Much as I wish I could pump up my ego by claiming to be the only one to think of covering freeways, that’s not the case. I’ll settle for being one of the first. Better than patting myself on the back is to point out a couple places this has already been done:
Freeway lids are not a new concept. Cities are increasingly building new parks and public spaces on lids not only as connective tissue, but also as magnets for private investment and sources of tax revenue.
Two of the most successful lid projects are Klyde Warren Park, which covers the Woodall Rogers Freeway in Dallas, and Chicago’s Millennium Park, constructed over a railyard, both of which were studied as models by the ULI Minnesota panel. In addition, Bill Lively, who secured philanthropic support for Klyde Warren, and Hugh Murphy, former project manager for Millennium Park and now executive vice president at JLL, served on the panel.
I can attest that when I was at Chicago’s Millennium Park, I had no idea I was over a railyard. It seemed like any piece of the lakeshore.
If you’ve spoken to me about this issue, I probably mentioned that one of these freeway lids has been proposed for the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. The linked article from Urban Land Institute mentions that the state Department of Transportation has proposed such lids for other parts of the I-94 corridor. Clearly I’m supporting that idea, and it should be expanded to any stretch of freeway where lids can be built. We should even look at widening overpasses over freeways built at ground-level, which at a minimum will cut down on noise pollution.
Chicago and Dallas turned their lids into parks, and that’s an option for us obviously, but I propose building housing first because we have chronic housing shortages. I doubt we could build skyscrapers on these lids or roofs, but multistory apartment buildings should be feasible, and even just more single family houses would increase our housing stock. That would reduce the shortage that is driving up prices, creating not just a general housing shortage, but an acute shortage for people on lower incomes.