Last week we went to Boston for a few days and drove into downtown via an underground highway. Our hotel was right on the water and across the street there was a long and skinny park. The park contained windy pathways, places to sit and a few light installations. Needless to say, there weren’t a lot of people using the park in early January. Regardless of the weather, I had a hard time imagining people using this funny park, surrounded as it is by roads and hotels.
Why does it matter how well-loved this park is? Well, it’s the outcome from the Big Dig, a multi-year, multi-billion dollar project to bury a highway and build a park in its place. Many American cities have highways that cut through the downtown, Rochester and Syracuse included. If you’ve ever had to cross underneath or overtop of one of these highways, you understand what kind of a physical and psychological barrier it can be. Recently, there have been proposals to bury or lower parts of the Rochester and Syracuse highways (see here for Rochester and here for Syracuse).
My gut reaction is to support initiatives like the Big Dig that aim to tear down these old highways and build more walkable and connected downtowns. I’m not sure what the future will hold for the highways in upstate NY, but the outcome in Boston definitely gave me pause. Over time and as the surrounding streetscape evolves, I’m sure the park will come to seem like a more integral part of the neighborhood. For now, however, I’m not sure that we can effectively bury the past.
This picture was taken in Albany, NY.