[Image at the top of the post is from Streets Blog USA]
I just went through Syracuse twice this weekend. Right there on the ugly I-81. And as with every time I go through Syracuse on the I-81, I couldn’t stop myself from commenting on how ugly Syracuse is.
Don’t throw me tomatoes. I know Syracuse is not ugly. I’ve stopped there plenty of times and roamed around the place because that’s the kind of person I am, roaming around places just to see what they’re like. But when you’re on I-81, it looks ugly. Possibly because of I-81.
Elevated highways were a thing of marvel back before I was born. And I’m not young, so we’re taking a really long time ago. Back when building huge concrete spaghetti for the high-speed conveyance of private metal boxes was thought to be one of mankind’s best inventions.
Sounds weird when you say it that way, doesn’t it. But everywhere you go in North America, from Jacksonville to Seattle to Montreal’s monstrous Decarie, you find those concrete spaghetti monsters, which are now crumbling and looking positively menacing because along with thinking that building these ugly things was the epitome of progress, men in the past thought the mark of human genius was to ignore basic maintenance.
You’re right: I’m less impressed with them than they were with themselves.
We’re now having to live with those mistakes, and it’s not cheap. But I am delighted to see them come down and be replaced with something fit for human beings. Syracuse has its plan to replace its elevated highway with a community alternative grid. Seattle recently took down a chunk of its ugly elevated freeway. Portland did it decades ago. It gives me hope that one day we’ll tell grandkids about the Gardiner or the Queensway making deep cuts right through neighbourhoods and they won’t believe us.