cities that have managed to revitalize and restore urban space for the people by removing or altering the construction of urban highways.
Cities included in the original EMBARQ publication are Portland, San Francisco and Milwaukee in the United States; Seoul, South Korea; and Bogotá, Colombia, all of which have employed effective strategies, projects, or investments that have resulted in better quality of life for their citizens.
The publication was written in order to show that a focus on cars is not the best option. Cities are built for people, while highways serve to move vehicles. The five cities mentioned are examples of revitalization through the removal of cars, and opening of spaces to people. EMBARQ’s goal with this publication is to demonstrate the numerous ways in which cities benefit from these changes.
Collaboration between ITDP and EMBARQ
This publication was possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of EMBARQ and ITDP (The Institution for Transportation and Development Policy), who not only worked to publish the initial report in English, but also worked together to review, edit, and translate the report into Portuguese. The new publication, which is finally available to Brazilian audiences, was launched during the 3rd SIBRT Congress: Best Practices in Latin America, in early June.
EMBARQ Brazil’s director Toni Lindau and Ulises Navarro, Public Transport Director for Latin America, ITDP, presented the report to approximately 400 participants at the third SIBRT Congress; among the audience were government officials, researchers and planners. The translated report will be distributed throughout Brazil, with particular emphasis on cities that are willing to take action to improve urban spaces and people’s lives.
The example of Portland, Oregon
In the case of Portland, the problem involved Harbor Drive, a stretch of road almost 5-km (3.1 miles) long along the banks of the Willamette River. Organizations in the city supported the creation of more open spaces and an increased public access to the river’s shore. Eventually, the city agreed to close Harbor Drive along the river, and return its use to residents.
Once the road was closed, the Tom McCall Waterfront Park was created, becoming the focal point for the renewal of the city center and the only place with direct waterfront access for residents on the banks of the Willamette River. Removing the stretch of Harbor Drive created safer and more pleasant spaces for pedestrians, improving the overall quality of life in Portland.
Portland is just one of the many examples of how to improve cities by orienting development towards ensuring the wellbeing of people, not cars. With the tactics discussed in The Life and Death of Urban Highways, urban planners can give old highways a new life.